Editor's Choice


The future of collaborative robots

Third Quarter 2020 Editor's Choice Robotics & Mechatronics

Collaborative robots (cobots) that can work safely in the same environment as people have an important role in enabling flexible manufacturing and creating a competitive advantage for companies. A new generation of cobots is evolving from classical industrial robots in response to the needs of Industry 4.0. In applications where flexibility is key, as opposed to maximum production speed, collaborative robots are filling the gap in the robotics market with their extremely user-friendly software tools and integrated sensory functions. These now include machine vision systems, location capabilities and integration with warehouse systems.

Collaborative robots do heavy lifting

Cobots are gaining strength, although being lightweight. For example, the Omron Techman TM14M robot can lift goods up to 14 kg. While compliant with the ISO 10218 safety standard, which describes the interaction of robots and humans, industrial cobots are becoming actual team members in production and logistics environments, thanks to their lifting capabilities. This brings innovation to the factory floor through the harmonisation and collaboration of humans and machines.

Cobots can be deployed in a wide range of applications, such as production, testing, quality control, packaging and palletising, as well as intralogistics. For example, it is possible to support people in assembly processes at those stages where precision and repeatability are key. These robots can apply adhesives and seals with simultaneous quality control. Thanks to their repeatability, they are also perfectly suited for automating complex quality tests. Being able to do heavy lifting, with the proper safety equipment they can also be used as palletisers.

Collaborative robots are on the move

The new generation of cobots can be easily integrated with mobile robots. This cooperation is made more accessible thanks to the low weight of the latest robots, as well as the possibility of building mobile platforms on mobile robots, such as the Omron LD autonomous intelligent vehicle. Cobots can now be a natural part of a flexible, constantly evolving production environment in which the re-deployment of machines, line changeovers and conveyors are needed.

Cobots installed on mobile robots, for example, can become elements of innovative logistic solutions and provide complete sub-assemblies and semi-finished products for assembly stations, and finished products to be placed in stock or quality control stations. Cobots can effectively complement and augment people’s work in many discrete manufacturing processes.

Collaborative robots are becoming smart

Cobots are just beginning to contribute to innovation and competitiveness for manufacturers. The ability to carry out tasks performed so far only by standard robots, all easily configurable by local engineering staff, is an undisputed advantage. If we additionally consider the easier implementation resulting from the reduced need to provide typical robot security measures, and greater flexibility of operation, the return on investment can be very surprising.

If we add the capabilities of machine vision combined with artificial intelligence into the mix, the possibilities are limitless. A cobot can have a built-in intelligent vision system which provides totem pairing, object position, bar code identification, colour differentiation, and other vision functions. You can use gestures to guide the robot and the task by hand, as well as freely change the degree of freedom of the hand-guide function according to different conditions.

If you have seen Omron’s interactive table tennis robot, Forpheus, in action, you can imagine the possibilities for artificial intelligence combined with collaborative robots. Forpheus demonstrates human machine collaboration by combining vision with robotics and artificial intelligence at the machine level. It can play an interactive game and identify ping-pong balls in a 3D space in an identical way to the human visual system, as well as evaluate the players and judge their ability level, while a high-speed robotic arm moves in response to its AI controller, predicting smashes for example.

What does the future hold for Omron?

Omron and Techman Robot, the world’s leading company for collaborative arm robots that work together with people, recently signed an agreement to form a strategic alliance in the area of cobots.

Together they will provide cobots that can be used for a wide variety of applications such as electronics assembly, product testing and inspection. These robots will enable flexible manufacturing and increase the productivity and quality of production lines for customers in the automotive and electronics industries, as well as various materials handling operations in a broad range of manufacturing industries, to realise an innovative manufacturing environment where humans and machines work in harmony.


Credit(s)



Share this article:
Share via emailShare via LinkedInPrint this page

Further reading:

Land Cruiser wet brakes for mining
First Quarter 2021, Axiom Hydraulics , Editor's Choice, Hydraulic systems & components
Unfortunately, the vehicle’s OEM brakes are not built for mining; they compromise safety while suffering frequent and expensive maintenance. Simply put, the brakes were never designed for use in the highly ...

Read more...
Streamlined food deliveries
First Quarter 2021, Omron Electronics , Robotics & Mechatronics
It’s part of a larger experiment called the Six City Strategy ‘New solutions in city logistics’ project, which is looking at possible options for last mile deliveries in Finnish cities. It’s looking for ...

Read more...
Addressing the new normal in food manufacturing
Fourth Quarter 2020, Omron Electronics , Other technologies
Food and beverage companies can now set the course for the time after Covid-19 using automation to boost competitiveness and productivity. Manufacturers should focus their resources on four market driven perspectives: workforce, product quality, flexibility and sustainability.

Read more...
PC-based control technology for next-generation telescope
First Quarter 2021, Beckhoff Automation , Editor's Choice, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
Key factors were the advantages of EtherCAT for site-wide real-time communication connecting all telescope functions. Various embedded PCs and AM8000 servomotors were also tested and specified, among ...

Read more...
Surfing back to Earth
First Quarter 2021, Horne Technologies , Editor's Choice, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
How did life actually form on Earth? Even today this question still has not been definitively answered. There are, however, signs that asteroids or comets played an important role. In the search for additional ...

Read more...
Treading in the footsteps of the space pioneers
First Quarter 2021, Siemens Digital Industries , Editor's Choice, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
The adventure park Euro Space Centre in Transinne in Belgium is home to a number of different simulators, including the original NASA multi-axis chair dating back to the 1960s which was used to familiarise ...

Read more...
Miniature DC motors drive tattoo machine design forwards
First Quarter 2021 , Editor's Choice, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
All of this places stringent requirements on the motor – the prime mover in the tattoo machine and perhaps the most critical element of the machine design – as Vishal Sapale, assistant manager – design ...

Read more...
The future of automation
First Quarter 2021, SEW-EURODRIVE , Editor's Choice, Electrical switching & drive systems & components
MOVI-C comprises four components: MOVISUITE engineering software, MOVI-C Controller control technology, MOVIDRIVE inverter technology, and MOVIGEAR, MOVIMOT decentralised drive technology comprising the ...

Read more...
IoT communication without batteries
First Quarter 2021 , Editor's Choice, Other technologies
When we talk about IoT, we often gloss over the fact that all these interconnected things need batteries and electronics to carry out the job of collecting and processing data while they’re communicating ...

Read more...
Selecting a mobile robot for heavy loads
First Quarter 2021, Omron Electronics , Robotics & Mechatronics
Five questions to ask when selecting autonomous material transport technology for industrial applications.

Read more...