Enhancing efficiency in digital manufacturing with collaborative robots - Stefanini

Enhancing Efficiency In Digital Manufacturing With Collaborative Robots

Around 1921, Karel Čapek, a well-known Czech playwright, derived the word “robot” from the Czech word “robota” meaning forced labor, as performed by serfs. Since then, the science of robotics has evolved significantly, and so have the words we use to describe it. Cobot, or collaborative robot, is one of the latest entries in the robotics lexicon.

Cute name aside, what are cobots? And should we thank them for making manufacturing jobs easier or be afraid that they’ll replace human workers?

What are cobots? Invented and named in 1996 by professors from Northwestern University, collaborative robots, or cobots, are robots that are designed to work safely alongside humans in a shared workspace. No need to worry that these ‘bots will take your jerb.

Cobots can take over activities that human workers experience as ‘boring’ and ‘monotonous’ like tightening screws or packing boxes. By assigning these tasks to cobots, human employees are free to perform more complex and meaningful work. Cobots can also enable inclusivity by supporting employees with physical disabilities.

With cobots, robots no longer need to be in cages or safety zones. Cobots are equipped with force-feedback sensors that prevent them from injuring human colleagues.

Cobots are often used for tasks that require a high degree of precision and accuracy, such as quality control and inspection and can be used to automate a wide range of tasks, including assembly, welding, painting, and inspection. They’re also easier to program and more flexible than industrial robots. For example, Chippy, designed by Miso Robotics, is an AI-powered cobot that prepares Chipotle Mexican Grill’s signature tortilla chips for customers.

Versatility is a cobots greatest strength. This versatility is made possible by cobots’ end effectors, which are tools that attach to the end of their robotic arm and allow it to perform specific tasks. End effectors can be used for simple picking and packing to more complex jobs like welding and sanding. A single cobot can handle over a dozen different tasks in a week, depending on the business’s needs.

What’s the difference between cobots and industrial robots?

Traditional industrial robots are designed to perform repetitive tasks in a controlled environment. They are usually larger and more powerful than cobots, and they can be dangerous if not properly guarded. Traditional industrial robots are typically programmed by skilled engineers.

Cobots have the upper hand when it comes to safety, flexibility, and ease of use versus traditional industrial robots. Cobots are designed to work safely alongside humans, without the need for safety guarding, making them ideal for use in collaborative workspaces. Cobots are smaller and less powerful than traditional industrial robots, but easier to program and deploy, making them accessible to a wider range of users.

Cobots are usually more cost-effective than traditional industrial robots because they do not require specialized infrastructure or complicated installation. This makes them a good option for companies that want to improve efficiency and productivity without making a large upfront investment.

What are some use cases for cobots?

Cobots have a wide range of industrial applications, and virtually any manufacturing plant or production line can benefit from their capabilities. Cobots can take on dull, dirty, or dangerous tasks, freeing up human workers for more complex or value-added activities. Cobots can also help reduce downtime by boosting 24/7 capacity. Incredibly versatile, their tasks can be easily tailored to the needs of the business, even multiple times per day. Cobots are especially suited to pick and place, assembly, machine tending, welding, and palletizing but can be used for a wide range of tasks in manufacturing, including:

Assembly

Cobots can be used to assemble a variety of products, from cars to electronics to medical devices. For example, cobots can be used to pick and place parts, apply adhesives, and tighten screws.

Welding

Cobots can be used to perform welding tasks, such as spot welding and arc welding. Cobots are particularly well-suited for welding tasks that are difficult or dangerous for humans to perform, such as welding in confined spaces or working with hazardous materials.

Painting

Cobots can be used to paint a variety of products, such as cars, aircraft, and appliances. Cobots can provide a high degree of accuracy and consistency, which is essential for painting products to a high standard.

Inspection

Cobots can be equipped with sensors and cameras to perform inspection tasks, such as checking for defects in products or ensuring that products meet quality standards. Cobots can also be used to automate visual inspection tasks, which can be time-consuming and tedious for humans.

Material handling

Cobots can be used to perform a variety of material handling tasks, such as loading and unloading, transporting materials around the factory, and palletizing finished products. Cobots can help to improve the efficiency and safety of material handling operations.

Here are a few industry-specific applications of cobots:

  1. In automotive manufacturing, cobots are used to assemble parts, weld metal, and paint vehicles.
  2. In electronics manufacturing, cobots are used to assemble electronic devices, test components, and package products.
  3. In food and beverage manufacturing, cobots are used to pick and place food items, and package food products.
  4. In pharmaceuticals manufacturing, cobots are used to package pharmaceuticals, and fill vials and syringes.
  5. In retail manufacturing, cobots are used to cut and sew fabric.
  6. In furniture manufacturing, cobots are used to paint and sand furniture.

What are the benefits and advantages of using cobots in manufacturing?

Some of the benefits and advantages of using collaborative robots in the manufacturing industry include:

Improved productivity and efficiency

Cobots can work autonomously and automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, freeing human workers to focus on more complex tasks. Cobots can also work 24/7 without tiring or making errors, offering significant improvements in productivity and efficiency.

Lower initial costs

Cobots are generally more cost-effective than traditional industrial robots since they don’t need specific infrastructure or complicated installation, allowing companies to automate processes without making a large investment.

Increased accuracy and quality

Cobots perform tasks with a high degree of accuracy and consistency. By working closely with humans, cobots can quickly identify and fix problems. This can help to improve the quality of products and reduce the number of defects.

Enhanced safety

Cobots are designed to work safely alongside humans, reducing the risk of injuries to workers. And by automating physically demanding tasks, cobots reduce the risk of workplace accidents.

Reduced labor costs

Cobots can help to reduce labor costs by automating tasks that would otherwise be performed by humans and by boosting 24/7 capacity.

Increased flexibility and agility

Cobots are easy to reprogram and deploy, making them a flexible and agile solution for manufacturers. Their tasks can be tailored to specific business needs, even multiple times per day. This allows companies to quickly adapt to changes in market demand.

Improved data collection and analytics

Cobots can be equipped with sensors to collect data from the manufacturing process. This data can be used to improve process control, identify quality issues, and predict when maintenance is needed.

How do robotics make manufacturing more efficient?

Robotics make manufacturing more efficient by automating repetitive tasks, improving accuracy and consistency, increasing speed and throughput, reducing downtime, and improving safety. Robotics can also help to improve manufacturing efficiency in specific ways.

Robots can be used to optimize production lines by streamlining the flow of materials and products, quick and easy reprogramming can help reduce setup times, improve quality control by using sensors and cameras to identify defects before they reach the customer, and enable predictive maintenance by collecting and analyzing data from the manufacturing process.

Robots can free human workers to focus on more meaningful and complex work by automating repetitive tasks, such as picking and placing parts, welding, and painting. By performing tasks with a high degree of accuracy and consistency, robots can improve product quality and reduce waste.

With no need for breaks and the ability to work 24/7, robots can increase production speeds and throughput. Robots can also improve safety in the workplace by performing dangerous tasks that could otherwise endanger human workers.

Conclusion

Cobots are designed to work alongside humans and improve manufacturing efficiency through optimizing production lines, reducing set up times, improving quality control, and enabling predictive maintenance.

Cobots can also help manufacturers reduce the time it takes to bring new products to market, improve customer satisfaction by producing high-quality products on time and on budget and help manufacturers to reduce their environmental impact by optimizing energy usage and minimizing waste.

Cobots augment and assist human workers and help manufacturers meet their business and sustainability goals.

There is no need to fear cobots. Instead, we should say “Domo arigato, Mr. Coboto!”

– Looking to automate manufacturing processes with AI and robotics? Say hello.

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