14-05-2020 | | By Nnamdi Anyadike
Collaborative robots (cobots) are coming to the fore across a broad swathe of industries including the aerospace, medical, and automotive sectors enabling better quality, better processes and thereby helping manufacturers to improve their overall operations. Unlike traditional robot manufacturing that requires safety guarding and thus more floor space, cobots can be easier to fit in on the shop floor. And their flexibility means that they can be moved around the manufacturing space. Meanwhile, their role is changing since they first came onto the market about 10 years ago.
Initially, their applications were primarily confined to machine tending and handling, as well as loading and unloading. And although those processes are still 50% of all cobot applications they have steadily expanded to a point where there is virtually no part of the manufacturing process that cobots are not active in, including dispensing, palletizing and painting. Key players include ABB; KUKA AG; FANUC Corporation; Robert Bosch GmbH; Universal robots; Rethink Robotics; MRK-System GmbH; Precise Automation; Energrid Technology Corporation; F&P Robotics AG; MABI AG; Techman ROBOT; Franka; Emika GmbH; AUBO robotics Inc.;YASKAWA Electric Corporation; and Comau S.P.A.
In March, Yaskawa Europe GmbH’s cobot, the Motoman HC10DT IP67, received the 2020 Red Dot industry award for outstanding design quality. The 6-axis robot can be used in the most demanding of environments. And like the basic model HC10DT, the new IP67 variant is said to combine the better of two worlds. It has the stability and high movement speeds of industrial cobot together with the safe limitation of contact forces between operator and robot. This enables real human-robot collaboration (HRC).
Red Dot CEO Professor Peter Zec said, “With their designs, the award winners set new standards in their industry. I warmly congratulate them on this success.” In addition to the HC10DT IP67, Yaskawa also produces four other HRC-capable robot models the: HC10; HC10DT; HC20DT IP67 and soon the HC10DTF for the food sector. Yaskawa’s larger HC20DT IP67 is designed for a maximum handling weight of 20 kg and covers a working range of 1700 mm. “Depending on the risk assessment, it requires no additional protective measures such as a safety enclosure, saving space and costs,” said the company. The cobot can also be operated in hybrid mode by connecting external safety technology, such as a laser scanner.
US-based New Scale Robotics the maker of smart automation tools for flexible manufacturing, recently announced that it had received certification from Universal Robotics (UR) for two products to work with UR’s e-Series cobots. The products are the NSR-PG-10-20-URe ‘Gripper/Caliper’ and the NSR-MTM-3-URe ‘Multi-Tool Mount’. New Scale Robotics describes the NSR-PG-10-20-URe Gripper/Caliper as “the smallest parallel gripper and the first robotic digital calliper for cobots.” It leverages the UR e-Series’ high-speed RS-485 interface to deliver measurement precision of 2.5 µm (.0001 inch) and enable control of multiple tools on one robot.
The second product, the NSR-MTM-3-URe Multi-Tool Mount, allows up to three tools to be mounted and controlled on UR’s smallest e-Series cobots. This allows the robot to perform multiple processes with fewer significant moves, improving throughput and productivity. Both components are part of New Scale Robotics’ new Q-Span Workstations, combining robotic pick-and-place with automated measurement of small parts and logging of data for analysis. Configured with the UR3e cobot, Q-Span Workstations easily integrate into existing workflows in the QC lab or on the production floor of high-mix, small-batch manufacturing environments. Q-Span Workstations allow QC teams to automate the tedious manual process of measuring parts, improving throughput and data accuracy.
In March, Productive Robotics the designer and manufacturer of new generation cobots in manufacturing, showcased its US-made OB7 cobot range in Atlanta. The largest model of the 7-axis cobot line, OB7-Max 12, can be used to palletize boxes. With a 12-kg payload capacity and a 1.3-metre reach, OB7-Max 12 has the same “teach without programming” user interface as the rest of the OB7 models. “New robotics and automation technologies continue to emerge, and the market is growing increasingly competitive, but above all, customers want solutions that are fast to deploy and affordable, require minimal complex integration, and a high return on investment,” explained Zac Bogart, Productive Robotics president.
The Japanese headquartered FANUC Corp, a leading supplier of factory automation, robotics, ROBOMACHINEs and Industrial IoT solutions, recently introduced its new CRX-10iA and CRX-10iA/L (extended arm version) cobots that it claims “raises the bar in collaborative robot technology.” The new 10kg payload CRX-10iA and CRX-10iA/L provide a reach of 1249mm and 1418mm, respectively. Like the entire family of collaborative robots, the CRX-10iA and CRX-10iA/L are designed with FANUC’s in-house technology, reliability and sensitive contact detection that allow them to work safely alongside people in a variety of industrial and manufacturing jobs. They are easily connected with third-party grippers and support FANUC’s intelligent features such as integrated iRVision® and iRPickTool software. The robots are scheduled to be commercially available before the end of the second quarter.
A new report from Research and Markets expects the global cobot market (including hardware, software, and service) to reach $36.84 billion by 2026. This represents a 2019-2026 compound annual growth rate of almost 45%. A key driver underpinning this growth is consistently falling prices. For example, several cobots today are available for under $45,000 and have a faster return on investment (ROI) than previously. The market leader is expected to be cobots with a payload capacity of up to 5 kg. This is because these cobots are relatively easy to deploy, have high adaptability, but, above all, are affordable for small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).