What is a Cobot? arrow red

Cobots, short for collaborative robots, are a type of robot designed to interact and work alongside humans in a shared workspace.

Cobots are equipped with various safety features that allow them to operate in close proximity to humans without posing significant risks. These advanced robots represent a shift in industrial automation, where robots are not isolated from human workers but rather work alongside them to enhance productivity and efficiency.

01

What are Cobots and How Do They Work?

Cobots are robots specifically designed to work in direct cooperation with humans. They are equipped with sensors and safety mechanisms that enable them to detect the presence of humans in their immediate vicinity and adjust their movements accordingly. These robots are programmed to operate at slower speeds and with lower force limits, reducing the risk of injury in the event of contact with a human worker.

Cobots typically have a smaller footprint compared to traditional industrial robots, making them suitable for deployment in confined spaces or alongside human workers on assembly lines or workstations. They are often equipped with intuitive programming interfaces that allow for easy task programming, even by workers without robotics expertise.

Cowelder
02

What Industries Commonly Make Use of Cobots?

Cobots have found widespread applications across various industries due to their flexibility, safety features and ability to collaborate with human workers. Some of the industries that commonly use cobots include:

Manufacturing

Cobots are widely used in manufacturing for tasks such as material handling, welding services, machine tending and component assembly.

Electronics

The electronics industry employs cobots for tasks like circuit board assembly, component placement and quality inspection.

Pharmaceuticals

Cobots are used in pharmaceutical manufacturing for tasks like lab analysis tasks, packaging and material handling, ensuring high levels of precision and safety.

Food and Beverage

Cobots are employed in food and beverage production for tasks such as packaging, palletising and quality inspection, while adhering to strict hygiene standards.

RCT welders working alongside cobots (cowelders):

03

Benefits of Using Cobots

Increased Productivity

Cobots can work alongside humans, taking on repetitive or strenuous tasks, allowing human workers to focus on more complex and value-added activities. In a small study, humans working alongside cobots were found to be more productive, with an 85% reduction in idle time.

Improved Quality

Cobots are capable of performing tasks with high levels of precision and consistency, reducing the risk of errors and improving overall product quality. Some models of cobot feature repeatability down to just 0.02mm, making them suitable for tasks that require very tight tolerances.

Flexibility

Cobots can be easily reprogrammed and redeployed for different tasks, making them highly adaptable to changing production requirements. A single 6-axis cobot arm with a changeable payload can be programmed for a wide variety of tasks, from welding to delicate lab work.

Cost-effectiveness

Compared to traditional industrial robots, cobots often have lower upfront costs and require less extensive infrastructure and programming, making them more accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises.

How Do cobots Help Workers?

Cobots are designed to complement and enhance the capabilities of human workers, rather than replace them entirely. By taking on physically demanding, repetitive, or potentially hazardous tasks, cobots can help reduce the risk of injuries and fatigue for human workers. Additionally, cobots can assist with tasks that require high levels of consistency and endurance, allowing human workers to focus on more complex aspects of their work.

Military Seating 1
04

Cobots vs. Industrial Robots

While traditional industrial robots and cobots share some similarities, there are several key differences between the two:

Safety Features

Cobots are designed with advanced safety features, such as force and speed limitations, allowing them to work in close proximity to human workers without posing significant risks. Traditional industrial robots typically operate in dedicated safety cages or restricted areas to prevent human-robot interactions.

Programming

Cobots often have intuitive programming interfaces that allow for easy task programming, even by workers without extensive robotics expertise. Traditional industrial robots typically require specialised programming skills and dedicated programming stations.

Ease-of-use

Cobots are generally more flexible and adaptable, allowing for easier redeployment and reprogramming for different tasks. Traditional industrial robots are often designed for specific, highly specialised tasks and require more extensive reconfiguration for new applications.

Size and Footprint

Cobots typically have a smaller footprint and are designed to operate in confined spaces or alongside human workers. Traditional industrial robots are often larger and require dedicated floor spaces or production cells.

Expense

While the initial investment for cobots can be higher than traditional industrial robots, cobots often require less extensive infrastructure, programming and safety measures, potentially making them more cost-effective in the long run, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Robot arms welding a car frame
05

Programming Cobots vs. Traditional Robots

One of the key advantages of cobots over traditional industrial robots lies in the simplicity and accessibility of their programming methods. While traditional industrial robots often require highly-developed programming skills and dedicated programming stations, cobots are designed to be accessible to a broad range of users.

Traditional Industrial Robot Programming

Traditional industrial robots are typically programmed using specialised programming languages, such as RAPID (Robotics Application Programming Interactive Dialogue) for ABB robots or KRL (KUKA Robot Language) for KUKA robots. These programming languages can be complex and require extensive training and expertise to master.

The robot's movements and tasks are programmed using specialised software on a separate computer or programming station. This allows for simulations and optimization before deploying the program on the actual robot.

In some cases a teach pendant can be used, which is a handheld device used to manually guide the robot through desired movements and record them. This can be used to fine tune the robots movement in addition to the initial programming.

Safety Measures

Due to the potential risks associated with traditional industrial robots, extensive safety measures are required, such as physical barriers, safety cages, or restricted access zones, to prevent potentially fatal accidents during operation.

Programming Cobots

In contrast, cobots are designed with user-friendly programming interfaces that make them more accessible to a range of users, including those without extensive robotics expertise. The programming process for cobots is generally more intuitive and can often be performed directly on the cobot itself or through a user-friendly graphical interface.

Some common programming methods for cobots include:

Hand Guidance

Many cobots can be programmed by physically guiding the robot arm through the desired motions and recording those movements, a process known as hand guidance or lead-through programming.

Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Cobots often come with user-friendly graphical interfaces that allow users to program tasks, movements and sequences through a drag-and-drop or point-and-click interface, without the need for complex programming languages.

Simplified Programming Languages

While some cobots may use simplified versions of traditional programming languages, the languages are typically more user-friendly and designed specifically for collaborative robot applications.

Sensor Integration

Cobots are often equipped with various sensors, such as vision systems or force sensors, which can be integrated into the programming process to enable more advanced tasks or adaptability to changing environments.

While traditional industrial robots offer more advanced capabilities and flexibility for complex, high-volume production tasks, cobots provide a more accessible and user-friendly solution for smaller-scale operations, collaborative tasks, or environments where human-robot interaction is required.

06

How RCT use Cowelders

At RCT, we recognise the benefits of integrating collaborative robots, or cobots, into our welding operations. Our Cowelders, a specialised type of cobot designed for welding tasks, work alongside our skilled human welders to enhance productivity, quality and safety.

The Cowelders are equipped with advanced sensors and safety features that allow them to operate in close proximity to our human welders without posing significant risks. They are programmed to perform repetitive and demanding welding tasks with high levels of precision and consistency, reducing the risk of errors and ensuring the quality of our welded products.

By collaborating with our Cowelders, our human welders can focus on more complex and value-added aspects of the welding process, such as setup, inspection and troubleshooting. This collaboration not only increases productivity but also helps to reduce the physical strain and potential risks associated with repetitive welding tasks, promoting a safer and more ergonomic work environment for our welders.

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