Collaborative Robots in Industry

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Collaborative robots, or cobots, are enabling manufacturers of different segments to present a high level of industrial automation. One of the key features to be highlighted is the feasibility of inserting these helper robots among collaborators to perform high repetition tasks. Yes, there are rules. The definition of collaborative goes further and there are standards to be followed as ISO 10218-1/2, in which some properties must be respected. NR-12 has attached work instructions and guidelines for inserting cobots into the manufacturing unit. 

Although the term “collaborative” exists in these robots and thus suggests that they can work with man, not everyone can operate without enclosure and there are particularities that can restrict their use – and thus make them just robots. Some operating settings require lasers or vision systems to detect the presence of workers in the work area, allowing the blockage or decrease of cobot speed. There is also the collaborative configuration itself, in which the robot has its limited power and strength and operates with the man. The absence of an additional safety device in this scenario is only possible because the robot detects forces abnormal to its movement and is programmed to stop when there is overload. 

Data from the International Robotics Federation (IFR) show a 31% increase in robot sales between 2017 and 2018 globally. The largest market is the Asian, which injected 255 thousand robots into the industries, representing approximately 70% of the units. Europe and the Americas represent 17% and 11%, respectively. The Brazilian representation against the world market is minimal. In Brazil, it is estimated that 2 thousand robots will be present on assembly lines, with growth projections of 75% by 2020, reaching the historic mark of 3.5 thousand units in the country. This projection is due to the fact that the country has cleared the import tax rate for this type of robot. 

The largest employers of robots are the automotive and electronics industries. There is also an increasing demand in the metallurgical, chemical and food sectors. Also noteworthy for the pharmaceutical sector that has been making room for collaborative robots. The short video below shows a collaborative robot from Universal Robots operating in a clinical laboratory: 

In this video, the collaborative robot manipulates bottles for labeling: 

In industry, we are often challenged: 

  • How to improve production figures and still keep costs low? 
  • How can we scale a production that depends on many setups (high-mix / low volume)? 

These challenges can be solved through the use of collaborative robots! 

However, while recognizing the benefits of robots in industries, entrepreneurs still have a hard time knowing where to start. The Brazilian market is still slowly moving towards allowing the demand of these robots and some actions can be taken: 

  • Training people to become qualified is essential to leverage the scenario. Large companies end up depleting the market with the scarce availability of specialized engineers in the area. 
  • Best funding ways for industrial upgrading has a direct impact on investment return and also allows small businesses to automate the shop floor. 
  • Raising awareness among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) about the robotic scenario and commercial gains such as cost reduction, increase of productivity and high competitiveness. 

What can I do to get started? 

The guide below shows a starting point to consider when you want to deploy a robot in the industry: 

  • Learn what robots can do for you:
    They can pick up, rotate, move, feel, see, and even make decisions based on machine-learning and artificial intelligence. 
  • Identify repetitive tasks in the operation:
    It can be in the test stage of a product, in assembly, storage, packaging, palletizing, separation, equipment recording, etc. 
  • Define an appropriate robot to meet demand:
    There are different collaborative robots manufacturers and every detail is important. From the robot’s programming method to its aftermarket support. 
  • Analyzing the current project and future scenario thinking about replication:
    Considering the costs and replication methodology of the robot is mandatory. Electromechanical design, material availability and ease of replication must be taken into account. 
  • Return on investment analysis:
    The correct question to ask is not in relation to the cost of the robot. The analysis should be seen from another bias. How many employees, shifts, and downtime are there in the process? What is the waste? What is the payback of this initiative? And more: Is it possible to qualify my employees to perform higher value-added tasks and make activities simple for robots? 

What can be done for me? 

There are experienced companies in the market that can do beyond the guide shown above. Venturus, for example, has a team specialized in industrial automation and can do for you the critical analysis of the process, design and deployment of collaborative robots on the assembly line. Often there are opportunities for improvements that are not explicitly clear and a specialized team can quickly identify through studies and data analysis. 

 

The global automation market through robots is rapidly advancing in the context of industry 4.0. The current numbers and projection for the next few years show that this sector grows at similar speed to technology companies like Google and Apple. Not so much in Brazil that still presents little investment in this area when compared to the rest of the world. The local market has a shortage of skilled labor and an incentive to industrial modernization. Although large industries have the most modern industrial framework, SMEs are not yet included in this bias and should adopt this technology in the short and medium term to become more competitive. 

Source:
International Federation of Robotics
Brazilian Industrial Development Agency
Agência Brasil

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