In order to keep up with demand, more and more companies are using manufacturing robots to automate their production lines. This is because robots are a lot more cost-efficient and productive in the long run when compared to human employees. After all, they make fewer mistakes when doing tasks, do not require rest and breaks, and have a lot more consistent output. However, the downside of using industrial manufacturing robots is that they tend to be large and unwieldy, and can be unsafe for human workers nearby, necessitating them to be put in a cage. This is where collaborative robots – otherwise called cobots – come in. Smaller and more compact than their industrial counterparts, cobots are designed to be safer and allow human workers to work alongside the cobot on the same task.
So, what kinds of tasks can a cobot do exactly? This article has listed and explained a few popular ones below. So, make sure to keep on reading to find out more.
Scaling and polishing
One very important yet monotonous and repetitive task that cobots can do is scaling and polishing. This is because to achieve a smooth finish, it is essential to continuously apply the same amount of force and pressure to the surface to ensure every product remains consistent in quality. However, this is impossible for human workers to do for 8 hours every day. This is because human workers need to take into account errors and mistakes that may occur when they get distracted, especially if the task is emotionally unfulfilling.
Fortunately, cobots can be fitted with a sander or polisher at the end of their robotic arm, which will then automatically move across the surface. Additionally, cobots are also fitted with sensors, which can help the cobot to apply the same amount of force to the surface precisely. The sensors can also detect the contours of the surface, which makes it extremely easy to teach the cobot how to sand and polish it. This way, human overseers can quickly set up an automated sanding and polishing operation without needing to know a lot about robot programming.
Pick and place
As its name suggests, pick and place refers to picking up objects and placing them in another place. Most tasks revolve around this concept, such as placing products on a conveyor belt, filing boxes or crates, or sorting certain products. While they are simple in theory, when more tools are added to the operation, the more complicated it becomes. For all these tasks, it is vital that the cobot will pick up the objects in order, as well as pick up the right kind of objects, in order to give to a later machine to sort them.
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to implementing a pick and place operation is supplying the products needed. One of the easiest ways to solve this is to have a structured supply line in place, in order for the cobot to know exactly where the product is – meaning they can move to the same area to pick it up. However, this is not always possible, because some items may be delivered in bulk. Moreover, some items will differ in size and shape – especially if they are irregular. In this case, manufacturers may need to look at outfitting their cobot with more complicated tools and features.
Bin picking is a slightly more complicated version of pick and place. Bin picking is usually the result of offering objects to the cobot in an unstructured way, generally in bulk. This unfortunately means that the cobot cannot go to the same place or point every time to pick up an item. As such, in order to combat this challenge, most cobots are outfitted with vision technology. Thanks to this new technology, cobots are now able to recognize the right items and place them in the correct locations. This differs from past operations, where the supply and repeatability of a task were essential. Nowadays though, cobots can load a conveyor belt themselves after the products have been given to them in bulk without needing any human assistance at all.
For those not in the know, palletizing simply refers to stacking boxes on pallets. These boxes are generally prepared for either shipping or storage. While human workers used to do this in the past, nowadays, it can be perfectly automated using a cobot. The human overseer can program the cobot to stack the boxes in a desired pattern, which can help to maximize the amount of cargo in addition to reducing the chances of the boxes falling over. Another great thing about using cobots instead of human workers is that the boxes can be quite heavy. This means that if a human worker does this task repeatedly, they have a higher chance of either suffering from accidents, injuries, back pain, and other potential health issues, which could lead to further absenteeism in the long run. A cobot, on the other hand, has no need for rest and can stack endlessly without complaint, leading to fewer injuries in the long run.
Quality testing and inspection
Quality testing and inspection are vital for any production line. This is so that products remain consistent, in order to make sure customers remain satisfied with them and are less likely to return the items. Nowadays with the advance in technology, cobots are increasingly being used to perform these tasks. The great thing about cobots doing quality testing and inspections instead of humans is that they can reduce testing time, in addition to lowering the error rate. This is due to the cobots being fitted with vision technology and cameras that can help spot even the slightest of cracks or blemishes that most humans would miss. Additionally, cobots can be outfitted with soft vacuum grippers in order to perform delicate tasks such as chip testing and touchscreen device testing. These grippers are further outfitted with built-in sensors that make them sensitive to the force they put on the product. This means that cobots are less likely to damage the products during the inspection process as well!