Cobots VS Industrial Robots: Choosing The Right Machine For The Job
With no one-size-fits all solution, automating manufacturing processes can be quite a complex issue. This is because robots range from industrial robots powerful enough to move airplanes or automotive chassis to microrobots that are insect-like. Cobots are also another breed of robots and they are designed to share a workspace with human workers.
Cobots have helped numerous mid-sized and small companies bring the entry point of automation within their range. This allows them to finally gain some of the competitive advantages of automation that larger manufacturers could only enjoy in the past. Even though cobots cannot offer all the advantages of having full industrial automation, they can be quite an effective first step.
As a manufacturer, you need to explore all your robotic options and also understand the pros and cons of different automation types if you want to make the best long-term decision.
Comparing cobots with industrial robots
Although the industry as a whole does not really acknowledge the concept of collaborative robots, the term cobot is still gaining extensive visibility. Instead, what the industry has done is establish an industrial safety standard that defines collaborative applications using robots. This distinction is important because you shouldn’t assume that any cobot is automatically safe for use alongside human workers. This can only he determined by a risk assessment.
Collaborative robots are designed to be used within an environment where they can work alongside human workers. Also, they typically have some inbuilt safety mechanism to allow such collaboration. They fulfill to injury-prone or repetitive work such as palletizing or machine tending while the human coworker performs downstream or upstream manual tasks that are of higher value. A cobot can also mimic human actions thus being able to carry out tasks at slower or similar speeds. Their reach and payload are also similar to its human counterpart.
Industrial robots on the other hand are reprogrammable, automatically controlled and have multipurpose manipulators that are either programmable in three or more axes. They can also be mobile or fixed in one place. Industrial robots can automate a massive range of processes. To add significant return on investment for high volume processes and remove human workers from unsafe environments, you can integrate multiple robots for fully automated production lines.
Due to improvements in safety technologies, some industrial robots can now be used in collaborative operations to provide many of the same benefits as collaborative robots do. These include reduction in cost for traditional automation as well as an increase in speed and payload. With new programming interfaces, these robots are not only simple to learn and use but also highly intuitive.
Examining your options
If you’re a manufacturer, a cobot might be an ideal first step towards automated processes. If after going through the risk assessment process you don’t need safety guarding then the initial investment will be low and your employees will familiarise themselves with robotic systems and gain experience as well. However, keep in mind that there might be likelihood that the application will grow past the abilities of your cobot thus requiring you to get more than just one.
Questions you need to ask yourself
Even though both cobots and industrial robots have their individual pros and cons, in order to decide what is best for your company here are a few questions you should ask yourself:
- Is your working environment desirable and a safe place for your human staff?
- Do you want to automate a complete manufacturing line or support manual processes?
- What is your automation goal, is it to improve quality, increase output, reduce employees or more?
- Are your processes highly changeable or fixed?
- What are your scalability requirements in relation to supporting long-term growth?
- What are your reach, cycle time accuracy and payload requirements?
- How much space do you have for automation equipment?
Before investing in either an industrial robot or a collaborative robot it is advisable that you have all the facts.