Over the years, industrial automation has been adopted in many businesses due to its numerous benefits. By using robots, companies have been able to automate their industrial processes leading to increased productivity and efficiency, improved product quality and reduced production lead times. Cobots and industrial robots are essentially designed for this particular reason.
A Cobot is a collaborative robot designed to operate alongside humans in manufacturing and industrial environments. It is small, lightweight, and fitted with sensors and software, allowing it to operate safely alongside humans. On the other hand, an industrial robot is a large machine designed to work fast and precisely with large objects or over great distances.
While industrial robots present a good option in terms of reach, accuracy, speed, and weight, they are several caveats that arise when operating them. Cobots usually present the best alternative in such cases since they are designed with human operability in mind and offer a wide range of benefits compared to industrial robots.
Advantages of Cobots over Industrial Robots
Industrial robots are known to execute dangerous, monotonous, and dirty tasks that humans avoid. Consequently, these machines are in most cases caged and require those operating them to be fully equipped with safety equipment.
On the contrary, cobots are designed to be used alongside humans and are generally considered safe. They reduce the need for humans to perform tasks near dangerous machinery. Compared to industrial robots, cobots are made with rounded edges, are force-limited, and have non-pinching Joints to avoid causing injury.
Moreover, most cobots have safety features such as sensors that halts the robot if it comes into contact with a person. Essentially, they are safer for work since the robot is made to be less hazardous.
Ease of use
Compared to industrial robots, a cobot is typically smaller and lightweight, making it well-suited for tasks requiring precision and dexterity. Cobots are equipped with software and sensors, that make them easier to handle and allow for interaction with humans in a collaborative environment safely.
Simplicity in programming is another factor that gives cobots an edge over industrial robots. Generally, cobots are designed with user-friendly interfaces and require little to no programming knowledge when setting them up. Anyone can program them to learn new actions and quickly implement them to perform the desired tasks.
Also, whereas it might take several days or weeks to install an industrial robot before it becomes operational, installing a cobot is much quicker. The user-friendly software and interface that it comes with allow the installation process to be completed in less than an hour.
The biggest determining factor between cobots and industrial robots is cost. Cobots are generally less expensive than traditional robots. It is thus easier for businesses to purchase them over robots, considering that their purchase, maintenance, and energy consumption cost is low.
Cobots are also cost-effective in that the process of installation and operation is less complex. Most cobots can be placed in a workstation alongside other equipment and do not require a fixed area or work cell to be set up. Moreover, unlike industrial robots, no complex training is needed for employees, and no expert is required to oversee operations.
Return on investment for cobots also takes lesser time compared to industrial robots. For instance, in a case where it would take close to two years for a six-axis robot to generate an ROI, it takes a cobot about a year to achieve the same.
In automation, flexibility is vital since having the ability to change or reprogram a machine much easier and faster can result in increased production and efficiency. Most industrial robots are used in fixed production; thus, halting the production process to reprogram them can be time-consuming. Conversely, cobots are flexible since they can quickly and easily be reconfigured for new tasks.
As far as programming is concerned, kinesthetic guiding makes it easier for anyone to reprogram a Cobot for a new task by moving the arm, assigning a task, and recording it for future operations. Even more interesting is that a user can program the robot to perform multiple tasks.
Another distinct feature that has been added to cobots not present in industrial robots is a secondary arm. While a single arm will mostly get most of the job done, having an additional arm helps reliably perform delicate tasks such as assembling smaller parts, surface finishing, and quality testing and inspection. As a result, executing these tasks is much faster and more accurate.
Cobots are also flexible since they can be used in different work departments. In any area within the production process, a cobot can be assigned a new task to add value. Similarly, when production is at its peak and an additional hand is needed, instead of temporarily hiring a new employee to perform that task, a cobot can be assigned to do the same task for that particular period.
Unlike industrial robots that are made to reduce manual labor, cobots are designed to work alongside people and not replace them. Tasks that would otherwise seem monotonous, boring, and tedious can be reallocated to robots so that employees focus on those tasks that they enjoy. Rather than do repetitive tasks that might make them feel burned out, employees can use the opportunity to participate in innovative projects in the workplace.
Collaborative robots also help employees to achieve perfection. They help them maintain perfection and consistency in operations since the robots are less likely to make human errors. They can be quickly programmed to match the requirements of the tasks and execute the automation far more reliably.
Generally, robots have immensely contributed to industrial automation for several years now. However, collaborative robots are increasingly used in many industries as companies seek ways to automate their operations without sacrificing quality or safety. While traditional industrial robots provide higher loads, better speed, and efficiency, cobots offer many advantages over them. Not only do cobots work closely with humans, but they are also safer, easier to use, more flexible, cost-effective, and employee-friendly.