In the earliest days of automation, there was a lot of concern that robots would lead to most people in the manufacturing sector losing their jobs. It wasn’t hard to see where these worries originated. After all, robotic equipment can work around the clock, reproducing the same tasks with practically no variation in terms of quality or speed. This is why these machines have become almost ubiquitous throughout the industry. However, the human factor remains a core component of what makes manufacturers successful. In fact, new developments in technology have made collaboration between humans and robots more fluid and beneficial than ever before.
Those in the technology realm have even come up with a new term to describe these machines: cobots. Equipped with advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, this brand of robot comes closer to being true co-workers with their flesh-and-blood counterparts than their simpler predecessors. Rather than simply following a rigid program, these machines can be “taught” to perform smaller-scale tasks than the typical industrial robot arm. This means they can interact with people on the production floor or in a warehouse to make work smoother, easier and less stressful on human beings.
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These machines already can be found in numerous applications in multiple market segments. For example, they can perform tedious picking and placing jobs, allowing people to concentrate on more thought-intensive elements of assembly or kitting. Elements of manufacturing such as finishing, dispensing and coating that require high degrees of accuracy to conserve resources are perfect uses for cobots. They can reduce cycle times, improve safety and ensure identical results over thousands of repetitions.
Another illustration of how this technology can be beneficial can be found in machining. One of these robots can move between CNC machines to replenish raw materials or swap tools as required, thus eliminating the need for a person to tend to each one individually.
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Collaborative robotics is becoming a big part of the automation sector, and it’s only going to get bigger as the benefits of this concept become more widely known. A recent study estimates that there will be more than 40,000 cobots working in factories, distribution centers and other industrial facilities by the end of the 2020s , and the reasons why should be obvious. To learn more about common applications for these robots, take a look at the accompanying resource.