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Are you seeing collaborative robots being integrated into today's production and manufacturing environments? Tech Briefs invites you to "Sound Off" on the role of "cobots."

An onset of new motion and sensing technologies has led to the emergence of collaborative robots that combine the repetitive performance provided by machines with the individual skills of human workers.

During the live webinar “Integrating Motion Control for Safe Robot Operation,” a Tech Briefs attendee asked speaker Joe Falco, National Institute of Standards and Technology Engineer (Intelligent Systems Division) the following question:

Q: How are collaborative robots being used in the United States?

Joe Falco, NIST

Falco: If you were to go to a conference like Automate, lots of collaborative robot technology vendors would show their products being deployed in more conventional robot implementations. [Manufacturers] might be throwing these robots behind a protective, fenced-in area with typical robot safety implementations.

The reason they're adopting these types of robots is that they're less expensive than the large industrial robots and the capacities might be good enough for what they're trying to do. (Most collaborative robots don't have the capacity of a typical industrial robot as far as what kind of load it can handle.)

Collaborative robots are also very easy to program, compared to conventional robot technologies; every industrial robot manufacturer has its own teach pendant and programming language. You need to learn each teach pendant, and you go away to school for a few weeks to learn how to use it and program it. It takes quite a bit of a learning curve to get to use them, whereas some of these collaborative robots, because of their fore-sensing capabilities, are able to be put into a mode where they essentially support their own weight. They're looking for external forces from a programmer to move them around and program different points within its operation.

So there's lots of application for them outside of the collaborative space.

What do you think? How do you see "cobots" being used today?

Share your industry insights about collaborative manufacturing below.

To learn more, watch the full webinar featuring Joe Falco.

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