Collaborative robots have revolutionized the manufacturing industry by offering a new level of flexibility and efficiency. Unlike traditional industrial robots that are solely designed to work in isolation, cobots are specifically designed to work alongside humans in a collaborative manner. This opens up a wide range of possibilities for automation in various industrial scenarios. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the different levels of collaboration and industrial scenarios where cobots are commonly used.
Understanding the levels of collaboration in cobots
Cobots are classified into different levels of collaboration based on their interaction with humans. Each level represents a different degree of collaboration and safety features. Understanding these levels is crucial for choosing the right cobot for your specific needs. Here are the levels we will explore :
- Level 1: Safety monitored stop
- Level 2: Hand guiding
- Level 3: Speed and separation monitoring
- Level 4: Power and force limiting
- Level 5: Safety-rated monitored stop
- Level 6: Hand guiding with speed and separation monitoring
- Level 7: Power and force limiting with speed and separation monitoring
Level 1: Safety monitored stop
At level 1, cobots are equipped with safety sensors that can detect the presence of humans in their workspace. When a human enters the cobot’s workspace, it will automatically stop its operation to prevent any potential accidents. This level is suitable for scenarios where human interaction is minimal, and the primary goal is to ensure the safety of the human workers.
Level 2 cobots allow direct physical interaction between humans and robots. They have sensors that can detect and respond to human touch, allowing operators to guide the cobot’s movements manually. This level of collaboration is ideal for tasks that require precise positioning or delicate handling.
Level 3: Speed and separation monitoring
At level 3, cobots can work in close proximity to humans while constantly monitoring their speed and separation. If the cobot detects that a human is moving too fast or getting too close, it will automatically slow down or stop to maintain a safe distance. This level of collaboration is suitable for scenarios where humans and cobots need to work side by side, such as assembly lines or material handling.
Level 4: Power and force limiting
Level 4 cobots are designed with advanced safety features that limit the amount of force and power they can exert. This level of collaboration enables cobots to work in direct contact with humans without posing any risk of injury. It is commonly used in applications that require forceful tasks, such as heavy lifting or machine tending.
Level 5: Safety-rated monitored stop
Similar to level 1, level 5 cobots have safety sensors that can detect the presence of humans. However, they also have additional safety features, such as safety-rated monitored stop, which ensures that the cobot stops its operation in a safe manner. This level of collaboration provides an extra layer of safety for scenarios where human workers are more involved in the cobot’s operation.
Level 6: Hand guiding with speed and separation monitoring
Level 6 cobots combine the features of level 2 and level 3. They allow operators to manually guide the cobot’s movements while also monitoring the speed and separation between humans and cobots. This level of collaboration is suitable for tasks that require both precision and close human-robot interaction.
Level 7: Power and force limiting with speed and separation monitoring
At level 7, cobots have the combined features of level 4 and level 3. They can work in direct contact with humans while ensuring both power and force limitation and monitoring the speed and separation. This level of collaboration is ideal for applications that require both forceful tasks and close human-robot collaboration.
Industrial scenarios where cobots are used
Cobots are widely used in various industrial scenarios due to their ability to enhance productivity and safety. Let’s explore some of the most common scenarios where cobots are employed.
Scenario 1: Assembly line automation
In assembly line automation, cobots play a vital role in speeding up the production process. They can perform repetitive tasks, such as picking and placing components, tightening screws, or performing quality checks. Cobots at different levels of collaboration can be used depending on the complexity of the assembly process and the required level of human involvement.
Scenario 2: Material handling and logistics
Cobots are excellent for material handling and logistics applications. They can efficiently move heavy objects, load and unload pallets, and transport goods within a warehouse or distribution center. Cobots with different levels of collaboration can be utilized to optimize the workflow and reduce the risk of injuries associated with manual material handling.
Scenario 3: Quality control and inspection
Ensuring product quality is crucial in manufacturing. Cobots can be programmed to perform precise quality control and inspection tasks, such as measuring dimensions, detecting defects, or conducting visual inspections. With their high accuracy and repeatability, cobots can significantly improve the quality control process.
Scenario 4: Welding and fabrication
Cobots are increasingly being used for welding and fabrication tasks. They offer increased precision and speed compared to manual welding, resulting in higher productivity and improved weld quality. Cobots equipped with appropriate safety features can work alongside human welders, reducing the risk of accidents and enhancing overall efficiency.
Scenario 5: Packaging and palletizing
In packaging and palletizing applications, cobots can automate the process of packing products into boxes or loading them onto pallets. They can handle different types of products and adapt to varying packaging requirements. Cobots with different levels of collaboration can be employed depending on the complexity of the packaging process and the need for human intervention.
Scenario 6: Machine Tending
Cobots are well-suited for machine tending tasks, where they can load and unload parts from machines, perform tool changes, or monitor the production process. By automating machine tending, manufacturers can improve productivity, reduce errors, and free up human workers for more complex tasks.
Conclusion: Choosing the right level of collaboration and industrial scenario for your business
As the use of cobots continues to grow, it is essential for businesses to understand the different levels of collaboration and industrial scenarios that best suit their specific needs. Whether it is assembly line automation, material handling, quality control, welding, packaging, or machine tending, cobots offer a range of solutions to enhance productivity, safety, and efficiency. By carefully considering the levels of collaboration and industrial scenarios required, businesses can leverage the power of cobots to stay competitive in today’s rapidly evolving manufacturing landscape.
If you’re interested in exploring the potential of cobots for your business, contact us today for a consultation and discover how cobots can revolutionize your manufacturing processes.