Unlock next-level productivity using cobots

Collaborative robots are fast becoming the benchmark in industrial automation, thanks to their ability to deliver higher productivity while working safely alongside human workers. Collaborative robots, a.k.a. cobots, are compact and lightweight, making them easy to deploy as requirements grow and change. Julian Ware, UK & Ireland Sales Manager for ABB Robotics explains.

For today’s manufacturing companies, cobots offer many benefits that add value at every step of the production process.

Their ability to work safely alongside humans without the need for physical guards makes them ideal for both continuous and intermittent collaboration applications where users want to maximise productivity without compromising on safety.

Cobots also provide the flexibility to manage the shift towards low-volume/high-mix production, because they can swap between products and be programmed to work with new products quickly and easily. With people and robots working side by side, companies can benefit from combining the problem-solving capabilities, insights and adaptability of human operators with the tireless precision and consistent performance provided by robots.

Big potential, small size

The global collaborative robots market was valued at US$1.23 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 32.0% between 2023 and 2030*. The analysis suggests that a combination of two factors is driving that growth.

First is the penetration of cobots into SMEs as they become more accessible in terms of price and ease of use. While robotic automation technology has evolved to meet the growing demands for high volume industrial production, it has also led to the creation of smaller collaborative robots such as ABB’s YuMi® and GoFa™ cobots, which are designed to fit easily into existing production lines, thanks to their flexible mounting options. With their smaller size and reduced reliance on peripheral equipment, collaborative robots can also reduce the investment needed for a robotic work cell to under $50,000 in many applications.

Second, technological advances are enabling robots to tackle more varied applications. An example is ABB’s cobot welding package, which uses a GoFa  cobot equipped with a simplified auto-generated program selector tool to enable users to create welding sequences in less than 30 seconds. By eliminating the need for a teach pendant, the package cuts programming time by 70 percent and removes the need for operators to have prior experience in using a robot. 

Plug the talent gap

Many manufacturers find it difficult to recruit experienced workers. Many young people who have grown up in the digital world see manufacturing as dirty, dull, dangerous, and repetitive. Also, with shorter product lifecycles, small manufacturers operating in high-labour-cost countries cannot simply outsource to low-cost countries like large corporations do. In these conditions, collaborative robots not only reduce the need for manual labour, but can work tirelessly to deliver higher quality, enabling businesses to deploy their workers to carry out higher level tasks that make better use of their abilities.

Hit the ground running

The plug-and-play abilities of modern cobots mean they can be installed much more quickly, minimising interference with production processes. Their small footprint and portability make them suitable not only for automating existing production lines, but also more diverse applications.

Technological advances have made collaborative robots far more intuitive than their conventional counterparts. Features such as lead-through programming and user-friendly touch screen interface enable operators with no programming experience to quickly program the robot. Offline simulation tools such as ABB’s RobotStudio® also allow operators to simulate an application on a PC, enabling them to develop and refine a robotic installation in a virtual environment without impacting on their real-world production processes. This helps reduce the time taken to get the robot running, ideal for organisations that have short product cycles.

Innovating for the future, today

More companies are looking towards the possibilities offered by robotic automation in general, and collaborative robots in particular, as a way of shoring up their workforce. These possibilities are likely to expand as robot manufacturers and their partners work to develop enhanced software features such as cloud connectivity, artificial intelligence and machine learning that further increase their functionalities and make them even safer, more flexible and easier to use.

For more information, visit https://bit.ly/ABB_Collaborative.