Electronics company Omron Corporation and collaborative arm robot manufacturer Techman Robot have provided collaborative robots, or cobots, that can be used for a variety of applications such as electronics assembly, product testing and inspection.
This comes after both companies signed an agreement to form a strategic alliance in terms of collaborative robots, which came into effect globally in October.
Cobots allow for flexible manufacturing and increase the productivity and quality of production lines for clients in the automotive and electronic industries, as well as various materials handling operations within a broad range of manufacturing industries. Omron Corporation and Techman hope to realise an innovative manufacturing environment where humans and machines work in harmony.
“Collaborative robots that can work safely in the same environment with people have an important role in allowing for flexible manufacturing and creating a competitive advantage,” says Omron regional marketing manager Maciej Kuczynski.
A new generation of cobots is emerging as the evolution of classical industrial robots in response to the needs of Industry 4.0, he points out.
Kuczynski says collaborative robots are just beginning to allow for innovation and competitiveness at manufacturers. High versatility, including the ability to carry out tasks performed so far only by standard robots, all easily configurable by local engineering staff, are advantages of cobots.
“If we additionally consider a much easier implementation resulting from the reduced need to provide typical robots with security measures and incomparably greater flexibility of operation, the return on such an investment can be surprising. Therefore, the forecast increased share of robots cooperating in the total number of industrial robots should not come as a surprise,” he adds.
In applications where flexibility is key, rather than maximum production speed, collaborative robots are now filling the gap in the robotics market with their user-friendly software tools and integrated sensory functions, which now include machine vision systems, location capabilities and integration with warehouse systems.
Cobots can be deployed in a range of applications, such as production, testing, quality control, packaging and palletising, as well as intralogistics. For example, it is possible to support people in assembly processes at those stages where precision and repeatability are key, and the robots can apply adhesives and seals with simultaneous quality control.
Collaborative robots are gaining strength. Although lightweight, the Omron Techman TM14M robot can lift goods of up to 14 kg. While compliant with ISO 10218, which describes the interaction of robots and humans, industrial cobots are now becoming actual team members in production and logistics environments, owing to their lifting capabilities.
The new generation of collaborative robots can be easily integrated with mobile robots. This cooperation is made more accessible by the low weight of the latest robots, as well as the possibility of building mobile platforms on mobile robots, such as the Omron LD autonomous intelligent vehicle. Cobots can now be a natural part of a flexible, constantly evolving production environment in which the redeployment of machines, line changeovers and conveyors are needed.
Further, the possibilities are limitless when machine vision, combined with artificial intelligence, is added to the mix, Kuczynski suggests. A cobot can have a built-in intelligent vision system that provides vision functions such as totem pairing, object position, bar code identification, colour differentiation. Gestures to guide the robot and the task by hand can be used, and the degree of freedom of the hand-guide function can be changed according to different conditions.
Cobots installed on, for example, mobile robots can become elements of innovative logistic solutions and provide complete subassemblies and semi-finished products for assembly stations, and for finished products to be placed in stock or quality-control stations.
“ Collaborative robots can effectively complement and augment people's work in many discrete manufacturing processes,” concludes Kuczynski.