Cobots – Teamwork With A Robot

One of our colleagues at the Würth Elektronik plant in Thurnau is different: ROSi is a robot! She tirelessly loads and unloads small load carriers at the winding machine. Unlike conventional industrial robots, she is not encased in a cage, but operates freely and cooperatively with her human colleagues. ROSi is, therefore, much more than a robot… she’s a cobot (Collaborative Robot): created for collaboration between humans and robots - one of the latest developments in Industry 4.0 and an important part of the Smart Factory.

ROSi is a great example to show the most important differences between cobots and conventional robots.

Collaborative Human-Machine Teamwork

Conventional industrial robots are machines that are programmed to execute set tasks. They have to be fenced in or secured within cages as they are unable to react to humans within their range of motion. Cobots, on the other hand, are designed to collaborate with humans, sharing the same space together.

They are equipped with sophisticated sensors that allow them to work closely together with their human colleagues. If anyone, or anything, gets too close or even just the slightest touch, they will stop moving. Typically, cobots assist with complex tasks that cannot be entirely automated. They are, for example, able to pass components on to human colleagues who, in turn, perform more delicate assembly or quality assurance processes. They relieve their human colleagues of more dangerous tasks, handle sharp, pointy or hot components or are able to complete more arduous tasks.

Flexibility and Learning Capability

Cobots are easy to program. Unlike conventional industrial robots, which require specialist programming skills, some cobot models can learn autonomously: for example, if a technician moves the robotic arm, the cobot records the action and emulates it. Simple graphics-based user interfaces with clear work instructions allow for easy reprogramming of the cobot by any employee directly onsite. Usually cobots are not only easy to reprogram, but they are also less cumbersome to move and reposition than conventional industrial robots. This way, they can quickly be deployed as required at different points in the production line.

How to Employ a Cobot Colleague

We have had positive experiences with ROSi. However, the project was also very well prepared. If your company is considering Human-Robot Collaboration (HRC), then here are some useful tips, which are based on our experiences.

Questions that need to be answered in advance:

• How can a HRC application be integrated with existing and future processes?

• What conditions are required and how much effort is needed for this to be achieved?

• Which applications are suitable for Human Robot Collaborations? How complex can these be?

Questions, concerns and worries among the employees, who are to collaborate directly with the robot, are only natural when a new system is introduced. Some examples are:

1. Will I be replaced by the robot?

2. Is having a robot right next to me truly safe?

3. Is the robot able to do what I can do?

In general, a proactive and preventative awareness initiative is recommended when introducing new automated systems into the workflow to clarify any questions and worries in advance. After all, since the introduction of industrial robots almost 50 years ago, they have always been perceived as a threat to the workplace.

To address these fears and worries, awareness events with workshops where employees can meet the robot and ideally operate it, work best. Information about experiences with other similar projects may help to curb rumors and negative preconceptions. Your employees need to understand the purpose and added value of such an application.

At Würth Elektronik, we believe many HRCs truly support employees with ergonomically awkward, strenuous, and monotonous tasks. This collaboration between human and machine merges the strengths of both worlds to create synergies. It combines human perception, reaction, adaptation and improvisation with the technological strength of the robot. For example high speed, high power, repetition accuracy and consistent quality (no tiring).

The industrial future will see cobots as an integral part of manufacturing, even in medium-sized companies. Two of the often disregarded driving forces in industrial countries are demographic change and occupational safety. Cobots can assist older or less able employees in such a way that allows them to continue to perform physically demanding jobs that otherwise would be denied to them. This physical support is also one of the key intentions for younger employees as well. Würth Elektronik iBE aims to free up more time for employees to manage other more important tasks such as scheduling and controlling.

Q: What is the iSBN for the Trilogy of Magnetics, 5th Edition version in English? I am trying to order it through my employer and they are requesting the ISBN.
- anonymous

Hi Anonymous,
The ISBN is 978-3-89929-157-5.
-Würth Elektronik

Good articles. Informative.

Ajay Singha

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