When considering investing in a robot solution for your company, there are multiple factors to consider. Automating manufacturing doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution, however, there are tons of options to choose from. We will review where to begin, what to evaluate, and next steps.
The first things to understand are the main differences between industrial robots and collaborative robots.
Industrial robots are what most people imagine when envisioning a robot on their plant floor — a big, heavy robot caged off, running twenty-four hours a day with no worker in sight. They excel at their objective, which is to complete dull, dirty, and dangerous tasks. And they do them much faster and more accurately than workers ever could.
Collaborative robots, or “cobots” work alongside humans rather than replacing them. Cobots, like their industrial counterparts, are designed to perform repetitive, monotonous, or error-prone tasks so humans can focus on work that requires creativity, reasoning, and critical thinking.
Now that you have the basics, you can determine what you want to accomplish. Are your goals increased production, increased safety, reduced mistakes, filling the skills gap, or something else?
Next, talk to people who can help match available options to meet those goals — this is where Fusion as a systems integrator can provide valuable guidance on what is right for your business, walking through everything you should consider, and making recommendations as a partnership alongside you.
Lastly, whether on your own or jointly with your chosen partner(s), perform an analysis to see which industrial robot solution makes the best operational and financial sense for your needs — now and into the future.
Here are the starting factors to evaluate:
What is your financial budget for the cobot?
Does a cobot exist that can carry out the functions required within budget?
Are financing options available for the cobot?
Does the cobot maker offer a lease or robots as a service option?
What payback period can you expect?
Is this payback period acceptable in terms of your ongoing financial projections?
What is the size of the cobot under consideration?
In particular, what is the cobot’s height, width, depth and footprint?
Is the working environment sufficiently sized so the cobot can be positioned easily?
Will the cobot move around in the workplace? If so, is there enough room for it to comfortably move around in an unimpeded manner?
Are you sure the cobot can operate in a safely in the allocated workspace?
Have you carried out a health, safety, and risk assessment on the likely impact for staff of introducing a cobot to the workplace?
What is the safety record of the cobot under consideration?
If staff is expected to directly interact with the cobot – have you carried out an ergonomic assessment?
Does the cobot manufacturer or integrator offer safety training? If not, is third-party safety training available?
If you plan on moving the cobot within the workplace, can you do another risk assessment every time?
What operations will the cobot be used for? Assembly? Pick-and-place? Machine tending? Human assistance?
Will the cobot be expected to perform a single or multiple functions?
Is the cobot under consideration capable of carrying out all functions necessary? Or will more than one type of cobot be necessary?
Can the cobot manufacturer adapt the cobot to your specific functional requirements?
How easy is it to program the cobot?
Does existing staff have the skills necessary to undertake programming and operational duties for cobots?
Does the manufacturer or dealer offer or provide any sort of staff training?
Is training software (or other information) available?
Industry Week: Cobot vs Robot – Which is right for you? by Matt Minner
Robotics Business Review: Which Cobot is Right For You? Whitepaper
For comparing collaborative robots, use this chart as resource. The chart compares the following:
Payload: The weight the collaborative robot can carry. All collaborative robots have a given payload, which is calculated without the weight of the end effector or robot tool. This means that the real payload that can be carried by the robot is the nominal payload minus the weight of the robot’s end effector.
Horizontal Reach: Reach is the measurement of the distance that can be reached by the collaborative robot’s wrist. This measurement is taken from the robot’s base.
Repeatability: Repeatability is the closeness of agreement between several positions reached by the collaborative robot’s end-effector for the same controlled position, repeated several times under the same conditions.
Degrees of Freedom (DOF): Degrees of freedom, in a mechanics context, are specific, defined modes in which a mechanical device or system can move. The number of degrees of freedom is equal to the total number of independent displacements or aspects of motion. The term is widely used to define the motion capabilities of robots.