Fusion makes every effort to stay informed of the latest advances in manufacturing, making sure we are staying ahead of the needs of our customers. In the case of cobotics (collaborative robots), it was our machinists who were sending me social media posts on these new advances asking me to pursue this venture. Their goal was to reduce the time they were spending loading and unloading parts all day long so that they can do more advanced tasks. And they indeed were onto something significant.
While cobots are only a fraction of the $40B industrial robot market, estimates peg cobots to grow to more than $10B over the next decade, as reported by CBInsights.
After much research and seeing all the ways cobots can improve the CNC machining industry, I decided to add cobots from Universal Robots (UR) to our service offering and have not looked back since. The main draw for me was realizing the immense benefits of cobots vs. traditional robots in manufacturing. Cobots do not require a cage, are smaller, and do not take up nearly as much valuable floor space. In addition, the cost of a cobot is around 1/4 of that of a robot.
Cobots are easier to program and can even be reprogrammed just by putting its arm through the desired motions. It remembers the instruction and repeats it independently. When there is a stop in production for any reason, employees get alerts to their phones and often a fix can be done remotely. Talk about efficiency!
They can run continuously throughout the shift and beyond without interruption, making on average the jobs completed in 26% less time than with an operator tending the CNC machine. The end result is the cost of production is cheaper than operating manually, and allows for more CNC machine availability for more capacity. The best part is cobots are not here to eliminate jobs. What they do offer is the ability to empower employees to do more cerebral work on the machine’s shop floor such as G-code programming, CAM programming, operating the CMM, general inspection, setting up jobs, and the list goes on.
The similarities in robots and cobots are that cobots still take over repetitive, monotonous, and dangerous tasks, improving quality, enhancing results, and eliminating human error.
Cobots are being utilized in a variety of industries currently outside of manufacturing and automotive. Aerospace, packaging, healthcare, electronics, printing and graphic arts, law enforcement, and construction are among them. Agriculture and the food service industry are beginning to adopt cobotics as part of their systems as well.
As the baby boomer generation retires (which is heavy in manufacturing), there is a trend we are seeing where millennials are not pursuing these careers. According to Deloitte, it is estimated that by 2028 the skills gap in the United States will result in 2.4 million unfilled seats out of a total of 16 million manufacturing jobs. The cobots will help fill in that gap.