Collaborative robots, sometimes called “cobots,” are robots designed to assist, guide or collaborate with humans on a task. In contrast, non-collaborative robots are meant to work alone as programmed.
Different types of collaboration include: safety monitored stops, speed and separation monitoring, hand guidance and power and force limiting.
Safety monitored stopping is a feature designed to keep humans safe when entering a robotic workspace to contribute to the application. Basically, if a worker comes in to do a secondary operation while a collaborative robot handles a part, the robot will sense their presence and stop moving. They do not shut down completely, but rather pause their operations so that the worker is not in danger of an accident. They resume working only when the human operator indicates they may do so. Simply pausing is much more efficient and less time-consuming than cutting down completely.
Speed and separation monitoring is similar to safety monitored stopping. Here, the collaborative robot uses lasers or another vision system that alert it when workers enter its space, which has been divided into safety zones. The cobot is programmed to adjust its behavior based on which safety zone workers enter. Basically, the closer a worker gets, the slower the robot works. If the worker gets too close, the robot will completely pause its work until he or she exits that space.
Hand guidance, or hand guiding, takes place when regular industrial robots are updated with a collaborative device that makes it possible for them to sense force. By applying force to the sensing device, human operators can guide the robot. This limited collaboration is used for applications such as path teaching.
Power and force limiting collaborative robots are the most user-friendly and widely used type of collaborative robot. Unlike many others, they are not adapted regular robots, but rather if you will, natives, and do not require additional safety devices. They are used for direct collaboration with their human counterparts. Usually, their job is to sense force overload and abnormal forces. If and when they experience such forces, they will pause. In addition, if they experience impact, they will dissipate the force.
To learn more about the collaborative robot tasks above, check out ISO 10218-1:2011 and ISO 10218-2:2011. To learn more about the possibilities cobots hold for you and your application, consult with one or more of the expert manufacturers we have listed on this page.