How Collaborative Robots In Manufacturing Are Revolutionizing Work?
For a long time, tasks that necessitated complex assembly or a new approach every time were performed by human workers. For example, manufacturing customized and bespoke products were not possible for machines. Today, these duties can be handed over to specialized machines, and they perform the jobs with better accuracy. What changed? The birth of collaborative robots. Driven by Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, and smart technology, these cobots have made everything possible not just in the USA but around the world.
What Are Collaborative Robots?
As the 1990s were ending, General Motors and Ford began appropriating a new generation of robots in their assembly lines to improve operations. They called these machines IAD or Intelligent Assist Device. Ford employed IADs to load cylinder heads in their truck engine blocks. Given the weight of these heads, the IAD reduced the risk of accidents and injury to human workers to a high degree. Though the automobile manufacturers did not know it yet; but, IAD work on the same principle as cobots. In simpler words, they were the first collaborative robots in manufacturing.
How Do Cobots Help In Manufacturing?
Experts estimate that 75% of the material and object handling required in assembly lines can be reduced with the use of collaborative robots in manufacturing. It is why the USA-based Ford has installed so many of them in their Cologne factory. Why are cobots equipped for improving operations in manufacturing units?
They have sensing technology that allows them to detect the presence of either a human or an unusual object in their path. Once they sense an obstruction, cobots will either cease their movement or reverse their motion. These sensors make it possible for the cobots to work right next to human operators without any risk of injury or mishap. Unlike old industrial robots, cobots don’t need cages, fences, or other safety exclusion zones to work.
They take over all the heavy lifting and dangerous duties that had to be performed by human personnel. Therefore, cobots bring health and safety improvements to manufacturing units.
Another powerful feature that makes cobots great for USA production cycles is the inclusion of AI tech. The technology allows collaborative robots to learn from their flesh and bone counterparts. Let’s say you need a cobot to pick up and install a delicate part. The robotic arm, fitted with pressure sensors, can be taught how much pressure it needs to apply to hold the part without breaking it by a human. A worker can literally guide the cobot once on how to perform the action, and it picks up the technique.
This characteristic is also useful for units that handle toxic or dangerous material. A human employee can show the cobot the motions required to handle the material using a harmless substance, and the collaborative robot can copy them with the toxic one.
It is the collaborative ability of cobots and learning capability that makes them apt for bespoke products. Once the cobot is taught how to do a particular chore, the human workers can focus on performing others. By working side by side, the production cycle speed is increased considerably.
The Present Picture Of Collaborative Robots In Manufacturing
Cobot technology in manufacturing and other industries is reasonably new. While automation has been used for a long time, collaborative robots are just entering the picture. In 2015, only 5% of global robot sales were from collaborative robots. But because cobots are much more affordable than conventional industrial robots, the picture has changed in the past four years. Besides big players, medium and even small-sized manufacturers have become more receptive to cobots. The emerging technology has proven that it can overhaul operations and reduce the cost to business by a sufficient margin. These benefits hold even more true for firms that produce delicate, intricate, or customized items in the USA.
What’s The Future Of Cobots In The US?
Give it a few more years, and collaborative robots in manufacturing will bring a new industrial revolution. The advantages cobots bring to the companies and employees alike are way too many not to leverage their power. There is no doubt that every manufacturing plant in the USA will be using cobots in the future. What is questionable is how we handle the revolution. The fear of automation making a significant portion of the human workforce redundant is too strong. It hinders the growth of cobots. Yet, the concern is based on irrational grounds. A quintessential example of it is the Nissan plant based in Tennessee, USA. The plant workers were unreceptive to cobots because they assumed their jobs would be lost once the collaborative robots are installed. But not a single person was laid off, which made personnel realize that cobots are meant to work alongside them. They are not meant to replace humans.