The global market for collaborative robots (cobots) is expected to grow by more than 40% each year over the coming five years, according to the latest research.
The automotive sector is tipped to experience the greatest level of cobots growth, revealed the study by Research and Markets
Compared with more traditional industrial robots, cobots are significantly smaller, smarter, more affordable and flexible. Advances in technology and software also means that cobots don’t need to operate behind a cage or safety fence, enabling humans to truly work alongside their robotic counterparts.
The Danish Technological Institute (DTI) has been developing and testing a variety of cobot solutions for some time now, and has considerable experience with the implementation of new robotic technologies.
The DTI’s robot technology manager, Søren Peter Johansen, has set out five reasons behind the growth of cobots and why companies – both large and small – should be exploring their adoption.
According to Johansen, automating the simplest 80% of a production process will be typically be significantly cheaper than a fully automated solution.
The remaining 20% (the technologically difficult sub-processes) can be performed by a human operator. The robot performs the heavy lifting or monotonous repetitions, for example, while the human operator performs the higher value work which is more variable and requires greater ingenuity.
As they typically operate outside of a safety cage or barrier and work far closer to human operators, the safety requirements for cobots are far stricter than for closed robot cells, says Johansen.
In contrast to larger, heavier robot cell, cobots can typically be moved around the production area and be rapidly deployed in more than one production process, of particular advantage to high-diversity, low-volume manufacturers.
Cobots are much more user-friendly than traditional robots. Several cobot offerings have embedded intelligent behaviours, allowing non-technical operators to simply move the robot arms through the motions to train and configure them to perform a task.
Cobots can perform tasks that are hard and laborious for human employees, and enable employees to work faster, more safely and efficiently. According to Johansen, manufacturers utilising cobots can more easily compete with competitors based in low-labour cost countries. Time-savings can also free operators up to focus on more high-value tasks such as process optimisation.