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BOSTON — As soon as dismissed as not succesful sufficient for industrial use, collaborative robots are simply starting to assist producers and provide chains. At an open home at its U.S. headquarters yesterday, Common Robots A/S confirmed about 400 attendees that cobots are prepared for manufacturing work at retailers of all sizes.
Collaborative robots are smaller and lighter than some industrial robotic arms, and so they embody sensors, software program, and different options to make them simpler to program and to work alongside folks. Prior to now few years, they have change into extra highly effective, extra exact, and even simpler to make use of, famous Common Robots.
The unit of North Studying, Mass.-based Teradyne Inc. demonstrated a number of cobot functions with choose companions throughout its open home. Every one mixed a UR arm with sensors similar to these from SICK, finish effectors from OnRobot and Schunk, and Common Robots’ personal controllers. Not like typical industrial robotic workcells, the displays didn’t require security cages.
Common Robots additionally provided shows all through the day, discussing matters starting from a buyer use case and threat assessments to the way forward for work. Listed below are 5 takeaways from the occasion:
1. Collaborative robots are prepared for palletizing
Placing bins or instances on pallets could be strenuous, repetitive work. Bigger cobot arms, advances in movement management, and Common Robots’ concentrate on functions quite than expertise for its personal sake led to a veritable explosion of automated palletizing demos at this yr’s commerce reveals, similar to Automate, ProMat, and PACK EXPO.
Robotiq confirmed its Robotiq Palletizer, which included a UR10 arm. Ryan Weaver, vice chairman, business, mentioned how “lean robotics” finest practices may help corporations get began with automation.
“We had talked lots about lean robotics earlier than the [COVID-19] pandemic, however now it’s time to assist corporations with adopting robots,” he instructed The Robotic Report.
On show was the UR20 mannequin, which is now transport. It may deal with payloads of 20 kg (44 lb.), making it appropriate for palletizing, welding, and different duties as soon as the province of business robots.
Different Common Robots companions round palletizing included techniques integrator Flex Line, with its boxEZ Field Erector.
Cellular Industrial Robots, which can also be owned by Teradyne, confirmed its MiR 250 autonomous cellular robotic (AMR). Brian Dillman, gross sales director at Odense, Denmark-based Cellular Industrial Robots, talked about how logistics can go “from good to nice utilizing AMRs.”
Many AMR customers have gone from “kicking the tires” to desirous to scale their robotic fleets inside and throughout services, Dillman stated. He provided steering on the way to handle such rising fleets.
2. Cobots supply flexibility for machine tending
The proper mixture of machine imaginative and prescient, software program, and UR cobots can facilitate CNC machine tending. Nonetheless, implementation is usually a problem, noticed Tyler Bouchard, co-founder and CEO of Flexxbotics.
Flexxbotics gives assist for cobot machine tending, and the corporate claimed that its FlexxCORE software program connects robots with different gear for duties similar to deburring. With an edge field and cloud-based platform, it’s simple to use programming throughout cells, famous a Flexxbotics consultant on the open home.
Precision Cobotics, one other Common Robots accomplice, demonstrated its laser marker for selecting operations.
3. Common Robots continues to develop its ecosystem
“We initially anticipated solely 200 folks,” stated Zach Tomkinson, regional supervisor for East U.S. gross sales at Common Robots.
Attendees got here from as distant as Georgia and North Carolina for the one-day occasion. They included a mixture of potential finish customers, integrators, engineers, startups, and college students, in addition to organizations similar to MassRobotics. A number of instructed The Robotic Report throughout networking that they had been in search of options to widespread trade challenges.
Whereas Common Robots has specialised in collaborative robotic arms, it stated its rising UR+ accomplice ecosystem allows customers to search out the correct mix of already-compatible applied sciences for his or her wants.
For example, Kane Robotics displayed its GRIT-ST system for precision floor ending, and ESTIC America demonstrated an automatic nut runner for meeting. New Scale Robotics confirmed its Q-Span system with a UR cobot for automated gauging.
4. Automation is turning into accessible to retailers of all sizes
Power-torque sensors present a way of contact, and growing integration of imaginative and prescient techniques is permitting robots to maintain choosing autonomously quite than surrender after a single strive, defined Andrew Pether, principal innovation analysis engineer at Common Robots.
Together with demonstration studying and streamlined consumer interfaces, retailers that don’t have robotics experience can now undertake automation, he stated.
Vermont Creamery defined the way it journeyed from “analysis to FAT” (manufacturing facility acceptance check) as a UR buyer. Rick Bart, director of operations; Chris Freeman, operations supervisor; and Eric Duncan, supervisor for environmental well being and security, offered the end-user perspective on a profitable deployment.
Vectis Automation confirmed its Cobot Welding Device for fabrication retailers, and Cobot Techniques displayed its Laser Welder. Hirebotics additionally presents built-in welding automation together with UR cobots.
Along with its open home, Common Robots hosted coaching periods at its headquarters as a part of its “UR Academy.”
5. Don’t concern robots and AI — they’re right here to assist
Regardless of widespread reviews warning of job losses on account of robotics adoption, such a correlation hasn’t been confirmed, stated Julie Shah. She is a professor on the Massachusetts Institute of Know-how’s Laptop Science and Synthetic Intelligence Lab (MIT CSAIL).
“Our lab prefers to concentrate on ‘positive-sum automation’ quite than a ‘zero-sum’ stalemate,” she stated in a session on the way forward for work. Shah stated her analysis is engaged on computing at augments human functionality.
As well as, small and midsize companies symbolize 48% of U.S. manufacturing and make use of 43% of producing staff, Shah added. If solely one-tenth of automotive suppliers are utilizing robots and all complain of a dearth of expert staff, automation is a part of the answer of upskilling labor, she stated.
Shah divided industrial automation into three phases. From 1962 to about 2010 was the “Don’t go there” stage, with heavy robots caged away from human staff.
2011 to 2021 was the “Get out of the best way” part, with cobots and collaborative cellular robots studying to maneuver or cease round folks, in line with Shah.
On a associated subject, Chris Savoia, head of strategic enterprise growth at Common Robots, coated how and why to conduct threat assessments for cobots in a separate session. Collaborative robots are designed to be safer to function round people, however customers should nonetheless take workspaces, payloads, and processes into consideration, he stated. Happily, there are finest practices and requirements to assist, Savoia stated.
From 2022 into the long run may very well be the period of “optimistic sum automation,” stated Shah, as robotics builders overcome challenges similar to when a robotic freezes fully in proximity to a human co-worker.
Gentle curtains, a variety of sensors and software program, and synthetic intelligence to foretell human movement can all assist robots change into extra conscious, she stated. Such predictive skills, together with extra correct simulation and measurement, can result in higher integration and check, Shah stated.
Whereas it’s nonetheless early days for generative AI and human-machine interplay, Shah stated the very best productiveness outcomes are possible not from “lights-out,” absolutely automated factories however from good collaboration between people and robots.