As introduced in our first post on the Cage Free Industrial Robots, Universal Robots has arrived in the US with a new twist on the traditional 6-axis Industrial Robots. Imagine a robotic arm that can work side by side in collaboration with humans in a production environment without additional safety guarding. This robotic arm would be portable and could be moved from job to job as the work flow changes and could be re-programmed and re-tasked in a matter of minutes (as opposed to hours or days).
If you have that picture in your mind, then you are seeing the UR5 (UR5 AE3) and UR10 collaborative industrial robots from Universal Robots.
Your Best New Co-Worker
Webster’s Dictionary defines the term “collaborative” as “used or done by a number of people as a group” and this really sums up exactly how you can use the UR5 (UR5 AE3) and UR10 in many automation applications. I recently had the pleasure of visiting a customer who was using several of the UR10 Cage Free Industrial Robots on a production line side by side with humans. The robots had been programmed to do a repetitive task, which freed up the humans to do more of what they were better at (using their brains).
At this customer’s facility, there were a significant number of traditional Industrial Robots (well over 100 robotic cells) in the facility, all of which had to be sequestered behind cumbersome metal cages and elaborate safety equipment. These precautions were to ensure that no one entered the robots’ work space without first properly shutting down the robot. I was concerned that the human workers would be skittish about having an unguarded, or Cage Free, robotic arm for a co-worker in their production cell, but this was soon alleviated.
I didn’t see anyone ‘steering clear’ of or avoiding their new robotic co-workers. Should someone get within the robotic arm’s range of motion, it would result in a polite ‘nudge’ and nothing more. I had our customer’s robot bump into me as a demonstration and this gentle encounter is actually a lot less traumatic than the last time I bumped into a human co-worker!
A Work Place Revolution
This ability to safely collaborate with a piece of industrial automation like a robotic arm is truly a revolutionary concept for the manufacturing floor. A revolution where you could task a collaborative robotic arm to do the repetitive tasks that could cause physical injuries to humans while freeing the humans to help improve quality control, increase production, or optimizing the work flow. A revolution where you could task industrial robots to assist you in a difficult assembly process that requires a second ‘helper’ to hold a work piece steady at difficult angles or for extended time. A revolution where you could run part of you manufacturing process in off hours with minimal supervision. A revolution where you do not have to radically redesign your floor space to accommodate large, bulky, or dangerous machinery.
In a meeting with a few of my customer’s Production Engineers, we brainstormed this technology’s potential possibilities. In just a few minutes discussing ideas for improving quality control and increasing production, there were too numerous to capture. Did I mention this could be revolutionary?!
Productivity Looks Good On You
No, we aren’t quite to the point of deploying the ‘Jarvis’ personal assistant from the “Ironman” movies as our intellectual and physical counterpart, but we sure are a lot closer to being able to make the manufacturing floor a lot more productive and healthier place to work through the use of Collaborative Robots (cobots) like Universal Robots UR5 (UR5 AE3) and UR10.
Welcome to the revolution.