There is a revolution happening in the world of Industrial Automation, one where an industrial robot arm is able to work side by side with humans, safely and efficiently collaborating on tasks. Universal Robots is pioneering a new technology, one they are calling “Cage-Free” collaborative robotics (cobots). This simple, but exciting, idea will be implemented with their UR5 (UR AE3) and UR10 series, both types being 6-Axis robotic arms. So why is the Universal Robots offering of Cage-Free Robots such a big deal?
Definitely not your father's industrial robot arm
The Cage-Free (also known as "Collaborative") Industrial Robots could completely change the face of industrial automation in US Manufacturing in the next 3-5 years. They would enable small to medium size manufacturers to be more competitive with larger manufacturers and would provide larger manufacturers the ability to react more quickly to demands of their markets.
Imagine an industrial robot arm that you can operate in most production environments, without the need of expensive and intrusive safety equipment. You do not need to buy, maintain, or update Hard Guarding, Laser Scanners, Light Curtains or Safety Mats. You do not need to reconfigure your plant space to suit a bulky machine or its safety equipment. You do not need to spend hours training someone to program and work with the new industrial robot arm. The lack of extra costs is a huge benefit by itself, but there are additional reasons to consider this new type of machine.
5 Key Features
The Cross Company Automation Group believes these 5 features will provide the most benefit for Universal Robots customers:
- Collaborative operation - safely working side by side with people
- Easy and intuitive programming - ground breaking "teach mode" programming
- Portability - relatively lightweight and compact design
- Very low cost of ownership
- Quick and easy to deploy
I will talk specifically about each one of these 5 key features in future blog posts, but here is a sneak peak.
Imagine a programming environment that is so simple that anyone who can set up a Smart Phone or Tablet Device could have the robot performing basic production tasks with little to no training. Imagine being able to move these Cage-Free Robots from one work station to the next within minutes, allowing you to follow the production demands instead of having to reroute production or not use your automated assets. Imagine being able to afford more robotic automation thanks to the possibility of such a quick return on investment.
To lightly touch on the subject, for those concerned with the ROI on their automation investment, having the freedom to put the Cage-Free Robots where you need them, when you need them, without extra safe guards, and being able to reduce your commissioning time from days and weeks down to hours or minutes, means your Cost of Ownership is drastically reduced over conventional automation. One would think that this would mean these Cage-Free Robots would dictate a premium price, but the opposite is true.
These 6-Axis robotic arms aren't the answer to every robot application but they sure do open the door to a whole new world of possibilities. In my next post, I will break down exactly how the Cage-Free collaborative operations work and how it will revolutionize your work space.