Collaborative Robots in Manufacturing

A collaborative robot, or cobot, is a type of robot intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace. These robots are usually designed for a specific task and come in handy when floor space is limited. A truly collaborative robot, like the ones produced by FANUC, Universal, OB7, AUBO Robotics, Omron, and KUKA, can be operated right next to a person without safeguarding.

But be warned. Just because you can operate a robot right next to a person does not mean you should. While a robot itself might be defined as collaborative, its application might not be. For example, if a collaborative robot has a knife on the end of its arm to cut a shape out of a piece of paper, then by code it might not have to be guarded; however, if it is using a knife that is sharp enough to cut someone, it would be dangerous and irresponsible not to put safeguards in place to protect the people around the robot.

MJ Engineering was once asked by a potential client to integrate a cobot that picked up hot plates measuring more than 200°F. The prospective client thought safeguarding was unnecessary because it was a “collaborative robot.” Not willing to compromise on safety, MJ Engineering insisted on adding safeguarding to its project plan, even though it meant losing the project to a lower bidder. You can count on MJ Engineering to always do the right thing—especially when it comes to safety.