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Disruptive technologies for smart cities - Collaborative Robotics

Disruptive technologies for smart cities - Collaborative Robotics

Author: KISMC / CSKC

This is the next article from the series we started this year for disruptive technologies for smart cities.

The content is based on the outputs produced under the project Smart technologies by design (Smart by Design). Collaborative Robotics (Cobots) is referring to machines that are designed for direct interaction with humans in their working spaces without any security fence.

They are lighter, more flexible, easier to install, and at an affordable price than traditional production machines. This is the reason why they are perfectly suitable for SMEs. These robots have a fast return on investment; do not require specialized technicians for the assembling and launching and they are reconfigurable which allows them to be incorporated in different points of the production line, optimizing productivity. They represent a new era in industrial automation, as they allow the introduction of robots in sectors and industrial processes in which was not feasible until now.

Collaborative Robots are feasible for any type of company. Some of the most remarkable advantages in comparison with traditional robots are:

  • Able to relocate in different installations: cobots are very flexible and easy to integrate them into different processes
  • Human interaction: cobots are conceived to work side by side with workmen offering a cooperative environment
  • Shared space: cobots are very safe and are able to work with humans without the requirement of protections and added security
  • Easy to program: they have an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. They do not require any specific skills.
  • Profitability: Robotic arms have an amortization period of less than a year

Current status

Platforms

The number of robotic companies offering collaborative robotics is increasing due to the advantages described above. But, some of the most well-known producers are:

Existing standards

There are some standards related to collaborative robots at the international level:

  • ISO 10218-1:2006 (updated 2011) and ISO 10218-2:2011 are the industrial robot standards that initially covered collaborative applications
  • Part 1: Robot only (manipulator and controller)
  • Part 2: Robot system/cell and application
  • ANSI/RIA R15.06-2012 is an adoption of ISO 10218-1:2011 & ISO 10218-2:2011
  • And under the ISO/TS 15066:2016: Robots and robotic devices – Collaborative robots. This standard is a technical specification for collaborative robots
  • ISO/TS 15066:2016 specifies safety requirements for collaborative industrial robot systems and the work environment and supplements the requirements and guidance on collaborative industrial robot operation given in ISO 10218 1 and ISO 10218 2.
  • ISO/TS 15066:2016 applies to industrial robot systems as described in ISO 10218 1 and ISO 10218 2. It does not apply to non-industrial robots, although the safety principles presented can be useful to other areas of robotics.

Key applications
Cobots are very useful in most industrial environments, but some of their applications are:

  • Pick and place
  • Machine tending
  • Packaging
  • Material Handling
  • Injection molding
  • CNC
  • Quality inspection
  • Assembly
  • Polishing
  • Screw driving
  • Lab analysis and testing
  • Gluing, dispensing, and welding.

Expected evolution over time

Platforms

The future of Collaborative Robotics passes through the incorporation of more complex types of collaboration with humans. The trend is that they will become partners instead of mere tools. The need for new interfaces to work with more complex scenarios will be the future of this kind of technology. By adding scalability and accessibility to robots, will allow users the easy designing and implementation of their own interfaces.

Future robots will be able to recognize basic human behaviors and will adapt the action of the robots to respond to them. For the long term, reprogramming and adaptation to new needs will become the issue and the main problem to face. Besides, the ability to “dialogue” of the robots will be another step to research for developers.
Future Collaborative Robots will be much more interactive than nowadays. They will be able to adapt to new circumstances like missing tools or pieces, or even to respond to changes in the production line.

Standards

The industry is beginning to recognize the benefits of more standardization in robotics. This is also becoming recognized within research, where there has been a lack of standardized benchmarking practices. The standards already developed for Collaborative Robotics are fundamentally in guidelines to ensure security, like the above-mentioned ISO/TS 15066. This and more standards will be necessary to integrate and update in order to respond to the changing needs of the robotics industry.
In the next future, researchers will be working in order to introduce domain-specific safety standards and will test them on specific robotic systems. In the long run, it will be expanded to develop industry norms for robot operation and standards for long-term interaction with multiple users. Another topic for future rules and standards will be the development of robotic based interfaces.

Potential applications

The number of industrial companies using cobots in their facilities will keep growing, due to the advantages they bring. But in the future, new “generation” robots will be needed, with “smarter skills”

  • Dialoguing robots
  • Truly Collaborative Robots with the ability to “take decisions”
  • Fully autonomous robots
  • Robots with AI
  • Machine learning
  • Adaptative robots to users
  • Self-repairing robots
  • Application in new industries

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