Not all robots are programmed to perform tasks by themselves. Some of them work alongside humans. They’re called “cobots,” short for “collaborative robots.”

Here’s how they work.

An ideal team consists of members with different but complementary skills. Each member takes care of the task that corresponds to the abilities he or she possesses. A cobot can take care of the repetitive, monotonous chores that people would rather not do. It either follows human instructions or responds to human actions.

Other interesting terms…

Read More about a Cobot

Most organizations that utilize robots typically choose cobots over industrial robots. But how do they differ?

Cobots versus Industrial Robots

When it comes to upfront costs, cobots are a much cheaper alternative to industrial robots, making them ideal for small businesses. Cobots are particularly useful in the manufacturing industry for those that want to benefit from the use of robots but can’t afford the way more expensive industrial robots. But who can use cobots in place of industrial robots? In order to answer this question, you need to know how they differ.

3 Factors to Consider When Purchasing Cobots

When figuring out which to purchase—a cobot or an industrial robot—consider the factors below.

1. Cost

One of the main challenges of jumping on the automation bandwagon is cost. Aside from upfront costs, you also have to think about and factor in maintenance, actual use, and additional equipment to ensure operational safety. For example, cobot manufacturers may tout that their products are safe to use alongside humans, but you can’t be complacent. You’ll have to think about security and safety issues. So you may need to invest in force limiters or fencing technology.

Another factor to consider is the actual energy consumption compared with the cobot’s productivity. Cobots that consume low energy but can only do one or two tasks may not be efficient after all.

2. Productivity

You need to understand that cobots are programmed to follow safety standards. As such, the higher their load, the slower they get, which can hurt your productivity.

In contrast, industrial robots are capable of much higher capacities and accomplish tasks faster, subsequently increasing a company’s productivity.

Note, though, that cobots are more flexible than industrial robots. Cobots aren’t limited to performing a single task, making them more scalable and easier to integrate into production lines.

In sum, organizations that want to automate production but don’t require heavy tasks can opt for cobots.

3. Programming

Cobots are way easier to program than industrial robots, too. Industrial robots often require extensive and advanced computer programming skills. Cobots, on the other hand, can be instructed to learn on their own.

An operator can, for instance, program a cobot using the learning-by-doing approach. The operator can perform the necessary movements using the robot arm, which then learns, records, and remembers tasks, allowing the cobot to repeat them on its own.

What Are the Types of Cobots?

Cobots come in various types depending on their design, functionality, and application. Here are some common types.

  • Fixed or stationary cobots: Installed in a fixed position and perform tasks within a defined workspace. They are typically used for tasks that require precision and repeatability.
  • Mobile cobots: Equipped with mobility features, such as wheels or tracks, allowing them to move around a workspace autonomously. They are useful for tasks that require flexibility and adaptability, such as material handling in warehouses or logistics operations.
  • Dual-arm cobots: Have two robotic arms that can work collaboratively or independently to perform tasks. They are suitable for applications that require complex manipulation or assembly tasks.
  • Single-arm cobots: Have a single robotic arm and are designed for tasks that require simpler manipulation, such as pick-and-place operations or machine tending.
  • Lightweight cobots: Designed to be lightweight and portable, making them easy to deploy and reconfigure for different tasks. They are often used in small-scale manufacturing environments or research labs.
  • Heavy-duty cobots: Built to handle larger payloads and perform tasks that require more strength and power, such as palletizing or heavy assembly tasks.
  • Dual-use cobots: Designed to work both autonomously and collaboratively with human workers. They can switch between autonomous and collaborative modes depending on the task requirements and presence of humans in the workspace.
  • Sensing cobots: Equipped with advanced sensors and perception systems that allow them to detect and respond to changes in their environment. They are capable of tasks that require interaction with dynamic or unpredictable environments.

What Are the Benefits of Using Cobots?

Using cobots offers several benefits, both for businesses and workers. We named some of them below.

  • Improved safety: Cobots are designed to work alongside humans safely, with built-in safety features, such as collision detection and force-limiting technology. They can reduce workplace accidents by taking on hazardous or repetitive tasks, minimizing the risk of injury to human workers.
  • Increased productivity: Cobots can work continuously without getting tired or making mistakes due to fatigue. By automating repetitive or time-consuming tasks, they free up human workers to focus on more value-added activities, leading to increased productivity and efficiency.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: Cobots are highly flexible and can be easily reprogrammed or redeployed for different tasks or production processes. This agility allows businesses to respond quickly to changing market demands and production requirements without costly retooling or reconfiguration.
  • Space optimization: Cobots are often compact and space-efficient, making them suitable for use in environments with limited space. Their small footprint allows businesses to maximize floor space utilization and optimize workflow layouts.
  • Cost-effectiveness: While cobots may require significant initial investments, they offer long-term cost savings through increased productivity, reduced labor costs, and lower error rates. Over time, their returns on investment (RoIs) can be substantial, especially in industries with high labor costs or where quality and precision are critical.
  • Improved quality and consistency: Cobots are capable of performing tasks with high precision and repeatability, leading to improved product quality and consistency. By minimizing human error and variability, they help ensure that products meet quality standards consistently.
  • Employee satisfaction: By automating dull, dirty, or dangerous tasks, cobots can improve job satisfaction among human workers. Employees can focus on more challenging and rewarding aspects of their jobs, leading to higher morale and retention rates.
  • 24 x 7 operation: Cobots can operate 24 x 7 without needing breaks or rest, allowing businesses to achieve round-the-clock production schedules and meet tight deadlines more easily.

As we’ve seen, cobots make it possible for even small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to reap the benefits of automation despite limited budgets and technical know-how.

Key Takeaways