Also referred to as cobots, collaborative robots are primarily designed to have the ability to work alongside humans. This makes them safer and more preferred in different industries as compared to industrial robots.
Because of their affordability, flexibility and smaller scale, collaborative robots offer the users the benefits of industrial automation that can be adapted by large manufacturing plants as well as small and mid-sized enterprises.
Collaborative robots and compliant grippers are made with capabilities for collision avoidance. For this reason, robots are no longer confined to fenced workspaces as they are safer and can work in the same space as human workers.
Unconventional applications of collaborative robots
Here are other ways collaborative robots are applied outside the usual manufacturing pick and place operations they are commonly known for.
As collaborative robots move from industrial food processing to restaurant service, the service delivery of these robots is still clean, consistent and efficient. The cobot used in restaurant service comprises of a robotic arm with a range of end of arm tools, AI platform and a monitoring function that is cloud-based.
A good example of a restaurant service cobot is a burger flipper that can work the grill or fryer. These robots comply with food safety standards and have the ability to work for continuous uptime of up to ten thousand hours.
Robotic arm for surgeries
Some hospitals have incorporated cobots in their theatres. Collaborative robots meant for conducting or assisting in surgical procedures are highly specialized. They are also required to be of high performance and comply with strict surgical procedure regulations. For the use to be manageable, surgeons need to train on how to use these cobots.
Researchers from Nottingham Trent University are developing a cobot that will be used for precise spinal surgery. Currently, their work involves the use of 3D printed models with the use of UR5 collaborative robots from universal robots.
One robotic arm follows the patient’s spine to collect data on how the patient moves. The second arm automatically adjusts to be able to drill holes which allows the placement of realignment rods into the vertebrae.
It is believed that this collaborative robot technology can reduce the risks involved in spinal surgeries as it will provide accuracy which is not achievable by human hands.
Collaborative robot baristas and bartenders
Today, Royal Caribbean cruises have robot bartenders on some of their ships. Also, several pubs and hotels in different parts of the world are introducing the use of robotic bartenders. In Francisco and Hong Kong, coffee shops apply the use of collaborative robots for tasks such as coffee making. This is the most public applications of collaborative robots. The only downside is the fact that this type of cobot goes for not less than $25000 which makes it hard for some premises to implement.
Collaborative robot in copiloting
A Boeing company makes use of a UR3 arm in its robotic co-piloting concept. They aim to create an extensible and portable software and hardware toolbox that will introduce advanced levels of automation on a wide range of civilian and military aircrafts, which will ultimately reduce the crew requirement.
The automation system will comprise of a table interface for the pilot, sensors, as well as mission and flight control software. This cobot will have the ability to interact with the cockpit controls that are designed for human pilots.
Where should we expect collaborative robots to go next?
It is expected that the global collaborative robots market will grow from the $710 million recorded in 2018 to 12.3 billion dollars by 2025. Much of the growth is to be expected in the electronics, automotive and other manufacturing areas. The flexibility and safety of this small industrial robot will see its use expand to an even bigger market of users.
The same way machine shops have drill presses, lathes and grinders, it is not impossible to see the incorporation of collaborative robots in these machine shops in the near future. Coffee shops, restaurant kitchens and aircraft cockpits are just the beginning.