Oringinal Songlin Cai, Elite leaderobot 1 week ago
Platform-based products and ecological landing is a benign, positive development path for the cobot market, which can better solve the current pain points in the industry.
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Robotics Lecture Live Room Annual Meeting Content Sharing No. 6
With the rapid development of cobots and related education, people gradually recognized that cobots are one type of industrial robots. However, these robots boast collaborative nature and the ability to work interactively with humans. In summary, collaborative industrial robots are industrial robots that can collaborate with people to accomplish tasks. According to the latest data from the IFR, cobots are expected to account for 6% of industrial robots, which may prove that cobots are becoming a technology that is outperforming other robots with a promising future.
Although the growth rate of cobots is encouraging, its absolute share in the industrial robotics market is less than 6%, making it still a “lightweight player”. What exactly is restricting the development of cobots? And how to break out of the negative conditioning?
At the 2020 Robotics Annual Conference, Mr. Songlin Cai, vice president of Elite Robotics and Applications, shared what attempts Elite Robot has made to address the pain points of the cobots industry, and pointed out directions for future development.
The key points shared in this issue are as follows
- Basics of cobots
- Five features of cobots
- The trend of Elite cobots platform
The following content is based on the speech of Mr. Cai Songlin presented at the 2020 China Robotics Conference
“Follow [leaderobot] WeChat official account, reply “Elite” to get the link to this live broadcast replay”
01 Basics of cobots
Definition of cobots
According to the IFR’s definition, cobot is a type of industrial robot that adopts inherent safety design, protective measures and marking in accordance with the ISO 10218-1 standard. So in the initial period, many people thought cobot was not applicable to industry. With the rapid development of cobots and related education, people gradually recognized that cobots are one type of industrial robots these robots boast collaborative nature and the ability to work interactively with humans. In summary, collaborative industrial robots are industrial robots that can collaborate with people to accomplish tasks.
Collaborative industrial robots were proposed by two professors at Northwestern University USA in the late 20th century. After nearly 20 years of research, development and readjustment, cobots were produced in industrial batches in 2013 and 2014. In the past decade, based on the overall volume of the global industrial robot market, cobots have been developing with a compound annual growth rate much higher than that of industrial robots, so the cumulative sales and relative share of cobots are rapidly increasing.
According to the latest data from the IFR, cobots are expected to account for 6% of industrial robots, which may prove that cobots are becoming a technology that is outperforming other robots with a promising future.
Main applications of cobots
In terms of vertical fields, typical applications of cobots are automotive parts, 3C electronics and metal processing industries; in terms of application types, they are mainly used in scenarios where require repeatable, mechanical, as well as flexible manufacturing, such as pick and place, assembly, inspection and tightening.
For example, the industrial and commercial application scenarios, such as palletizing and new retail coffee shops, can give full play to the characteristics of compact and lightweight of cobots – cobots usually occupy only 1-1.5 manual work stations. With highly movable single-joint and great accessibility, they are capable of automatically conduct tasks in tight spaces. In addition, cobots can be easily programmed in screw tightening, inspection with vision sensors as well as feeding and blanking jobs; finally, cobots are energy-saving robots.
Eliminate the Pain Points by Cobots
Judging from the current status, on the one hand, soaring production costs has made it difficult to find workers on the market; on the other hand, the market is crying for customized products. In this context, multi-species and small batch production is gradually evolving into a new norm. For manufacturing companies, to improve their core competitiveness and operate in an automated, flexible and intelligent manner has become the trend. Featured by safety, ease of use, flexibility and efficiency, cobot is very suitable for multi-species and small-batch production strategy.
02 Cobot characteristics
So far, cobots have been widely recognized by users mainly for the following five reasons:
Cobots are designed with inherent safety. The structure, shape, and algorithms are designed in a way to ensure maximum safety for workers when they work with cobots in the same station, thereby making full use of equipment and space. Integrated joint technology also plays a major role, as it can make cobots more compact and safer.
2. Ease of use
The compact and lightweight design endows cobots with following features: first, cobots are easier to deploy. An engineer can conduct the online deployment alone with 220V power supply. Second, it is easy to edit the robot’s route by simply drag-and-drop teaching. Third, interfaces are open, so users can fully control the robot and access to all robot information. C/C#, java, python language SDK are all supported. Finally, the hardware and software interfaces are highly integrated, with 2 digital inputs and outputs and 1 analog input and output on the tool side. Cobots support RS485 communication and free software upgrade, and there is no additional hardware and software option, etc.
First, cobots can be installed at any angle, and the single joint can move in ±360° direction, so there is basically no dead space. Second, the robot arm is designed in a lightweight and low-power manner, which supports DC drive, so it can be directly deployed on the AGV mobile platform. In addition, the lightweight feature further reduces the load and center of gravity requirements for the mobile platform, and improves its carrying capacity. Finally, the compact and modular design helps the cobot save space and makes it easier to transform the composite robot (arm + cart).
Cobots can reach a maximum speed of 2.8 meters per second, with smooth trajectories and consistent movements. Their performance will not be affected as time goes, resulting in higher overall production. Alongside that, the flexible and repeatable deployment characteristics of cobots can achieve “multi-use” and further enhance the benefits of single-station transformation. According to a report by MIT, in many scenarios, the productivity of human-machine collaboration is 80 percent more than “human – human” and “machine – machine”strategy.
With integrated joints, cobots can be designed and extended in an easier and faster way, and such products can respond to the needs of the market much faster. Taking Elite as an example, we have 3 models of 6-joint cobots with different load capacities, but they are equipped with just 5 kinds of joints. In addition, integrators can enjoy the convenience of modularity when it comes to deployment, operation and maintenance – a small number of spare parts are enough for production. Companies reuse joints , which is also a distributed architecture approach from a control perspective.
Only five joint models are available for small, medium and large load 6-axis cobots
03 The trend of Elite cobots platform
Based on the application field of cobots, the market where cobots operate can be divided into two types : stock market and incremental market. The stock market is still mainly the application range of industrial robots in the traditional sense, such as handling, assembly, inspection, etc. The incremental market refers to the vertical industries and non-industrial scenarios where the advantages of cobots are gradually understood by customers and partners.
Beyond that, as some special process develops, cobots have greater chance to replace industrial robots in traditional industrial areas. Such trend has also given rise to new industries experiencing collaborative technologies – such as new retail, special industries, electric power, polling, etc. It can be said that cobots are taking advantage of their “long-tailed market” effect, and many people even believe that the sum of the long tail will exceed the volume of the head market in the future.
Although the growth rate of cobots is encouraging, its absolute share in the industrial robotics market is less than 6%, making it still a “lightweight player”. What exactly is restricting the development of cobots?
Judging from the composition of cobot workstations, which include clamping jaws, process equipment, sensors, etc., there are still many unsettled issues when integrating these components: first, each terminal client has a preferred brand, the integration of “combinations” aggravated the “non-standard” dilemma. Second, there are dozens or even hundreds of brands for each component to choose from, so users may have trouble in selecting and using; Third, for the integrators, after purchasing the above-mentioned components, including the robot arm, they still need to adapt parts and integrate system, so buyers are consuming huge resources to buy the stuff they already have.
To solve these problems, Elite believes it is better to take the approach by combining ecological cooperation and platform-based products. In the automation field, especially in the cobot-related business, integrators are acting as the “joint node” that links the preceding and the following.
Going forward from this “node”, Elite plans to create a platform product that will become a stage for developers to link up with upstream and downstream partners – for example, to integrate and develop with grippers and vision sensors as it looks to provide plug-and-play solutions for customers. By doing so, robots can be applied with less effort.
We should let the right “people” do the right thing. Robots can take over low value-added work, and Elite will make it easier for users to use robots, so that users may pay closer attention to their core business. As such, platform-based products and ecological landing is a benign, positive development path for the cobot market, which can better solve the current pain points in the industry.
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