There Collaborative Robotics it is, without a doubt, the greatest innovation in the world of industrial robotics, constitutes the driving force of industry 4.0. But to get to the heart of the topic we must first explain what industry 4.0 is.
Industry 4.0 is a real industrial revolution, precisely the fourth revolution.
What is an industrial revolution?
As we can deduce from the name itself, it is an industrial innovation. Over time we have witnessed numerous revolutions, from the first in the nineteenth century, to the fourth that is trying to make its way in our time.
Since the first revolution, the main intent was to mechanize those processes that human beings struggle to carry out for many hours at a time. From the first steam engines in industries, to the large robots that try to make life easier for men.
The term 4.0 indicates the advancement of the progress we are making with these incredible machines.
Repetitive actions, operator assistance, very low costs, reduction in working times; These are just some of the advantages that this revolution offers. The production process, in large and small companies, will be drastically more efficient, the quality will be higher and the production will be less long-lived.
Collaborative robotics (AMS or advanced manufacturing solutions) are robots that collaborate with each other via interconnected systems, and is the main point of Industry 4.0.
What are these robots and how do they work?
Do you know how industrial robots are used in companies? They are left in large, delimited and well-protected rooms. Their task is simple, to replace humans in tasks based on long and tiring cycles, being machines they do not lack repeatability and high speed of execution. Robots are seen like this, large machines that must be left to work doing tasks that humans don't want to do.
Industry 4.0 has a totally different vision, which goes in the opposite direction to today's. Robots, properly called collaborative robots (cobots), are much less powerful and much lighter, guaranteeing greater safety. They are very advanced machines, they allow human-machine cooperation through complex sensor systems in such a way as to limit losses due to accuracy.
Cobots are specifically designed to come into contact with humans, which is why they allow easy and intuitive programming. The intent is to make man and machine collaborate to achieve results beyond all expectations.
A tangible example can be when a worker has to carry out his activity in very uncomfortable positions. Collaborative robotics greatly eases the load of things to do. The reduction of errors would decrease, manual work would really become much easier with cobots.
We can give another example with the assembly or disassembly operations of components, with the help of cobots we could save a lot of time and an infinite number of human errors.
Testing and monitoring of work activities are another excellent example. We know how much inspection activity is based on repetitive actions, but based on the human mind, human-machine cooperation can help reduce errors and carelessness.
Fortunately, giant strides are being made in recent times. These cobots have been put on the market by all the main industrial robot manufacturers, they are making people talk about them. There are already some companies that have integrated these cobots into their production lines, the impact they can have on the socio-economic field is enormous.
Pick & Place, processing and assembly are the numerous applications of these cobots within companies, but we must not think of cobots as more intelligent machines, we must imagine a collective scenario, man-machine collaboration could give unimaginable results.
Research and experimentation are the foundations for this new and incredible revolution. For robotics to be implemented in companies around the world, the benefits need to be demonstrated to all companies. Unfortunately many of them remain attached to traditional methods, especially those who earn a lot, why invest if I am already earning a lot? Well the answer is really simple. Imagine how much the quality of the workers' work can be raised, man is at the center of the revolution, paradoxically.
The market for these collaborative robots
Now all the largest robot manufacturing companies (such as FANUC or ABB) have numerous catalogs of versions of collaborative robots, and it is thanks to the numerous research and development activities of these companies and the research centers with which they collaborate that this technology is becoming more and more popular among small and large companies.
There are new brands on the market that have established themselves by presenting only and exclusively catalogs of the latest generation cobots, such as the Universal Robot (UR). Within the market each manufacturer has attempted to be different from the others by trying to identify particular solutions and technologies. The first cobot was put on the market by a German company, KUKA, in 2008.
These revolutionary technologies are not only used in traditional industries, such as automation, automotive or manufacturing, but have opened new doors.
New industrial sectors are ready to receive these cobots, I'm talking about the service robotics market. Service robotics is in great demand in the industrial sector but also in the civil sector, both domestic and professional. Innovation in this brand new field is driven by small and young innovative start-up companies that are capable of generating new ideas for the application of these cobots, are bringing brand new solutions and new interactions with humans to the market.
With the data extracted in 2020 from the IFR report, "International Federation of Robotics", on the growth of robotics in companies, it is very visible that the fastest growing sector, speaking of thousands of units used, is that of robotics for logistics .
In this very particular period of pandemic, robotics has found applications. Disinfection robotics have been instrumental in sanitization using UV-C irradiation or the controlled release of cold vapors. It is obvious how useful robots are, they are proving it on numerous occasions.
Another example is the category of inspection and maintenance robots. Thanks to the brand new vision technologies enhanced by AI (Artificial Intelligence), they are able to be decisive in these two sectors. They manage to have a type of maintenance that predicts and anticipates failure, with the use of numerous systems and sensors of physical parameters and mathematical models that allow identifying how much time is left before the failure.
Will they affect employment? In a negative or positive way?
It has always been thought that machines will take the place of humans, leaving us humans without work, but I assure you that this is absolutely not the case.
Man has a decisive role in this field, you all know that we have qualities that cannot be replaced by a machine, such as: problem solving, tact, empathy and ideas, remember that we were the ones who invented robots!
Collaborative robotics allows humans to learn, in fact recent studies have shown how similar robots are to humans, the approaches to instructing a robot will be very similar to those used to instruct a small child.
It is thought that the next generation of robots will have greater capabilities, the next interactive robots will have intuitive, safe and efficient capabilities to assist and interact with humans.
There is ample evidence that the introduction of these robots will not lead to job replacement, but will create many more jobs that machines cannot do.