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Robot or cobot: Which way to go?

The sight of more cobots than industrial robots on factory floors shows that many people prefer collaborative cobots as opposed to the ‘old fashioned’ industrial robots. The idea to come up with a robot that could work hand in hand with human employees was first heard of in the mid-1990’s.

Several years later, these modern workforce equipment have found a place in the hearts of many people. This article sheds light on the primary differences and similarities between cobots and robots. Keep reading to be in the know.

Cobots and robots: What is the difference

Industrial robots are mostly six-axis robots that work in their own working space. They are fitted with industrial robotic arms that swing without any sense/detection of human presence which makes them very dangerous and risky.

As of collaborative robots, also known as cobots, they do not need to be held up in some form of a cage to ensure human safety. They are programmed in such a manner that enables them to detect human presence. They have senses that allow them to bring all motions to a halt or slow down should they detect human presence. These are profitable measures that enable cobots to work closely or in the same environment as humans. Many collaborative robots have visual sensors and can detect touch.

Advantages and disadvantages (cobots and industrial robots)

In order to understand the type of robot that is best suited to complete an application, one needs to understand both the advantages of both types of robots.

Advantages of collaborative robots

  • When compared with industrial robots, collaborative robots are quite affordable. Many companies are able to realize returns on investment within a year.
  • Cobots allow for flexibility at work. That they need not be caged in a certain cell makes augmentation of their tasks by human force easy. The result is increased productivity without employing any capital-intensive investments.
  • Collaborative robots come with a provision that allows for reprogramming. This means that one can easily put one collaborative robot into a number of purposes. Recoding a cobot takes about an hour or so and only requires adjusting the task points or reprogramming using the available software.

Disadvantages of cobots

  • Their speed is relatively low as it is compromised by the need to make them safe for the user. They are not the best for applications that require high-speed movements or rotations.
  • With the exception of a few models, many collaborative robots cannot accommodate a higher payload.

Advantages of industrial robots

  • They can work faster and better which increases efficiency in production.
  • They are heavy duty and can quickly and effectively complete tasks which would otherwise be risky for humans or would consume more time.
  • They have a longer working life. Industrial robots are designed strong because they perform heavy tasks such as lifting weights.
  • Production time is reduced because robots are able to work for long durations and without slowing down.

Disadvantages of industrial robots

  • They are expensive to acquire and companies are advised to do a thorough assessment of the possible ROI before considering a purchase.
  • They are dangerous and require a secluded working space to avoid possible harm to humans.
  • They require skilled expertise to set up and operate. Because they do not have any sense of detect when the working space is safe for human co-workers or not, industrial robots need to be operated or run by qualified personnel who will ensure that they are operating in the right manner, all the time.
  • In many cases, industrial robots take up all the unskilled labour opportunities. For existing companies and manufacturers, introducing industrial robots ends up putting pressure on the economy of a country.

So, cobots or industrial robots?

There is no definite answer to this question. The truth is, the best robot is one that will match your needs. Before making the final decision on the most ideal purchase, it is important to ask yourself questions such as: what do you intend to achieve with automation? Do you need to reduce the number of employees or do you simply want to increase the levels of output? What is the nature of your work that needs automation? Is it safe for human employees or not? Do you want to replace or complement the human workforce? What is your workload? Do you have enough space for the automation you wish to put in place? Answering these questions should give you a guide to the type of robot that is beneficial to you or your enterprise.