Control Engineering: Kelly Chalmers Collaborative Robot Success
AMT’s Senior Program Manager Kelly Chalmers authored August 2021 Control Engineering cover story entitled, “Three Ways to Ensure Collaborative Robot Success.”
Collaborative robots, also known as cobots, are designed specifically to physically interact with humans in a workspace, whereas conventional industrial robots require the use of safety devices such as guarding to separate and protect humans. "Cobots are gaining in popularity in traditional and non-traditional markets, and can come with a unique set of challenges," said Chalmers. "There are three phases to consider in the successful application of collaborative robots: education, assessment and design."
Education on Cobots
"The first phase with any new type of technology is education. How does this device work? What are its capabilities and limitations? How does this impact our understanding of safety?" said Chalmers. "One of the most important steps for implementation of collaborative technology is designating an authority on safety. It requires a shift in how safety is approached when the intent is for humans and robots to work together. Guidelines continue to develop and it is critical to have a designated champion who is up to date on industry standards and best practices."
Collaborative robot assessment
"A common misconception of collaborative robots is using this type of device makes the system safe for humans. In reality, the power and force limiting features only apply to the robot itself. They do not account for any other potential hazards including other components mounted to the primary robot body like end-of-arm-tooling (EOAT)," said Chalmers.
"A key component during this phase is to consider what tasks are going to be performed by automation. The assessment phase will rely upon knowledge of collaborative devices and standards. Task assignment will be impacted by the capabilities of the robot itself. Power and force limiting devices work with restrictions on payload and speed to control force."
Collaborative Robot Design
"The third critical phase for collaborative robot implementation is design. From the perspective of a collaborative space, we must include human contact analysis during the design concept. Tasks must be reviewed for potential crush and impact contact hazards because humans can be in direct proximity to equipment. There are specifications in the safety standards to clarify what kinds of forces are acceptable for hazards that involve different parts of the human body."
"Cobots are providing unique opportunities for manufacturing and automation companies. However, a lack of understanding about how to approach collaborative technology too often makes the process more difficult. Treating cobots like standard robots will limit the value they can bring. Ignoring safety considerations required in a collaborative workspace will create unnecessary challenges during build. The key to realizing the value is designing the workspace with collaborative technology in mind from the beginning."
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Kelly Chalmers has also been featured in Robotics Tomorrow's "The Benefits of Collaborative Robotics."
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