Why make people perform arduous tasks when a robot could do them? Noise, repetitive motion, risk-filled environments… Some industrial jobs are particularly difficult. What is the solution? One approach is cobotics. A neologism from the words “cooperation” and “robotics”, it refers to collaboration between a person and a robot. The objective of these cobots is to automate a large range of tasks and perform work in closer collaboration with people.
What is collaborative robotics?
Tasks that are arduous, difficult, or to which people add little value are transferred to machines. Cobots assist operators by augmenting their capabilities in terms of effort, allowing them to manipulate parts that are hot, heavy, bulky, or too small for precision handling. In addition, with machines running around the clock, the work day of the operator is separate from that of the machine. The operator works in direct contact with the robot or in its immediate environment. With such proximity the operator can decide whether to interact or not with the machine. Operators remain necessary for their detailed observation skills, and so deal with the most complex part of the assembly.
Contrary to popular belief, the factory of the future, though featuring more automation, is always staffed by people. Jobs change, leading to the development of new skills and new training that are yet to be identified. Over the course of changes in industry, trades have altered, but people, who are the source of innovation, remain central. Specializations will certainly intersect because everything will be networked. Although machines will be equipped with remotely operated means of diagnostics and maintenance, surveillance remains essential and the staff who perform operations and predictive maintenance are one of the foundations of the connected factory.
VINCI Energies and Colbotics
Actemium, the VINCI Energies brand specialized in industrial processes, has already implemented multiple systems with integrated cobotics in factories. For example, it has developed a system for handling titanium bars during hot forging of turbine blades, which are heavy parts at a forge temperature of 920°C.