Many companies have benefited from innovations and technological advancements. The use of collaborative robots in manufacturing industries has had numerous benefits.
A unique aspect of cobots is that they are flexible and can perform several tasks. Understanding the different tools that make a cobot work effectively is essential, especially for a company looking to purchase a cobot. Here are some tools that make collaborative robots suitable for specific tasks.
1. End of Arm Tooling
An End of Arm Tool (EOAT) is also known as an end effector. They are mountable tools on the end of a collaborative robot arm.
End effectors work very much like a hand allowing the cobot to grip, move items and perform other specialized tasks. A cobot arm is not very useful without an EOAT.
The EOAT gives the robotic arm much of its needed mobility. End effectors are changed to meet different applications and roles. Companies that need to use collaborative robots tend to have a high output demand. They perform tasks that are too tedious, difficult, or dangerous for humans.
Many different end effectors exist in the market, and many more models make their way into the market each day. The competition in the market allows for so many more possibilities. It creates more room for growth regarding the cobots’ range and scope of abilities.
EOATs have many advantages, including;
- Assembling and disassembling items in a straightforward way.
- Performing a broader range of tasks because of the attached end effectors.
- EOATs make robots flexible and quickly adapt to changes making them an excellent business investment.
These are probably the most common type of end effectors. As their name suggests, they can hold on to items and release them. Grippers are suitable for a wide variety of tasks.
There are different grippers, and each has its unique characteristics. Some of these grippers include;
- Finger grippers
- Vacuum grippers
- Magnetic grippers
The task at hand determines what type of gripper is suitable. For instance, delicate items will require grippers with soft ends, while heavy and awkward items will most likely use magnetic grippers. This level of specificity also means that different grippers will be more common in specific industries than in others.
Another factor to consider with end effectors is the degree of specificity they require to perform tasks. They work around specific measurements such as length, width, weight, pressure, force, etc. These different quantities will all influence how the gripper works.
They resemble and act in a similar way to a hand. Some, like finger grippers, can have between 1-6 finger-like grippers, making them specific to a task. Some of the different functions that grippers can perform are;
- Picking and placing
- Moving objects and parts
- Positioning items
- Fixing parts
- Screwing parts
3. Tool Changers
As the name suggests, a tool changer allows a collaborative robot to change tools easily. An automatic tool changer will change tools autonomously. Through an automatic tool changer, processes are much faster. The cobot has a lot more flexibility which means that it can switch between tasks more efficiently. Essentially it is a tool that allows the cobot to multi-task.
Tool changers come in handy when dealing with several complex tasks within a company. For instance, the same cobot can work through all the stages of an assembly line. It can pick up items, place them in the right parts, and attach all the pieces by screwing them together.
The productivity of cobots significantly increases when using tool changers. It ultimately generates more returns for a business.
Some collaborative robots have cameras that give them visibility. They are also known as vision-guided robots. The visibility allows the robot to operate more efficiently because the images from the camera guide its movements and actions.
The cobots may use 2D or 3D cameras for multiple reasons, such as locating objects, pattern recognition, or scanning barcodes.
Besides the increased ease of performing daily tasks, cameras also help cobots and humans interact better. It allows for better integration such that collaborative robots can even work beside humans without the added need for safety measures such as fencing.
With visibility, items no longer need to be arranged in a specific manner or supplied in a choreographed way. The cobots can locate and recognize objects.
Visual guidance also gives cobots optical control. The collaborative robots can look for any abnormalities and defects in items.
Technology has a long way to go, but there are numerous possibilities with the increasing use and application of Artificial Intelligence.
Software may seem odd for robot tools, but it is crucial. Collaborative robots use applications to control their functioning. Numerous different software exists to make the programming and designing process possible.
Cobots are unique because they use the programming that is user-friendly. Such programming is crucial because it allows for an intuitive system. Essential such systems have high adaptability and can learn new tasks quickly.
It also helps that before actually implementing software into the cobot, there is a way to test it to ensure that everything is safe and working correctly. A simulator software helps design integration software and test it out before finally using it with the cobots.
6. Range Extenders
These are tools that help with the mobility of the cobot. Typically a cobot would have an arm and an EOAT attached to it, giving its wide range of motion. A range extender would do just what its name suggests. It creates a more comprehensive range of motion by providing an extra axis.
A wholesome safety theme includes all the tools to make a collaborative robot fit for human interactions. These include sensors that sense when humans get too close. The cobot will automatically stop working when a human is near. Another safety tool is a screen that keeps humans from getting too close to the cobot when it’s working. The screens are tools for extra safety if the sensors fail to work as they are supposed to.
With a clear understanding of how different tools help collaborative robots more efficiently in performing specific tasks, companies can decide which equipment they need.