Smart collaborative robots for industrial tasks

Collaborative robots are getting smarter and easier to implement and train in any size facility and they might start taking market share from industrial robots as a result.


The line between industrial robot tasks and collaborative robot tasks are beginning to blur, and collaborative robots may be poised to take market share from industrial robots.

Usually, industrial robots are kept behind some form of safety barrier to perform heavy duty manufacturing tasks such as welding. Collaborative robots, on the other hand, are safe enough to work alongside humans but only automated simple, safe tasks that didn't require industrial strength.

Now, that's all changing as collaborative robots get tougher, smarter and easier to implement and train in any size facility.

Recently, Universal Robots (UR) and ARC Specialties announced a new collaborative MIG welding system that can be deployed in existing, manual welding stations and eliminates the need for large, expensive robotic work cells. While it may not be able to handle some of the more rugged welding applications, it's useful for small shops that lack the space and budget for industrial robotic welding systems.

Smart collaborative robots could take on more industrial robot tasks

More than 90% of physical tasks performed in manufacturing environments can't be automated because of budgetary or physical limitations. The primary reason for this is that robots aren't yet skilled at adapting to real-world variability.

Courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaSmart collaborative robots are already equipped with an array of sensors and underlying technology that makes them easy to program. As these robots get smarter, they'll be more reactive and independent, helping manufacturers meet aspirational production goals like being more responsive to market changes, delivering on customer preferences and increasing the speed of innovation.

These capabilities will make smart collaborative robots highly desirable in settings traditionally reserved for industrial robots. The long-term consequences of this could be huge, with manufacturers altering their entire supply chain because of smart collaborative robot capabilities. In the near future, the increasing durability, low price points and intelligence of collaborative robots could lead to widespread adoption of the technology in smaller factories.

Collaborative robots are becoming more and more equipped to handle industrial tasks. Their intelligence, which breeds flexibility and productivity, is a highly desirable quality for nearly any manufacturer looking to maximize return on investment (ROI).

The line between collaborative and industrial robot applications is beginning to blur. As this trend continues, smart collaborative robots will begin to invade the industrial sector.

This article originally appeared on the Robotics Online BlogRobotic Industries Association (RIA) is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2017 Top Plant.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
March 2018
SCCR, 2018 Maintenance study, and VFDs in a washdown environment.
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
December 2017
Product of the Year winners, Pattern recognition, Engineering analytics, Revitalize older pump installations
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Industrial Analytics
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
IIoT: Operations & IT
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me