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,

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