What are collaborative robots?

What are collaborative robots?

Cobot = Collaborative Robot
A collaborative robot is a robot designed to specifically work alongside humans. In contrast, industrial robots were not made for working in close proximity to human workers and this shows in the fact that they are locked behind fences for safety measures. Collaborative robots, on the other hand, operate freely with, at most, a safety shield between it and the human employees.


Collaborative robots are often called "cobots", which is a contraction of "collaborative" and "robot".


Ideal for process optimization

The tasks between a collaborative robot and a human employee are divided so that the robot handles manual, dirty, physically straining and repetitive tasks. By automating monotonous and tedious work tasks, the human employee is relieved from strenuous work while at the same time being freed to do other tasks better suited for a human mind.


Provides flexibility

Collaborative robots are typically smaller than industrial robots, as they are designed to provide flexibility. You can easily rearrange the placement of a collaborative robot as most of them are light enough to be moved without a problem. The flexibility is also reflected in their versatility: depending on what kind of end effector is installed, the robot can assist with a multitude of tasks from palletizing to quality inspection.


Moreover, end effectors featuring advanced vision and sensor technologies enable the robot to carry out tasks with human-like dexterity and precision. Collaborative robots are therefore suitable for a high mix/low volume production due to their ability to be redeployed for new processes. In addition, more and more collaborative robots are starting to come with self-installing software. This means that even employees without a technical background can install the robot and set it up to handle different tasks.

Collaborative robots are designed to be safe

Because collaborative robots are intended to work side by side with human employees made of flesh and blood, they are designed to be safe to interact with. As such, it is standard for collaborative robots to have intelligent built-in safety measures that make them stop completely if they collide with anything other than the work item.


Some collaborative robots can also be installed to slow down work speed when human employees are in proximity. The safety aspect is not only visible when looking at the features of the robots, but also when looking at their design. Many collaborative robots are designed with round edges so that they pose the least danger to the humans working in the environment around it.

Easily learn new work paths

Collaborative robots are unique in that they are designed to easily learn new work routines. Among newer models, a hand-guided demonstration where the operator pulls the robot arm to show it how to move is enough to set it up.


Thus, there is no need for advanced programming or engineers, as the robot's software is so advanced that it allows the robot to learn a new work path simply through imitation. Other collaborative models learn new work routines by having the operator draw the route on the software’s graphical user interface.


Because a collaborative robot is easy to teach, it opens new usage scenarios. Unlike an industrial robot, a collaborative robot is not locked into a specific task for the rest of its life. This means that you get more value out of your investment both in terms of usage and financial yield.

Cost-effective means faster ROI

A collaborative robot costs much less than an industrial robot, and because you can utilize it in many different processes, you also gain the advantage of a faster ROI. Some collaborative robots have a payback period as short as 200 days. Collaborative robots are most often found in manufacturing companies, and with good reason. Their size and flexibility make them ideal for automating a multitude of processes, allowing businesses of almost any size to increase productivity, improve quality and swiftly respond to changing customer demands.


Collaborative robots are commonly seen in:

  • Pick & Place operations
  • Packaging & Palletizing
  • Surface finishing
  • Assembly operations
  • Machine Tending
  • Quality testing & Inspection


These applications are the most prevalent ones; however, collaborative robots are finding more usage in other areas besides manufacturing. For instance, more and more collaborative robots are finding their way into the entertainment industry, e.g. for teleprompters or part of amusement rides.


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