A cobot or co-robot is a collaborative robot that is intended to work and interact with humans in a shared work space. Whereas robots work autonomously to complete tasks, cobots are able to interact with humans to complete tasks harmoniously.
Cobots were initially developed without motive power to provide a safe work environment with humans, but have since been evolved to use limited motive power without posing a threat to workers in a shared space.
Some general characteristics of cobots include:
- Safe to work directly with humans in the same space
- Awareness of their surroundings
- Easily trained to learn and complete complex tasks
- Adaptable to variable conditions
Cobots have evolved using advanced sensors and servo drive technology to adapt to obstacles in their path. Even if an object is slightly out of place, a co-robot can usually adapt by locating and identifying the object, picking it up, and continuing to use it.
Today’s cobots encompass a very tiny footprint in the factory or work area. Many manufacturers have begun to incorporate cobots into assembly lines to pick and place objects, as well as provide quality control. In large part, cobots have been used to automate repetitive and mundane tasks, ones that humans may tire of quickly.
Of course, cobots can also be used for more advanced applications, including difficult tasks such as mixed-part assemblies and heavy lifting.
Cobots are especially useful for short production runs and situations where there is high variability in setup configurations. A cobot’s adaptability can significantly reduce cost when compared with more rigid solutions.
Cobots are Growing in Usage
Via the Robot Report: “The collaborative robot market is expecting an incredibly high growth rate over the next few years. It is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 60.04% between 2016 and 2022, from 110 million USD in 2015 to 3.3 billion USD in 2022.”
Once the fancy of science fiction, now cobots are starting to become a profitable solution across many industries. According to statistics from the Robotic Industries Association, orders for cobots rose by 32% between 2015-2016 in the food industry alone.
Servo Drive Requirements for Cobots
Cobots offer unlimited potential for manufacturers. But cobots are not the products of science fiction, they’re the products of science. They require motion control applications that can deliver the precision and intelligence to preserve human safety and adapt to new tasks quickly and efficiently.
For this reason, ADVANCED Motion Controls has created sophisticated servo drives designed to support cobot systems and increase their efficiency.
Typical servo drive requirements for cobots include:
- 24-48VDC operating voltage
- 20-40A continuous output current or more depending on the axis and application
- Safe Torque Off (STO)– safety functionality
- Thermal management considerations
- Network communication capability
- Compact space
Servo drives are embedded into the joints of arms and feature a small design that reduces the size of the casing while retaining the precise movements. Pass-through connectors allow signals and cables to reach components along the arm and network communication reduces the wiring necessary to connect multiple servo drives.
For network communication most cobot servo drives rely on EtherCAT or CANopen.
Advantages of Servo Drives for Cobots
Using dual loop feedback provides motor control and precise measurement of arm position. One feedback is delivered from the motor, while the one after is delivered to from gearing. The encoder feedback can be absolute or incremental depending on the complexity and range of motion of the cobot. More complex cobots will usually use absolute feedback since the rotations of performing homing routines could be dangerous for the humans in the workspace.
Using dual loop position control, servo drives are able to process both encoders to eliminate errors caused by backlash or flexing. This enables cobots to become more adaptable to obstacles, thus increasing its ability to collaborate on tasks in real-time.
As cobots grow in popularity and sophistication, ADVANCED Motion Controls has developed sophisticated servo drives able to assist cobots in precision based operations, all while keeping size, power, and thermal management in mind.
For additional information about the use of cobots for servo drives, contact us today.