What’s the hottest topic in your plant? Chances are good it’s artificial intelligence (AI). That comes as no surprise. AI’s benefits are enormous. It boosts productivity, increases efficiency, and eliminates human error. Plus, it aligns with Industry 4.0 strategies. Given these benefits, it makes sense for you to employ it in your production processes.
Many manufacturers are doing just that. A recent KPMG survey, in fact, found that 93 percent of manufacturers have at least moderately functional AI, while 49 percent have fully functional AI at scale. If you’re not adopting AI, you’re missing out on a powerful strategy that can transform your company.
Collaborative robotics (aka cobots) is an AI strategy that more and more manufacturers are adopting with excellent results. AI Cobots are safer than robots and just as productive in suitable applications. Designed specifically to work alongside workers, cobots automate and optimize manufacturing processes.
Versatile and easily programmable, cobots boost productivity, increase efficiency, and generate more consistent and accurate results than humans. They also free workers to do critical value-added tasks that can enhance customer service. Plus, they’re more cost-effective than robots and provide a faster return on investment (ROI).
What are AI Cobots?
So, what are cobots? They’re a type of robot that can work together with a human or another cobot. They’re also smaller, more affordable, and easier to deploy than traditional robots. Built and programmed to cooperate with people, they’re designed with humans in mind. So, you don’t have to isolate them away from workers or fit them with safety devices as you do with traditional robots.
Cobots are ideal for taking on monotonous and repetitive tasks that can’t be fully automated. Material handling cobots can even take on the most demanding, repetitive, and tedious tasks on a production line. But their true strength is the ability to collaborate with humans flexibly and dynamically.
AI Cobots also have ergonomic advantages. They take up less space on the factory floor and have rounded corners and links that could cause harm if the cobot collides with a human. Plus, cobots allow for seamless integration between humans and machines, creating a harmonious working environment.
Present State of Cobot Marketplace
While cobot adoption is picking up steam worldwide, it comprises only a fraction of the robotics industry. But that’s steadily changing as more and more manufacturers adopt AI technology. Loup Ventures predicts spending on cobots will hit $13 billion by 2025. And while cobots make up only 3% of all robot sales, analysts expect that number to increase to 34% by 2025.
Reasons for this jump in AI cobots sales include round-the-clock functionality, economic efficiency, and quicker scalability. Their flexibility, safety, and ease of use make cobots investment-worthy for manufacturers in various industries, including automotive, manufacturing, electronics, aerospace, plastics, and healthcare.
Everyday Use Cases for Cobots
The use cases for cobots across various industries are vast. From assembly lines in automotive manufacturing to packaging processes in food production, cobots execute a wide range of tasks with precision and speed. They have even found applications in healthcare, electronics, logistics, and many other sectors where automation can provide a competitive advantage.
Typical tasks cobots can perform include:
- Pick and place (re-orienting or displacing parts)
- Machine tending (loading machines like CNC)
- Processing tasks (gluing, welding, drilling)
- Finishing tasks (polishing, grinding, deburring)
- Quality inspections (capturing, analyzing, and interpreting images)
- Packaging and palletizing (placing products on shrink-wrapping machines)
- Medical/lab cobots (picking and placing tasks)
These are just some of the cobot uses in manufacturing. You can also program Cobots to handle hazardous waste while keeping workers safe.
In today’s rapidly evolving industrial landscape, the integration of AI cobots into production processes is not limited to manufacturing alone; it extends to critical sectors such as oil drilling, where automation and precision are increasingly becoming indispensable.
Additional cobot tasks exist. Automating these routine tasks can significantly increase your output while reducing errors and waste.
Key Considerations when Buying a Cobot
There’s no one-size-fits-all when choosing a cobot to help automate a project. Some critical considerations when purchasing a cobot include automation objectives, task characteristics, and human, technical, and economic factors. Analyzing these factors can help you decide which cobot option is best for you. You may also want to do a risk assessment before deploying a cobot and if you’ll need an integrator.
Typically, cobots cost anywhere between US $10,000 and $50,000, but you also have to add additional tooling to the costs. Plus, you need to consider the manufacturing quality of the cobot before choosing a platform. Cobots are critical, for example, if you rely extensively on Industrial IoT. They’ll help you make better, quicker, and more accurate decisions in real-time, so you can better respond to customer demands.
Cobots are Here to Stay
Cobots aren’t a fad. They’re here to stay and can help you create a competitive advantage while generating a solid ROI. Whether you’re a big, medium-sized, or small business, you can benefit from this AI strategy. Cobots can help you grow and automate processes in factories, warehouses, and research facilities.
You can use cobots with workers to do repetitive, dangerous tasks requiring precision. Plus, you can use them for handling hazardous substances while protecting workers from harm. User-friendly and versatile, cobots will become more sophisticated as time passes and their AI improves.
Cobots offer a promising solution as you meet today’s evolving manufacturing challenges, such as labor shortages and disrupted supply chains. AI Cobots can help boost productivity, improve safety conditions, and be adapted across industries. Capable of paying off both in the long and short term, cobots make perfect sense to carve out a competitive advantage for your company and help drive production to new levels.