the CR-35iA’s 35 kg (78-lb) payload, show a lot of promise for alleviating a number of repetitive strain injuries among workers. Maxwell noted that the next largest cobot payload in the industry is in roughly the 10 to 14–kg range. “You start to get into the ergonomic [issues] where you

really can’t pick up repeatably 20–30 lbs [9.1–13.6 kg] with- out having a lift assist,” Maxwell said. “We do have robots in production. They are working on assembly lines or in areas where there are people.” FANUC has tested its CR-35iA robot on assembly lines, Maxwell said, and the company has worked with General Motors Co. (GM; Detroit), which pre- sented its experience at a workshop put on by the Robotic Industries Association (RIA; Ann Arbor, MI). “They’re deploy- ing collaborative robots, they’re deploying them in areas that have heavy human traffic, but they’re taking a conser- vative approach. I see a tremendous amount of potential.”

Keeping it safe Most of the time, industrial robots function very safely,

given the advanced array of safeguards available to install in factory automation workcells. Many safety features and technologies have existed for quite some time, with robotic developers and integrators using safe zones, fencing, and other technologies to ensure safe robot operation. When accidents do happen, it is a fairly rare occurrence and the cause is often due either to operator error or to mistakes made during setup such as when a worker has entered a robot’s operating zone, as was determined to be the case in a fatality that occurred last year at a Volkswagen plant in Baunatal, Germany. In the most recent ISO/TS 15066 specifi-

cation, several factors related to collabora- tive robots were studied. “That’s one small piece. That’s the bio study of pain thresholds and points of impact on the human body,” said George Schuster, business development manager, Rockwell Automation Inc. (Milwau- kee) and a TÜV-certified functional safety expert, speaking about the ISO/TS 15066. “That’s really intended for one of the four collaborative applications that we call power and force limiting, where people and the robot are de- signed to interact or are anticipated to come into contact. “This is one of the least well-sorted out of the four dif-

ferent collaborative applications, but it’s one of the most attractive because in general, these collaborative applica- tions really represent a real change in the way that people


and machinery interact,” Schuster added. “It’s a very, very exciting space to be working in, because it really allows us to leverage—in ways that we never could before—the strength, the tirelessness, and repeatability and the accu- racy of the machine, with the intelligence, adaptability and understanding of the human, and really have those two sides complement each other. And it’s really enabled by safety technology generally and so, but it’s a real new way, it really changes the way people and machinery interact.” That 15066 spec is among the four collaborative robot modes, he added. “The specification that is most relevant is the ISO 10218-1 and ISO 10218-2, so this is a fully har- monized safety standard with the ANSI/RIA 15.06-2012.” Schuster, who spent 15 years at GM before joining Rockwell in 1997, was one of the early proponents of collaborative- type robots and has worked with them since about 2005. He recently did some prototype work with cobots that has now been deployed into a pilot application at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA; Auburn Hills, MI). “A lot of times, people get a little bit confused about

this collaborative robot topic, and they think of it as a robot technology, you buy a collaborative robot and put it in, now you have a collaborative robot,” Schuster said. “I will tell you it’s not. … It’s an application. It’s the way that robots are processed to be utilized and in the way that they are designed to interact with people, and so it’s not

Ford Motor Co. recently announced it was testing collaborative robots from KUKA Roboter GmbH on the assembly line in Cologne, Germany, where Ford Eu- rope builds its Fiesta models. The KUKA cobots assist line workers with an over- head shock absorber assembly operation.

Fall 2016

Photo courtesy Ford Motor Co.

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