Should you let your guard d own ? Rethinking collaborative ro botic s

Pacepacker Services

palletising tasks, whilst speedmight not be a problem, payloadmight be for all but the strongest cobots. FANUC’s CR-35iA has extended the application space for cobots into areas such as palletising with its heaviest-in-class payload of 35kg.


he first generation of collaborative robots or ‘cobots’ is revolutionising the way in which humans and robots interact. These smaller, more agile industrial robots can work cage-free alongside operators on shared or separate tasks. This is possible due to features such as inbuilt force sensors, power and force limited functionality and soft, rounded shapes and surfaces.


Cobots are so new that, at present, they account for just five per cent of the overall robotmarket, yet growth expectations for the future are strong. Variousmarket research companies have predicted that the sector will grow by 50 per cent year- on-year, hitting $1bn in 2020.

The majority of this growth will be

driven by uptake in automotive assembly, electronic parts assembl y and medica l device manufacturing applications. For example, FANUC’s collaborative robot, the CR-35iA, can work alongside people lifting spare tyres on car assembly lines to reduce injuries associated with repetitive or heavy lifting At present, food process and palletising lines are la

rgely a cobot- ing, packaging .

free zone, with the exception of some specialist applications. Part of the reason is that their limited speed and payload capabilities restrict their usefulness in these environments. Because they are designed to work alongside humans they have to work atmuch slower speeds than conventional robots tomi of injury. Thismeans that not be able to achieve the

by pick and place applications. In 14 14 NOVEMBER 201 MBER 2016 | AU AUTOMA MAT ATION

The Dual Check Safe virtual fence around the

(D(DCS) software creates a virtual fence around the work area of the L Mate

he Dual Check Safetty S) software creates a

work area of the LR Mate

DISPELLING THE GUARDING This doesn’t mean, however, that


packaging operations are condemned to a future behind bars. There are myths around guarding that need dispelling. Firstly, not all cobots are cage-free, they differ in the technology used to achieve collaborative operation and the safety mechanisms required to occupy this sometimes fenceless collaborative workspace. Secondly, traditional robots that aren’t power and force limited can still work in human collaborative operations with the use of functional safety units and safety-rated sensors. Whatmany people don’t realise is that most conventional industrial robots are capable of allowing collaborative

FANUC and Pacepacker also showed the CR-also showed the CR-35iA35iA cobot at PPMA Total, whose softwhose soft foam greenfoam green cover and intelligent

and Pacepacker

cobot at PPMA To cover and intelligent

sensors protect workers who are in directwho are in direct

contact with the robot

sensors protect workers contact with the robot

introducing robot-human col l collaboration and there are sa

operation with the appropriate control architecture, software, and safety-rated sensors. There are different degrees of fe ways of aboration,

even with a traditional industrial robot. You don’t always have to have a fully- caged, perimeter guarded robot at the end of the line, although in some very heavy duty palletising operations itmay be necessary. For example, full-fencingmay be unavoidable if the size and weight of

cause serious injury to human palletisedmean they could po both the robot and the items

tentially being


speeds required a cobot would nimise the risk

VIRTUAL FENCING SOFTWARE On the joint FANUC and Pacepacker stand at this year’s PPMA Total Show,

based on a conventional FANUC LR Mate robot equipped with additional safety features to allow it to interact with operators. DCS (Dual Check Safety)

discuss cobots, robots and everything i -between software creates a virtual fence around

Thanks to new safety and sensing technollogies, the options for robot-operator collaboration isn’t as black and white as cobot versus fully-fenced. Paul Wilkinson, business development manager at Pacepacker Services, lets his guard down tohis guard do wn t o discuss cobots, robots and everything in-between

anks to n

options for robot-operator colla black and w

safety and sen ing tech ratio

son, business devel pment

ogies, th isn t a

e as cobot versus ful -fenced. Paul nager at

the work area, and within the area monitored zones are established and policed via area scanners or other sensors. The robot works at a normal speed when safety zones have not been breached. If an operator enters the area, the controller may c to slow down, and/o If the operator conti

robot, and enters a stop zone, this will bring the robot to an immediate stop. With this sensing software, the robot can be programmed with different ‘reactions’ for different zones and scenarios. For example, it can be

programmed to performan emergency stop when necessary or to alter its speed according to operat or proximit y.

This type of arrangement could work well in a case or tray loading scenario, for instance when picking and placing yogurt or dip pots into a cardboard case. If a case gets caught, the operator can enter the cell and quickly remove it without shutting down the whole line.

On a guarded system, if there is a

problem, the entire line would need to be stopped and may even need to be cleared, resulting i n considerable wast e and downtime. What’s more, to handle this scenario on a guarded line, an operator would need in-depth training. It is not just when troubleshooting that an uncaged conventional robot comes into its own. A fenceless robot cell simplifies access formaintenance so quick part changeovers can be performed, and allows operators to enter the cell and replenish supplies of cases or performquality inspections withminimal disruption. Eliminating guarding in favour of othe r safety features saves on the cost of the fencing itself, reduces the floor space

visitors were able to see a ‘hybrid’ system occupied by a traditional fenced cell, saves on operator training and increases uptime.

Pacepacker Services


nues to approach the r restrict its motion. ommand the robot

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