Collaborative robots revolutionising the future of work

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By Eduardo Benito (ERNI Spain)

The future of work involves collaboration between robots and humans. After many years of integrating technology into work dynamics, the arrival of collaborative robots, or cobots, is a reality, boosting not only safety in the workplace but also productivity and efficiency in companies.

These cobots are moving out of the production areas where they have been confined to collaborate with human operators. A robot is considered a cobot when it can work in collaboration with humans without posing a safety risk – assisting them in different tasks and processes, without the need to be physically separated.

At the Advanced Factories 2023 world congress, the new generation of cobots was presented – robots equipped with enough intelligence and autonomy to be able to collaborate in work with humans. In this way, thanks to technology such as smart cameras or proximity sensors, the cobot can stop or reduce its work speed when humans are nearby, avoiding possible accidents.

It should be noted that cobots are particularly useful for repetitive tasks which do not involve creativity or improvisation but require high precision or physical effort that could lead to injury if performed continuously.

Smart Cameras optimise interaction with humans

In these cases, computer vision smart cameras enable cobots to obtain visual information from the environment around them. It gives them the ability to recognise objects, detect and track people, identify colours and shapes, and perform vision-based navigation and manipulation tasks.

Smart cameras also help robots avoid obstacles, improve safety and optimise interaction with humans. They can detect and avoid collisions, recognise facial expressions and gestures, and provide more natural and effective communication.

Cobots can also offer a high level of precision in their tasks, making them very effective in the medical field. At ERNI, as experts in smart medical devices, we collaborate with a company specialised in the development of robots for minimally invasive surgery. These are state-of-the-art robots designed to help surgeons perform more precise and efficient operations.

However, we have to stress that the most important thing is that the incorporation of the cobot into the workplace is accompanied by a thorough risk analysis in order to minimise accidents and avoid possible incidents between the cobot and the human operator.

To this end, we should consider ISO 10218-1 certification, which focuses on safety-related aspects of industrial robots, providing guidelines for the design, construction and integration of robotic systems in working environments and ensuring the safety of operators and people working in close proximity to robots.

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