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Move over, robot. The co-bot is here.

Soumik Ghosh | June 27, 2016
Robotics strangely conjures up apocalyptic images of bots going berserk or simply putting us out of jobs. The key lies not in ceding controls to robots, but collaborating with them. Enter: The co-bot.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

Robots have intrigued mankind since Czech writer Karel Capek first coined the word for his play in 1921. Capek's plot was simple: man creates a robot to replace him, and then robot kills the man. Man, understandably, has never been comfortable with the idea of "trust falling" into a robot's arms. In addition to this, traditional robots are programmed to execute certain actions within fixed constraints.

In a human-machine study conducted by MIT researchers at a BMW factory, it was shown that teams made of humans and robots collaborating efficiently can be around 85 percent more productive than teams made of either humans or robots alone.

And this is the rationale that spurred the evolution of next-gen robotics - bots that work hand-in-hand with humans. Collaborative robots, or co-bots, as they are popularly known, have the ability to collaborate with humans in a task-oriented working environment.

Universal Robots, the Danish pioneer of collaborative robots, is spearheading this evolution in India. The man at the helm of this tech shift is Esben H Østergaard, Chief Technology Officer, Universal Robots, and he shares what the company has in store for the Indian enterprise:

Robots have served us just fine. What advantages do co-bots have over regular robots?

Assembly lines are highly labor-intensive. Universal Robots uses intuitive software to mechanize co-bots, thus allowing even the most inexperienced user to quickly grasp the basics of programming and set waypoints by simply moving the robot into position.

The third-generation 6-axis robots can operate in a reduced mode when a human enters the co-bot's work area and then resume full speed when the operator leaves. In other set-ups, the 6-axis robot can run at full speed inside a CNC machine, and at a reduced speed outside. They are designed to be used without safety fences and the safety system is monitored based on: joint position and speed; orientation; as well as the momentum and force of the robot.

In addition to this, easy programming and ability to be used as an advanced tool by the worker makes them a favored choice for assembly line over regular robots.

So, what are the growth opportunities in the Indian market? What is Universal's strategy?

Universal Robots has opened its operations now in India as part of its larger global expansion plan. The company predicts that collaborative robots are becoming a requirement for organizations that are in task oriented industries like food and processing, manufacturing and automobile assembly.

In India, the market demand for robots have steadily increased over the years. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the yearly shipment of industrial robots in India has increased by over 26 percent over a two-year timespan.


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