Over 100 years have passed since the word “robot” was used for the first time. Despite concerns often raised in the mainstream media every time a new breakthrough in robot technology is announced, it is becoming increasingly clear that robots will never fully replace humans, whether in the industry, in agriculture, in the military or even in our everyday chores. In the automation sector for example, the use of robotics in factory processes may be well proven, but robots have their limitations. They can be difficult to program, expensive to install, need dedicated and protected floor space, and can typically perform only a few single tasks.

Should the typical industrial robot have its program disrupted in any way, there is the potential for it not to shut down but to continue operating, with the risk of causing injury to workers or damage to costly equipment (including itself). Serious risk to life may be low but there is a risk nonetheless that the automation sector must look to eliminate.

The answer is the Cobot or collaborative robot, which has been designed to work alongside humans safely by lowering the speed of operation and including sensors that detect unexpected proximity or contact, meaning cobots do not need to be located apart from co-workers.

Instead of replacing humans, Cobots work ‘arm in arm’ with them, taking on heavy lifting, hazardous or repetitive tasks, or performing operations requiring a high degree of dexterity and accuracy, all under the direction of their human supervisors. This frees workers to concentrate on creative tasks, such as defect analysis, problem solving and process optimization. At the same time, because the industrial Cobot combines machine vision with artificial intelligence (AI), it can provide the kind of high-speed image analysis that takes interaction between human and machine to a whole new level. It is no exaggeration to say that this ground-breaking technology is set to redefine how manufacturers work, boosting productivity significantly while at the same time minimising risk.

Crucially, Cobots are significantly less expensive to both buy and install, are typically much easier to program, and can be relocated to different workstations and repurposed as the need arises. As the demand for reliable (and real) human-machine collaboration takes off, the market for these intelligent Cobots with machine vision has increased over recent years to the point that around half-a-million devices are expected to be in operation around the world within the next three years.

Advantech offers machine intelligence solutions that make risk-free human-machine collaboration in factories a reality. The machine vision technology behind the latest Cobots makes it possible for automated factories to achieve high-speed 3D image acquisition and analysis, with all modern graphics processing unit (GPU) accelerators supported.

Advantech binds all this intelligence and vision together with a range of powerful GPU servers – general purpose, ultra-density and max density units – backed by a variety of software services for Cobot smart management, including a remote device management tool as well as Cloud-based data labelling and AI model training, deployment and monitoring. For peace of mind and easy implementation and operation, entire Cobot control packages are available in kit form from Advantech to deliver a total Cobot intelligence solution for the modern factory.

Whether adopting Cobot technology in handling, pick and place, assembly, vision inspection or palletisation, other benefits include the ability to provide real-time response to rapidly changing customer requirements. Said to have levelled the playing field for small and medium-sized manufacturing companies, Cobots also ensure continuous performance improvement, precise navigation and the ability to handle dynamic tasks much easier than has previously been possible.

To discover more about how Advantech can deliver turnkey Cobot solutions, visit our dedicated page or contact us for further information (email: IIoT.AdvantechEurope@advantech.eu; +44 (0) 7551 82 4040).