Tell us all about Applied Manufacturing Technologies.
AMT was started 30 years ago as an engineering services team
and has cultivated over the last three decades to become a full-scale
automation solution provider. Our capabilities promote the capability to engage
with our consumers at every point in their manufacturing process from front-end
consultation, through concept and design, and build and field start-up. We are
often targeted in robotic automation but our engineers are skilled in many
areas of automation technology to allow the solution to best fit the demands of
How do you explain a collaborative robot in your discussions
Robots that have been designated as “collaborative” are
those units that have been exclusively made to directly act with humans without
the use of additional safety equipment and components. This is usually through
the use of force constricted joints and special safety sensors. Other standard
industrial robots can be designed into a collaborative workspace but they
demand other components as part of that technique in order to produce a secured
working environment for humans.
Are there areas of human-robot-interaction that do not fall
under your definition of a collaborative robot?
There certainly are. For the reasons of industrial safety
research there have been four forms of collaborative systems defined by how the
elements of that system work together. Collaborative robots fall into just one
of these types of systems. These diverse ways of monitoring space and tasks
allow work areas to be designed with the method best ideal for the selected
process and functionality. In fact, some systems may still require standard
industrial robots but not the specific collaborative robot models.
What are the most prevalent misconceptions customers have
about collaborative robots?
I would say the most common beliefs have to do with how
collaborative robots affect safety criteria for a work space. There are some
consumers that may see these types of robots as a means to quickly eliminate
safety issues that they are seeing with employing traditional automation. It is
true that a collaborative robot is manufactured to work without additional
physical guarding like fencing. But the robot is never a lone component in a
system. For example some end of arm tools may not be right with working in
close proximity to a human regardless of being installed to a collaborative
robot. So collaborative robots can have some benefit in this aspect but may not
lessen all such issues. All parts of a system need to be considered as part of
a risk examination strategy.
What are the greatest benefits of collaborative robots that
you have noticed?
There are several benefits of implementing collaborative
robots when the application and process are a good fit. One of the most talked
about is floor space. Standard industrial robots tend to have buffer space and
physical limitations to keep humans separated from automation hazards. Fairly,
a properly designed area for collaborative robots will typically be “
fence-less ” and not call for additional space between automation and human
workspaces. This use of collaborative robots takes up less valuable real estate
in an industrial environment. Another benefit of collaborative robots is to
create truly collaborative processes where automation and humans work not only
alongside but actually with each other. Give consideration to an assembly area
today where a human may perform many projects to get parts, fit them together,
and test function. With collaborative robots we can split these tasks to
allocate repeated monotonous tasks to automation and have the humans designated
to tasks that are more dexterous or those that command decision making.
How are your customers using collaborative robots?
We have put in place collaborative robots in a range of
applications for our customers. Really the range of applications is wide,
particularly as different industries get presented to the technology. Many of
the systems have focused on testing applications, pick and place material
handling, and packaging handling -- driven by finding chance in traditionally
manual workspaces. There are still some constraints that can be a roadblock.
For example, collaborative robots have inherent speed restrictions that may affect
the productivity of using this type of automation. The devices usually have
payload and consistency limitations that can impact capability for a task. And
there are some tasks that require non-collaborative tools to complete. But
these are all pretty known issues that many companies are intending to provide
What do you think are the most guaranteeing improvements
coming in collaborative robots?
Most of the development that I think will have widespread
impact has to do with application of the technology. When collaborative robots
were first released people were stimulated but still uncertain of how to truly
employ them. As use circumstances become available they quickly become used
around an industry. One example of this is tire handling, which often happens
in a highly manual workspace but is very cumbersome for actual manual activity.
Spacious collaborative robots are now common place in automotive plants for
this process. Another area of progress is
collaborative robot tooling. Several companies are working to offer this type
of design solution to companies that want to implement collaborative robots so
that they can recognize the most benefit from the “ fence-less ”
capability.Finding answers like these can have exponential impact. Once a
company or industry has some understanding of how to implement the technology
then they will use that same methodology to replicate the value over and over
Are today’s safety standards for collaborative robots
There has been a lot of importance over the last several
years to target collaborative robots and collaborative technology in general,
so it is moving forward. There still seems to be a common lack of
clearness/understanding of how safety reviews and risks examination are carried
out. And this surely gets more difficult with a collaborative system. The lack
of constant global standards is also a struggle as we deal with corporations
that work in different countries but want to create consistent automation
processes. Collaborative robots have assisted to open some doors to industries
and customer segments that are new to robot automation. This is a great thing
but it also means that there are people with less experience in these standards
who need guidance walking through some of these considerations.
This article is originally posted on roboticstomorrow.com