From robots to ‘cobots’: Danish firm intros compact, affordable robots

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

The common notion of robots as heavy, bulky machines may soon be a thing of the past for local companies in need of automation as Danish robotics company Universal Robots (UR) recently introduced the concept of collaborative robots or “cobots” which even small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can use.

UR’s robot arms in use at Nissan’s Yokohama factory

UR’s robot arms in use at Nissan’s Yokohama factory

Speaking at a media roundtable at Discovery Primea Hotel in Makati City on April 5, UR general manager for SEA and Oceania Shermine Gotfredsen explained that in contrast to traditional industrial robots, cobots are safe enough to share workspaces with humans, thus addressing the problem of limited space.

In particular, UR’s collaborative robot arms are light, small, compact, and easy to use, making them easily deployable and flexible enough to be modified for different applications.

“This allows high-mix, low-volume seasonal production even in a way manufacturers need to churn out different products in a quick span of time,” said Gotfredsen.

Priced between 20,000 to 30,000 euros, the cobots are capable of automating tasks up to 10 kg and have a reach radius of up to 1300mm. This makes them suitable for packaging, palletizing, assembly, and pick and place where work is undertaken over certain distances.

They may also be used to automate injection molding, lab analysis, screw driving, polishing, machine tending, quality inspection, gluing, dispensing, and welding.

Setting up these cobots is fast and easy. They are also easy to program, enabling even an inexperienced user to program it. According to Gotfredsen, such easy programming is particularly beneficial for SMEs as it enables them to deploy the robots themselves using their in-house engineers, instead of outsourcing. This allows the firm to significantly reduce costs.

“The collaborative robots that have been particularly successful in the market are robots that are compact, easy to use, and affordable not just to large companies but even SMEs. These have opened up opportunities for SMEs to achieve efficiency and therefore stay competitive in the market,” she added.

In addition, the cobots are compliant with the ISO Standard for Collaborative Robots and their safety system approved and certified by the German Technical Inspection Association. They can run up to three shifts on a 24/7 basis and have an average payback time of 195 days – the fastest in the industry.

Key industries driving the growth of the robotics market are automotive, electronics, rubber and plastics, metals, pharmaceuticals, and food and beverage.

In the automotive industry, one of the adopters of UR’s cobots is Nissan Motor’s Yokohama factory. With two robot arms deployed, Nissan has stabilized its production output, simplified its processes, reduced relief worker costs, and freed older workers from strenuous tasks, redeploying them instead to less physically taxing work areas. ROI was also achieved in less than a year based on a two-shift operation.

Another general benefit is increased re-shoring. Having cobots for automation negates the necessity to move production overseas where costs are lower. Instead, automation via cobots allow firms to manufacture in their own country, and hire people from their country as business expands to require additional manpower in sales, marketing, service support, and others.

Among the adopters of UR’s cobots in the Philippines are Artesyn Embedded Technologies, an automotive company and school.

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