The Role of Cobots in the Modern Factory

As Universal Robots announces the 25% increase in lifting capacity of its best-selling cobot, Facteon’s Applications Engineer and robotics expert, Guillermo, reflects on what this development means for Universal Robots' product portfolio and manufacturers. 

Universal Robots increased the payload of its UR10e cobot, what does this mean for their product portfolio? 

Manufacturers are continuing to call for greater flexibility, particularly in terms of the automation solutions they are implementing. For manufacturers taking those first steps into automation, demonstrating return on investment is critical to securing budget to implement automation across the facility in future. So, we’ve seen manufacturers looking to deploy and then redeploy a cobot in multiple functions across their facility. This flexibility means that the UR10e can now handle a 10kg product, rather than an 8kg product. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference but it provides manufacturers the flexibility they’re needing to justify their investment. Formerly, a manufacturer would have needed to upgrade to the UR16e, the largest cobot in UR’s portfolio. The increased payload of the UR10e ultimately allows manufacturers to do that bit more at the lower price point.

What processes are well-suited to an initial cobot implementation?

The easiest processes to automate are those that are simple and repetitive where a fixed pattern is followed. An example is end of line palletising. This can be a great place to start as it’s a simple and repetitive process. It also adds value as it’s typically a labour heavy element of the production process. The general rule is that cobots are suited to completing dull, dirty and dangerous tasks. Rather than having your people lifting a 10kg box onto a pallet repeatedly, the cobot can complete the heavy lifting. Your human operator can work alongside the cobot by, for example, strapping the pallets. Alternatively, the operator can be re-deployed to complete a more engaging task elsewhere in the facility.

What question do you get asked most often regarding a cobot implementation?

I’m often asked about a cobot’s speed and footprint. Many manufacturers consider a cobot due to space constraints. I caution against jumping to conclusions. For that reason, I’d suggest focusing on whether a cobot can meet your cycle time requirements. While industrial robots typically have a larger machine footprint, they are faster than cobots. So, it’s important to consider both speed and footprint when deciding between a cobot and an industrial robot.

Another question I’ve been asked more and more recently is regarding a cobot’s machine vision capability. Universal Robots has a broad partner network, including Robotiq (who is also a Facteon partner), offering a range of camera systems. There are a range of addons within the Universal Robots platform that allow for fast and simple integration of your new machine vision camera. Regardless of the machine vision camera you choose to implement, the Universal Robots’ system often offers easy to follow on-screen, step-by-step instruction to get your new cobot up and running fast.

What advice do you have for manufacturers looking to start their automation journeys with a cobot implementation?

My advice is to start simple, especially if this is your first robotics implementation. While robots and cobots can complete a range of processes, there are also factory processes that robots and cobots aren’t well-suited to. That’s why it’s essential to think carefully about where your new tool can add the most value.

If this is your first robotics implementation and you’re looking to build a business case for how automation can add value in your facility, it’s critical to start simple. Wherever you decide to start, it’s critical to work with an experienced manufacturing partner. This partner will effectively guide you through those first steps on your automation journey.  

Rob Veal

Rob Veal

ANZ Key Account Manager

As Facteon’s ANZ Key Accounts Manager, Rob utilises a customer relationship-driven approach to sales management and delivery to work consultatively with manufacturers to understand their pain points. With a depth of experience in IT sales management, Rob is passionate about providing New Zealand and Australian manufacturers with powerful Industrial IoT offerings that enhance their ability to compete globally.