The ability of collaborative robots to work alongside humans and flexibly adapt to different requirements can unleash ingenuity, create operational efficiencies and provide high returns on investment. 

Modern world’s dreams of household androids and flying cars have not yet become reality. But thanks to advanced technology, factory floors are now having a vision of the future.

For decades robots have been the key to automation processes and are a fixture in the manufacturing environment. But the question of safety has typically separated humans from robots.

Nowadays, however, innovation upends this relationship and brings cobots or collaborative robots very close to their human teammates.

Equipped with sophisticated sensing technology and enabled by machine learning, collaborative robots can work safely alongside humans, taking on repetitive, hazardous, dangerous and complex tasks. Cobots can change the face of the assembly line and ultimately make a transformation to industrial design as more and more manufacturers are learning how a workforce of robots and humans can boost operational efficiencies.

Semiconductor technology enables advances in industrial communications,sensing and motor control that allows collaborative robots to function safely and efficiently close to human workers on the factory floor. Here are 5 ways in which semiconductors transform the next robot generation:

Small size increases autonomy

Robots that assemble cars and other heavy products are large and imposing, but cobots coming into the factory setting today are smaller, lighter, more portable and can be customized to perform specific tasks. These smaller cobots are made possible by improvements in form factor, which enable more electronics to be designed into increasingly smaller units without sacrificing power efficiency or precision. 

In addition to making cobots smaller, electronics enable the integration of more processing capabilities and intelligence so that the machines can function autonomously rather than through commands or controls from a cloud or centralized processing unit.

Ultimately, smaller cobots will allow manufacturers to serve niche demands for customized products without making significant changes to their production lines. Manufacturers will reconfigure cobots as needed to manage inventory and costs while keeping operations humming.

Agility is improved by sensing technology 

Previous generation of industrial robots relied on a few axes - or degrees of freedom- for movement coordination. But modern technology enables cobots to operate with dozens of axes, allowing more precise and detailed movements.

Technologies such as cameras and industrial millimeter wave (mmWave) help cobots detect humans and their movements, making collaboration safe.

The real advantage of collaborative robots is analyzing data and making real-time decisions. High speed connection is used to enable this communication between sensor, camera and local processing engine.

This real-time communication and fast processing needs drives a trend towards enhanced data communication standards, moving from 100-megabit to 1-gigabit Ethernet communication applications.

Efficiency is driven by machine learning

Another factor in the growing deployment of collaborative robots is advancements in machine learning. Cobots learn from people and from each other. New application enables collaborative robots to learn new tasks by watching people perform them - like any human trainee would. This saves time which previously would have been needed for programming. In the future cobots can share this knowledge with other cobots via local connections or directly to the cloud.

Flexibility is enhanced by efficient power management 

Cobots deployment can create unique challenges in management and power supply. Factories will need to make sure their power management is as efficient as possible from a current draw.

Going beyond the factory floor

Cobots can be also used in elder care, telemedicine, and industries such as mining, oil and gas production. Education is also a fertile ground for collaborative robots.

Humans won’t be replaced by cobots in the workforce, but technology will help unleash their ingenuity by making humans more efficient, responsive and flexible to clients’ needs. The mind of a human will continue to produce the innovations, but robots powered with newest technology will help turn those ideas into reality.


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