Not long ago, Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) introduced a new cooperative robot system, Successor, which attracted many people in the robotics industry. It is reported that the system has newly developed controllers and sensors, which can achieve remote collaboration by reproducing the actions of engineers, and is compatible with various Kawasaki robots.
Traditional industrial robots are gradually replacing human beings to complete monotonous, repetitive and dangerous work. Collaborative robots are gradually beginning to penetrate into various industrial fields. Their higher security and the ability to work directly with operators in the same production line are more and more concerned by all walks of life.
Since the launch of UR5, the first collaborative robot product in the world in 2008, many robotics companies have developed their own collaborative robots, such as Yumi of ABB, iiwa of KUKA, Motoman of Anchuan and CR series of Fanuc.
According to the White Paper on the Development of Cooperative Robot Industry in 2017, the global sales of cooperative robots were 105,000 in 2016, compared with 294,000 in the same year. According to GGII statistics, in 2017, 346,000 industrial robots were shipped worldwide, while cooperative robots were less than 5% of the total.
Simply from the shipment volume, cooperative robots have not shown a vigorous trend, but even so, the enthusiasm of the industry has not declined: in 2017 alone, there will be a number of black horses including Tyco, Dazu, Jieka, Elite, Roshi, Tongchuan, Magnega, Maihe, Yangtian Science and Technology, Zhichang, Gree and so on.
Why do robotic enterprises compete to lay out cooperative robots?
An Engineer at KUKA said that man-machine collaborative robots would be the future direction of robotics development, and Germany still had track to follow in developing man-machine collaborative technology. "The German concept holds that in many automated production lines, people and machines can interact with each other. KUKA has long been a man-machine cooperative robot and has been developing in this direction. However, in recent years, cooperative robots may not be able to develop rapidly, so first reserve technology.
But the engineer also said that man-machine cooperative robots are not suitable for high load areas. "Because in the high load area, if the sensor is too sensitive, many false alarms are likely to occur, and it is not sensitive enough to have the significance of man-machine cooperation."
Shen Xiaolong, General Manager of Tongchuan Science and Technology, said that there were two reasons for Tongchuan's collaborative robots. One is that the requirements of collaborative robots for core technology are higher than traditional robots. The other is that many domestic manufacturing enterprises are scattered and do not have the capability of large-scale manufacturing. In such a working environment, collaborative robots have higher requirements for core technology than traditional robots. Collaborative robots are more flexible.
Shen Xiaolong believes that cooperative robots are the common cognitive direction of many robotic enterprises to the domestic market. "Collaborative robots may be more suitable for the domestic industrial situation, so we naturally have this awareness, coupled with the traditional industrial robots market has been a red sea, the technical threshold is getting lower and lower, many enterprises only need to buy core components can be assembled, so there is a certain degree of technical experience of robots. Enterprises will choose to develop cooperative robots.
Wang Guangneng, general manager of Dazu Robots, also said that cooperative robots are the future direction.
Since traditional industrial robots manufacturers have already laid out cooperative robots, what advantages do cooperative robots have compared with traditional industrial robots?
"Compared with the requirement of industrial robots for external space and hardware, as a small cooperative robot, pride robot greatly reduces the use threshold, and it can flexibly complete installation and deployment in limited space." Iris, head of the marketing department in China for Pride Robots, said.
In the execution of action and design programming work, Youyao equipped with a teaching device similar to the iPad, more than 90% of the programming work can be completed through the teaching device. The teaching board is entirely a graphical interface and a modular process, which can be operated by anyone who can use a smartphone. Its graphical interface contains 360 degrees in any direction. The location of TCT center can also be moved up and down. If the free-driving mode is chosen, the robot can be dragged along with the operator's hand. Manipulators can also imitate the movements of human hands according to the speed and trajectory of human hands, thus saving a lot of time.
Ma Cong, manager of Epson (China) Industrial Robot, said that cooperative robots are mainly to achieve complete cooperation between human and machine, and also have more concise programming functions. "Domestic system integrators and end users have different levels of automation, some of them have strong ability of automation transformation, while others do not. Therefore, cooperative robots can help the latter to make its automation more natural and smooth."
What will collaborative robots look like in the future?
At present, cooperative robots are still in the stage of "letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend", and people have different understandings about their specific forms. For example, the Yumi robots launched by ABB and the DuAro of Kawasaki belong to two-arm cooperative robots, while the cooperative robots of Youyao and many domestic manufacturers are single-arm.
The engineer from KUKA admitted that there are a lot of software that can turn a single arm into a double arm, and most applications can be competent with a single arm. Under this premise, two arms are not the future trend.
In Epson's view, adding some functions in SCARA and six axes and increasing its added value can achieve the effect of "man-machine cooperation" at this stage. "There is no special distinction between cooperative robots and traditional industrial robots, and there may be a gradual convergence between them in the future."
Wang Guangneng said that intellectualization is the general trend, while human-computer cooperation is the initial stage of intellectualization. He believed that in the future, some of the traditional industrial robots will move towards collaboration.
Shen Xiaolong said that adding more sensors to traditional industrial robots is also a solution from the point of view of safety and human-machine coexistence, but with the increase of cost and complexity of the system, the corresponding design should be carried out from the source. In addition, the weight of cooperative robots is different from that of traditional industrial robots. It is impossible to control the weight of robots simply by adding sensors to traditional industrial robots.
"In the future, industrial robots will be more secure, intelligent and lightweight. Collaborative robots and traditional industrial robots will converge." Shen Xiaolong said that cooperative robots are still industrial robots in essence, not a brand new product, but with different emphasis. Traditional industrial robots pay more attention to accuracy and speed, while cooperative robots pay more attention to human-machine safety coexistence and simple operation.
"In addition, future collaborative robots will also focus on intellectualization. With the improvement of AI and computer level, industrial robots will also develop in the direction of anthropomorphism," Shen Xiaolong said.