Industrial robots are a great tool for manufacturers, but it’s a tool that comes with strict safety guidelines. The robotics industry has spent a great deal of time and resources to create standards that will provide employees with a safe working environment.
Now, with robots designed specifically to work and interact with humans, a whole range of new opportunities for robot applications has appeared. Companies like Rethink Robotics and Universal Robots have designed their new robots with particular care concerning worker safety, but they are embarking on a new horizon. With the potential for direct human-robot interaction, how will we develop safety standards?
Setting the Safety Standard for Cage-Free Robots
by Travis Hessman
From their easy programming and expanded flexibility to their comparably low cost and decreased footprint, Mitch Rosenberg, vice president of Marketing and Product Management at Rethink Robotics — Baxter’s Boston-based manufacturer — has an endless list of features that have made these robots so notable in the industry of late.
But the key feature holding them all together and driving this emerging market, he said, is safety.
“We are seeing increased interest in robots that can work safely alongside humans without safety barriers,” Rosenberg explained. The appeal, of course, is that “robots working shoulder to shoulder with people don’t require manufacturers to completely rework their workspaces or manufacturing processes.”
Unlike traditional caged robots, he said, these robots can simply be added to the existing manufacturing line with very little process redesign. This increases the overall flexibility of the robot while reducing risks as compared to accommodating traditional robotic tools.
Add to that the low investment costs they carry and that “inherently safe” label Rosenberg uses to describe them and these new machines seem destined for a record fast market takeover.
However, very few companies — most notably Rethink Robots and Universal Robots — have yet ventured into this ripe field. The rest in the industry are all stymied by that same prickly issue that makes the technology so attractive for U.S. users. Safety.
Read the full article at IndustryWeek. What do you see as the challenges — and solutions — to the issues of safety with this new model of robotics?
You can see robots from Rethink Robotics and Universal Robots, as well as many other companies, at the 2013 Automate Show in Chicago, Jan. 21-24. Automate offers you live demonstrations of automation technologies and systems across a broad range of industry sectors and applications, as well as the knowledge to successfully apply them. Register for your free show pass at the Automate website.