What are cobots?

What are cobots?

Welcome to “Ask Deb from QA,” a new column from MxD.

Deb from QA — with decades of experience on the factory floor — will answer your questions to demystify and explain the digital manufacturing industry.

Please submit your questions to debfromqa@mxdusa.org

Dear Deb: I’ve been hearing a lot about cobots. What exactly is a cobot?

I must have watched too many sci-fi movies as a kid, because for a while I was petrified of robots. I’m sure the idea of “cobots” would have been just one more thing for a 13-year-old Deb to fret over.

But fortunately, cobots — or collaborative robots — are meant to coexist with us humans.

A cobot is a robot that is capable of collaborating with humans. In fact, it’s been designed to do so. 

In the context of manufacturing, a cobot arm might hand you a metal pipe, for example, you screw in a bolt, then you hand the bolted pipe back to the cobot, which takes it away. The cobot won’t just automatically swivel its robotic arms every five seconds. It has sensors that waits for the human to interact with it. 

Robots typically must work independently of humans, so they are segregated in cages or in separate areas. But cobots can work in close proximity with humans because they are able to constantly monitor the environment and perform accordingly. 

The reason you might not have heard a lot about cobot technology is that it’s pretty expensive, and it’s still in the early stages. But as with many emerging technologies in manufacturing, it’s getting cheaper by the year. And with the advent of 5G and its faster speeds, cobot technology will get safer.

Hop on over to the website of our sister institute, Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, or “ARM,” to learn more about human-robot collaboration. In the very near future, it’ll be considered mainstream and available to mom-and-pop manufacturers. And then we’ll really be like The Jetsons. 

Assuring quality,

Check out last week’s Ask Deb here:
How to create a hard-to-hack password

Deb from QA wants to hear your questions. Send ‘em to debfromqa@mxdusa.org and she’ll answer as soon she’s done with her shift.