What does 'Collaborative Robot' really mean?

The term ‘Collaborative’ defined within the Cambridge dictionary is “the situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing”. This definition transfers over into the industry of Robotics, as in recent years the demand for ‘Cobot colleagues’ have become sought after...

Are they safe?

What comes to mind for most people when they hear the words 'Collaborative Robot’? A complicated image of costly technology? Safety cages? Complex control panels and an abundance of wiring? (Image to the right). With Collaborative robots, this simply is not the case. For example, the TM5 features a simplistic, lightweight and clean design.

Collaborative robots are in fact designed to be safe to operate around people, working alongside their ‘colleagues’ without the need for additional safety precautions. 

According to parts 1 & 2 of the international standard ISO 10218, that works to offer support and guidance in safety requirements for industrial robots, and the Technical Standard ISO/TS 15066 - there are four types of collaborative features for robots:

Safety Monitored Stop

This category of Cobot features, is mostly used when a Collaborative robot is working independently, but a human may need to occasionally enter its designated workspace. If a worker moved into this zone, the Cobot would immediately pause what it is doing. Cobots with the Safety Monitored Stop safety feature are most efficient in applications where it is rare for a human to get close to the robot as it would lose a lot of time when frequently pausing.

Hand Guiding

This application can be used for path teaching, whereby the operator moves the robot head by hand to educate the Cobot to manoeuvre to a predefined route. Meaning the elimination of distressed and time-consuming coding. As with the TM5 from Techman Robot, every pose and point in the task can be guided by hand whilst being able to change the degree of freedom of the hand-guide function easily according to the application.

Power and Force Limiting

Generally, collaborative robots including the Techman TM5 Robot are fundamentally intended to limit power and force. This makes it possible for humans and robots to work together within the same work space; provided that the risk assessment has been carried out correctly. The robot can detect a specified level of power or force, with the TM5 reaching a force limit of 150N. 

Speed and Separation Monitoring

To avoid any harm coming to the Cobot’s colleagues, the application speed of the robot is restricted in conjunction with the distance from its colleague. This can be possible by installing an external safety device, such as a scanner which will enable the collaborative robot to sense when it’s human co-workers are nearby, generally for use in faster and heavier applications. 

For example, once the Cobot has sensed movement in its area, the speed in which it is working at will decelerate to safeguard its collaborator’s well-being; within some applications the Cobot will come to a complete stop.

Collaborative robot or Cobot characteristics usually combine all or some of the following:

  • They are designed to be safe around humans either by force limiting or sensors that prevent harm coming to its colleagues.
  • Frequently they are light weight and can be moved from task to task, by being mounted on a portable stand for example.
  • They are easy to program; if you can use a smartphone or tablet, you can program a Cobot.
  • Cobots are meant to aid and assist, not substitute the worker. Much like the power drill is intended to help, not replace.
  • With a simple design and ease of programming, collaborative robots can be cheaper to purchase and maintain than traditional production robots.

To conclude, collaborative robots have been portrayed in an unfavourable light in recent months, however this is inherently not so. The cobot solution allows companies to retain employees rather than replace, as the introduction of collaborative robots provides opportunities to train and develop permanent workers. Allowing them to progress within the business; whilst Cobots are used to automate menial, low skill positions which companies are struggling to fill with human workers.

If you would like more information on Collaborative Robots, or specifically our Collaborative robot, the TM5. please call the office on 01260 279 411 or email us:



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