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There are no safe robots. However, robot manufacturers and system integrators need to ensure the robots and cobots built for human-robot collaboration are safe to use.

In order to efficiently allocate resources and enhance productivity in today’s modern industrial society, more companies are adopting the concept of human – robot collaboration (HRC). Instead of cooperating by means of defined static transfer points, human and robot can be deployed together on a flexible basis. One type of industrial robot known as a cobot is a good example. Cobot refers to “Collaborative Robot”, which combines the strengths of machines and human. This means cobots can perform physically strenuous or monotonous tasks with its endurance, accuracy and consistency while have the flexibility and capability to manage complex activities.

 

Minimising risks and hazards in HRC

Like robots and machinery, there are potential risks of incurring injuries during human-robot collaborations. Robots cannot provide safety on their own and therefore, cobot safety is essential in minimising potential risks to injuries and fatality during possible collision and work scenarios. To achieve this, a comprehensive risk assessment is required to assess not only the robot system itself, but also the environment in which it is placed, i.e the workplace before selecting the robot with corresponding safety functions and matching additional safety components. Lastly, the process will complete with verification and validation.

The ISO/TS 15066 “Robots and Robotic Devices – Collaborative industrial robots” plays a crucial role in providing the guidelines to implement safe human-robot collaborations with appropriate safety methods.  There are four methods to safeguard interaction between human and robot listed in ISO/TS 15066 – Safety-rated monitored stop, hand guiding, speed & separation monitoring and power & force limiting. System integrators and manufacturers can either choose from one of the methods or a combination for their application.

 

Tool for validating power and force

However, throughout the cobot safety process, validation is often overlooked. As a result, the cobot will be deemed as unsafe despite following the stringent requirements of the standards in design stage. As a strong advocate for safe automation technology and industrial 4.0, Pilz has developed a collision measurement system known as Pilz Robotics Measurement System (PRMS). The PRMS can validate a safe HRC application by measuring the power and force during a possible collision. Furthermore, the results will be evaluated and compared with the specifications from ISO/TS 15066. As a result, robot manufacturers and system integrators can have a piece of mind, knowing their cobots are stringently assessed and safe to use.

 

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