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Collaborative or traditional?

The emergence of collaborative robots in the industrial world

The term "cobot" which combines the words "cooperation" and "robotics" appeared for the first time in 1999. However, it was not until 2008 that the first commercially viable model, a UR5 from Universal Robots, appeared on the market. market.

At that time, traditional robot manufacturers had underestimated the enormous potential of the "cobot" market.

Today, collaborative robots are more and more numerous in factories.

The big difference between a collaborative robot and a traditional robot is that the collaborative robot is designed to collaborate with human beings in a common workspace without security (light curtains, laser scanner, security contactors, ...) and all this with great programming simplicity.

Different operations

The design of collaborative robots

The first advantage of cobots is their size and compactness.

A UR5 collaborative robot weighs only 18 kilos. The UR16e, the largest collaborative robot in the range, weighs 33 kg. A fraction of the weight of traditional industrial robots. It is easy to move them on the production chain according to the needs of the company.

Conversely, the traditional robot is generally integrated in a specific location. Its installation and its movement generally require a consequent modification of the production chain.

With its small footprint, the cobot occupies very little space to evolve.

It does not require a safety cage (***).

Coupled with its versatility, it is possible to assign the cobot to a large panel of tasks.

(***) a risk analysis must always be carried out by a specialist before integrating any robot. Indeed, putting a cutter that turns at 8,000 rpm on a cobot will make the integration project of said robot, non-collaborative.

Indeed, where a traditional robot is designed to accomplish a single task, the cobot has (almost) no limit because it can be programmed in a few hours to perform a series of predefined gestures. It can also be fitted with tools at the end of the arm (pliers, screwdriver, suction cup, camera, etc.) to accomplish the task assigned to it.

Another feature or disadvantage of the collaborative robot is its rate. That of a traditional traditional robot is (very) fast. The goal is to always produce more. Traditional traditional robots are very heavy and large, specialized, fast and therefore dangerous for their environment. They are not able to work alongside operators in a common workspace. Safety barriers are required.

The rate of a collaborative robot is slower and configurable. The objective of the cobot is to work in collaboration and alongside the operators in the same workspace, in symbiosis with their rhythm. He is an assistant and not a substitute.


In order to guarantee safe coexistence with operators, collaborative robots are equipped with numerous security systems. The e-Series robot range therefore has nearly 17 safety functions, such as adjusting the stopping distance. They give the robot awareness of its environment and the ability to stop automatically in the event of an intrusion into its space.

Even in the event of an impact with an operator, the very low weight of their arm almost completely reduces any danger. It is therefore not necessary to surround them with cages, bulky and expensive.

Cobots also obey very strict safety standards. In Europe, the European Commission created the Machine Directive 2006/42 / EC . Its rules must be observed by collaborative robots used within the European Union. This is to ensure consistency of security requirements.

These requirements are notably applied during the compulsory risk assessment and analysis stage . It precedes the installation of the collaborative robot within a company to find the best way to integrate the robot in harmony with the needs and capabilities of the company. Its process is regulated by ISO 10218-2 of the Machine Directive.

In conclusion: before choosing between a collaborative robot or not, it is essential to start from the customer's need and then validate the different possible options. A robot is ultimately just a simple production tool to integrate into a more global project that must strictly meet the needs of a user.

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