Powering human-robot collaboration in Europe
Human-robot collaboration (HRC) will shape the future of work. From demonstrating the benefits of cobots in field labs to providing workers with the necessary skills for the technology-driven workplace, a number of European projects are working to make sure no one gets left behind.
by Marc Verbenkov, Amy McCready & Ignacio Magallon
Collaborative Robots are one of the newest generation of robots. Equipped with sensors to detect if a human worker is dangerously close, they can decide to either immediately slow down or entirely shut down in order to avoid all possible physical harm. Compared to the previous generation of manufacturing robots which focused on a single or a few pre-specified actions routinely and very quickly, collaborative robots or cobots, can be re-programmed to do a different action quickly. This enables flexibility in the workplace which is especially vital to the modern manufacturing industry, as many different products are produced in a short amount of time. This requires a time-consuming re-configuration of the manufacturing process. As cobots can be both easily programmed and work beside employees, they are able to take up the repetitive and routine tasks enabling their human counterparts to focus on more cognitively challenging ones. For example, a cobot can continuously pick and place parts from an assembly line while the employee can now focus on quality control. This trend of Human-Robot Collaboration is predicted to grow substantially over the coming years and decades, relieving human employees of undesirable or even harmful tasks while maintaining jobs and boosting companies’ productivity.
Human-robot collaboration will be part of shaping the future of work
A number of projects are already in action around Europe focused on improving HRC activities and the use of the technologies themselves. As an example, COTEMACO aims to support the adoption of cobots by SMEs. Four regional field labs will showcase cobots in settings replicating food and automotive manufacturing environments. SMEs will be able to visit the field labs and learn how cobots can be implemented into their own processes to increase their efficiency and optimise employee tasks. In fact, COTEMACO is currently accepting SMEs into a support programme which enables applicants to receive up to €5000 in support activities to adopt cobots into their food and automotive manufacturing processes. If you are an interested SME, see if you are eligible to apply by clicking the button below:
Another project, Robotix Academy, is creating a permanent cross – border research cluster for industrial robotics in order to counteract the shortage of skilled workers while maintaining and expanding modern jobs. It focuses on building know-how on the introduction of new technologies as well as developing consulting, qualification and research services, especially for SMEs.
The home base of robotic automation projects in the EU
The number of HRC projects is envisaged to grow substantially overtime especially as HRC is a high priority with EU Robotics, as outlined in the SPARC ICT Multi-Annual Roadmap (MAR). The MAR recognises HRC as having the potential to impact and revolutionise the production landscape. For this reason, we teamed up with ZeMA, the Center for Mechatronics and Automation Technology GmbH to launch the Robot-Hub, the home base of multiple EU projects focusing on Robotic Automation and its impact on business and society. The online hub functions as a platform for projects to connect and harmonise so we can gain a clear perspective on the European efforts in both improving and supporting the adoption of HRC solutions. We’re bringing together robotics experts, SMEs, startups and robotics service providers from across Europe to build a go-to source for key updates from the robotics sector. As many thematic robotic Digital Innovation Hubs (DIH) also are gathering relevant EU-based HRC projects, Robot-Hub will engage with them through a number of our common partners (Flanders Make, University of Lincoln, to name a few).