Technology has seen a fairly predictable path towards progress, if we consider the phase since the transistors evolved. It started from 8 transistors on a single silicon wafer, and the number has increased to a millions of components on the same. The reduction in dimensions have never compromised their speed and efficiency, instead, upped their scalability.
But, as engineering approaches get more inter-disciplinary in nature, industries undergo a quantum shift and the economies stand at an inflection point. What lies ahead is a period of quicksilver changes in technology, where the second order technologies such as genomics, robotics and nanotechnology will occupy a center stage.
Autonomation is one such revolution to the mankind, where the technologies do not, wholly rely on the automated devices in task executions, but work in harmony with the humans. Be it from the chip to the system, applications to architectures or products to platforms, this collaboration is tearing down the obstacles and changing everything about automation. Its relationship with ‘just-in-time’ prevents the production of defective products, eliminates overproduction, and focusses attention on understanding the issue to ensure that it never recurs during process review and implementation of design.
This technological innovation reduces the mental load on the workers, and brings more appealing work to the table for creative and skilled operators.
The outcome of a different and a unique thought process, a move away from the traditional means is collaborative robotics. Collaborative robots are light, easily programmable, flexible, economical, safe – they correspond to the exact needs of companies in industries like manufacturing, packaging and automobile assembly. They have received attention for the ability to work with humans instead of replacing them.
Collaborative robots incorporate one of the following key features:
From an EHS perspective, such attributes help in performing unsafe, highly repetitive, hazardous and unpleasant tasks in an industry. The inclusion of robots has enabled operators, programmers and maintenance workers to walk within the robot’s work envelope.
The contradiction between the working excellence of humans and robots helps in optimal sharing of their work. Robots excel in easy, repetitive handling tasks while humans have unique cognitive skills for understanding and adapting to any changes in the task. With the help of robots, non-ergonomic workstations can be greatly improved, especially where safety is an absolute prerequisite.
The car manufacturing company, Ford, has realized its potential and hence provided Exosuits to its workers in 15 factories globally. The devices wraps around the upper body and assists while lifting or reaching overhead. The increased emphasis on benefits such as reduced worker injuries, ease work in progress, higher employee satisfaction has encouraged other manufacturing companies to push this technology forward.
Cobots are used in working procedures that need high accuracy and power, such as manufacturing and other automotive industries that have activities like pick and place, CNC, packaging and palletizing, injection molding, machine tending, gluing-dispensing and welding, polishing, screw driving, assembly, quality inspection, lab analysis and testing.
ISO standard TS 15066 is a technical specification for collaborative robot system safety. This certification legitimizes their use and ensure that they are properly safeguarded.
Pioneers in the field of robotic exoskeletons like Ekso bionics, aim in amplifying the human potential with support and enhances strength, endurance and mobility across medical and industrial commercial applications. A revelation in the field of health and safety, ExoGT help those with paralysis, and benefits in stroke and spinal cord rehabilitation. Sensors and software continuously monitor and regulate leg movements and features such as clinical controls, data capture and posture support administer safe and confident robotic trainings.
Though the current Exosuits are intended for stroke patients, technologies similar to this can augment the capabilities of healthy individuals, they can be as simple as improving walking efficiency. Such technologies can be extrapolated; they can become personal mobility machines for everyone, a fashionista and may operate as a status symbol in the near future.
We can perceive a robot as a tool which can be applied universally and supports people to accomplish high precision, repetitive tasks and it acts as a companion when there are health concerns. Companies can create intelligent portions first, transition to lines, collection of lines, a factory and then, factories. EHS considerations can be fulfilled by such combinations, and industries can capitalize on the best factors of humans and robots. This cooperation does not taking away the credibility of the humans, but instead saves humans from dirty, dull and unproductive tasks, creating pathways for intelligent, creative and high-level functions.