Much has been written about collaborative robot (cobot) arms as the next big thing for robotics, manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics. Cobots are touted as “the” solution for smart factories and e-commerce fulfillment. However, an isolated machine doesn’t really make a factory smart. This is where software platforms come in, as they tie machine data and production data with the overall smart factory processes. This becomes even more critical when a large number of cobots are installed and operators need to monitor and manage production in multiple locations. Let’s look at how three of the leading companies implement their vision of a robot platform.
Formant is a pioneer in providing a universal platform for robots and cobots. The fact that robots operate in production environments out in the world and not in a laboratory often means they need human observation and intervention. The goal of robot platforms is to reduce the cognitive load so one human operator can manage a large fleet. Formant enables fleet-level management and operations so one person can perform three main operations:
- Observe: Monitor and visualize live and historical states of the cobot or robot fleet. Determine root cause issues in seconds.
- Analyze: Ask questions at scale about the company’s engineering, operational, and business data. Summarize, filter, and drill down along meaningful dimensions.
- Operate: Configure, operate, and manage robot systems. Intervene when needed. Respond to issues in real time.
The Intera software platform that was developed to control the cobots from Rethink is a pioneer operating system for collaborative robotics. It provides an easy-to-deploy approach to industrial automation for setting up the company’s cobots. The software, which is easy to use and integrate, is designed to drive manufacturing productivity and enable staff members to accept their new robot coworkers. Intera Insights provides critical production metrics directly on the robot’s display and can help operators identify production anomalies before they become problems. Key performance indicators, such as cycle times and part counts, are accessible on the factory floor in real time. The same data is also fed to Intera Studio, providing visibility into shared data and responses to other team members.
Source: Rethink Robotics
The Actin SDK from Energid is designed to satisfy the need for more advanced software that enables dynamic actions and decisions for robots. Actin is a software framework for robot control and simulation, allowing users to control and simulate any type of robotic application. The framework integrates with the Robot Operating System (ROS) standard and can incorporate third-party modules. Actin is particularly adept at handling complex robotic systems and high axis or kinematically redundant robots (numerous degrees of freedom). Energid’s parent company is Teradyne, which also owns Universal Robots, the largest cobot maker in the world.
The Future of Cobot Integration
As competition heats up for smart factories and fulfillment centers, and as more companies adopt large numbers of cobots to perform repetitive tasks in their smart factories, there will be a growing need for software that can tie everything together in a unified platform. I expect to see more vendors of cobot arms start to include integration software with their machines. In addition, a few companies like Formant will provide a universal platform to help make smart factories even smarter.
If you want more details about cobots and smart manufacturing, check out Tractica’s recent Collaborative Robots report with market analysis and forecasts. And watch our Robotics Advisory Service page for our upcoming Collaborative Robots Market Radar report, which focuses on the top six cobot companies that you need to know.