Automation is getting a lot of buzz, and for good reason. Businesses that automate production processes often see an increase in work efficiency and output. They either opt for higher-priced industrial robots or lower-priced collaborative robots or “cobots.” On the surface, it may seem wiser to go for the lower-cost option, but there are other factors to consider before committing to either type of robot.
Initial and Actual Costs
Cobots are a set of robots designed to do tasks that humans consider too unsafe or too repetitive. The initial costs are lower because cobots don’t entirely replace human workers. Not only are they more affordable, but they are also easier to integrate into production systems. Since cobots take on tedious or dangerous jobs, the employees can focus on tasks that require a human touch.
Despite assurances that cobots are safe to use with humans, some cobots may need to force limiters or extra fencing to follow safety standards. For example, a cobot might need caging if it is using a knife or a similarly dangerous tool. These safeguards add extra costs on top of the base price of some cobots.
In comparison, traditional industrial robots are more expensive, but they are built to handle heavier tasks and higher payloads. Thus, they already have safety measures built-in and usually do not need add-on measures.
Speaking of power, manufacturers often boast that cobots have low energy consumption. That would mean lower power costs, right?
Yes, but lower energy consumption does not necessarily mean higher energy efficiency; that is, the amount of output per X amount of energy.
If, for example, your low-energy-consuming cobot only consumes 900 W to produce two units of product, it is less efficient than an industrial robot that consumes 2,000 W of energy to produce six units of the same product within the same amount of time.
Cost vs. Output
While lower cost is of interest to businesses, the cost must always be seen as an investment.
More than the cost, businesses should consider the return on investment. That’s why special attention is needed when choosing between an industrial robot and a cobot.
Cobots, are specially designed to work alongside human workers, so they move slower as they carry heavier loads.
This complies with certain safety standards. On the other hand, industrial robots are not encumbered by such standards, being made specifically for heavier payloads and more difficult tasks.
Thus, industrial robots can work faster and produce more in less time, making the company achieve full ROI in a shorter time.
Ease of Use
Users prefer solutions that are intuitive and easy to use. According to the Global Robotics Report, simple programming is one of the key things customers look for when buying a robot. This is where cobots have the upper hand. In fact, some cobots can be “taught” by manual hand guiding, making installation and configuration easy. Often, users don’t need coding or engineering expertise to set up, configure, and adjust these cobots. In contrast, it’s more complicated to install and program industrial robots.
The Bottom Line
Collaborative robots or industrial robots both have pros and cons. Take note that some cobots may not have the disadvantages or advantages presented here. The same goes for industrial robots, especially since newer models have improved considerably. Ultimately, the choice boils down to which solution matches your business goals, existing workforce, and investment threshold.