INDUSTRIAL AND COLLABORATIVE ROBOT SAFETY
Today’s rigorous demands in manufacturing call for precision, speed and at times the ability to move large loads, all at a high cycle rate. One possible solution to help ease this burden on the operator is the use of a robot.
According to ANSI/RIA 15.06, an industrial robot is defined as “automatically controlled, reprogrammable multipurpose manipulator, programmable in three or more axes, which can be either fixed in place or mobile for use in industrial automation applications.” In other words, a machine which can be programmed to automatically perform more than one task and has movement in three or more planes. Typically, the industrial robot is used to move heavy loads or interact with machinery in processes that would otherwise be hazardous to an operator. Due to the common hazardous nature of these applications, we can see why the industrial robot is surrounded by hard guarding.
However, there are some applications where hazards may appear over time due to repetitive operations requiring meticulous and/or strenuous movement. For slow paced applications, where an industrial robot cannot interact in a process with great accuracy, a collaborative robot may be best suited. ANSI/RIA 15.06 defines a collaborative operation as a state in which “purposely designed robots work in direct cooperation with a human within a defined workspace.” It is important to note that just because a collaborative robot it being used, this does not automatically equate to a collaborative operation. Several factors must be examined to ensure the application is safe for the operator to interact with a collaborative robot such as the environment, scope of work defined for the robot and human operator, material being handled, etc.
Whether it is an industrial or collaborative robot, its use is meant to ease production demands and help keep the operator free from application hazards. Both have a unique position in the manufacturing industry, and both pose unique hazards. As with any machine and application, a risk assessment must be carried out to identify hazards and risks for the robot and robot use as considered in ISO10218 for the industrial robot and ISO/TS 15066 for the collaborative robot.