With automation pushing towards a new way of understanding production – digital, connected, safe and productive, and applicable to sectors and businesses of all sizes – an Italian company called Universal Robots has embarked on a mission – to guarantee the opportunities offered by collaborative robots for businesses of all sizes, in every sector of production.
Alessio Cocchi, Sales Development Manager at Universal Robots
“Our collaborative robots, or cobots, as they are usually called, are the physical expression of our collaborative robotics ideas,” explains Alessio Cocchi, Sales Development Manager at Universal Robots. “These machines are easy to install, start, and program. They are lightweight, and therefore can be installed in any position; they do not require specific support structures and can be moved very easily. Cobots are also very simple to program and do not require special skills or previous experience, thanks to an intuitive tablet-based programming interface and to the opportunities offered by the manual guide and self-learning function. The operator guides the robot with his own hand, and the robot will memorise the trajectories and then immediately repeat the operation. These features are the prerequisite for optimising economic leverage: our cobots provide the best ROI in the industry.”
The prices of Universal Robots’ cobots range from €20,000 to €30,000, depending on the model. Each cobot works on average for 35,000 hours (around four years) without needing preventive maintenance or regular replacement. “The economic convenience of purchasing a robot combines with the cost-effectiveness of applying it, if necessary, to an existing line or machine. The performance, efficiency, and productivity improvements guaranteed by robotics translate into an improvement in the economic performance of the entire automation and of the entire process on which the cobot is implemented,” Mr Cocchi says. He adds that one last thing should be specified: “the naked cobot is unable to operate without the right tools, which, of course, are an additional cost. However, extremely affordable tools exist for many applications and, for a small investment, allow the robot to express its full potential.”
In Malta, there are two sectors that are of specific importance to the manufacturing industry – food and beverages, and plastic processing. Can Universal Robots address these areas effectively? “For each of these sectors we provide excellent solutions,” Mr Cocchi replies. “For example, in the plastics field, we offer full integration with the EUROMAP67 protocol, which enables the cobot to interact fully and effectively with the plastics machines. The cobot can also be installed as a back-up to presses and to perform a number of equally important operations such as deburring, flaming, assembly, painting, and more. These are operations that only an articulated robot can handle, unlike the classic gantry robot typically used for loading and unloading presses. The cobot extends these capabilities. This allows greater operational flexibility and, in view of the reduced weight and size of UR cobots, no additional cost in terms of production layout.”
“For the food and beverages sector, cobots are particularly suitable because they can operate in confined spaces or on the typically dense production lines of the F&B industry. An additional guarantee is that the machines comply with all hygiene requirements, and provide the precision and repeatability needed in this sector. Manipulation, boxing and end-of-line operations are among the specialisations of our cobots.”
UR cobots have benefits both for the production process, ensuring improved productivity, efficiency, and quality, and for cost-effectiveness, with the highest ROI in the industry. Entrepreneurs have the opportunity to work better, to make their business more competitive, to improve the company's technological capability and the skills of their operators, who, with minimal effort, will be able to automate processes, to leave the heaviest or most repetitive jobs to the cobot, to use a ‘smart tool’ that can optimise performance and improve workplace ergonomics.
But will cobots make human workers obsolete? Mr Cocchi doesn’t think so – quite the contrary, in fact. “At Universal Robots we’ve coined the expression Industry 5.0, the fifth industrial revolution, meaning the return of the human touch. For us, man and robot will work together, each one maximising the abilities of the other. The robot will do the hardest and most repetitive jobs, the human will use his intelligence, problem-solving skills, and creativity to guide processes, invent new solutions, and drive automation. Everyone will work better and give the best of themselves. And the cobot will be recognised for what it is: an intelligent tool that can improve processes and performance.”
Mr Cocchi believes that no company should feel intimidated by the prospect of introducing robots into the company – in other words, don’t be afraid to automate! “UR cobots are perfect for small and medium-sized businesses and offer them so many opportunities to improve their processes and compete better on their core markets. For an absolutely affordable cost, you can obtain great benefits. Try it and see! I would advise Maltese companies to contact our Yield 247 distributor to arrange a robotics demo, perform a feasibility analysis, and receive all the information they need about automation,” he concludes.