Co-Bots Address Robot Challenges for Machine Shops

Although a traditional machine operator can work faster than a robot over a short period of time, an operator can’t keep up such a pace continually without rest. In almost every case, the addition of robotic automation to an existing process results in an eye-opening increase in daily production.


Like most technologies, robots are continually advancing in their ability to do more in less time. Do more in less time. Most of us have uttered that wish often, especially when it relates to machine shop operations. So if shops can use robots to help us accomplish productivity goals and the ROI is good, then it is worth a try.

If you haven’t seen the new class of robots in action, called collaborative robots (co-bots), you may have an image in your mind of large, unwieldy robots in safety cages in big factories. Forget about that common misconception, and instead, picture a robot working directly alongside workers with no caging in a medium to small machine shop. Many co-bots are lightweight, flexible and can easily be moved and reprogrammed to solve new tasks, meeting short-run production challenges faced by many machine shops.

Previously, robots were considered too costly to use in a shop, but not anymore. An old rule of thumb states that the cost of a robot would be equivalent to one worker’s two-year salary. But the new wave of co-bots costs close to one fourth of that price, according to “Collaborative Robots for DIY Automation.” Combine that with the faster turnaround time that robots bring to the workplace and co-bots make sense for many applications.

Although a traditional machine operator can work faster than a robot over a short period of time, an operator can’t keep up such a pace continually without rest. As illustrated in “Developing a Company Plan for Robotics,” in almost every case, the addition of robotic automation to an existing process results in an eye-opening increase in daily production. A 25-percent increase is common, while productivity gains of 150 percent are possible, without changing any cutting speeds or feed rates.

The user friendliness of co-bots is attractive as well. Instead of requiring skilled programmers, these co-bots come with a tablet sized touchscreen user interface, where the user guides the robot arm by indicating movements on the screen. Programming can also be done by grabbing the robot arm and showing it the desired path of movement.

In some cases, co-bots provide safety to an operation. For instance, before implementation of co-bots, operators may need to put their hands close to a brake press where there’s a chance for an accident to occur. But with load/unload robot capabilities in this process, there is no chance of anyone getting injured.

To read more about collaborative robots and their benefits, visit “Collaborative Robots for DIY Automation” and “Developing a Company Plan for Robotics.” Watch a video of a co-bot participating in completing large-quantity work. 

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