When it comes to automation, getting rid of protective fences is an industry goal. They are inflexible and require a lot of space. When protective fences go away, many immediately think of small, lightweight robots that move cautiously and can not carry large loads. Does this inevitably have to be the case when the robot and the person share a common workspace? In conversation with Christian Tarragona, Senior Vice President of Research and Development at KUKA.
Christian Tarragona: We are seeing the trend that those who have not yet thought about automation are more and more interested in the topic. Their top priority is that they can quickly and, above all, easily automate individual work steps in their own production. As soon as they have to think about a protective fence, most people jump off. And this is where human-robot collaboration (MRK) comes into play. MRK helps a lot to be easy to automate. The protective fence falls away and you can just show the robot what it has to do – without a high programming effort. So, first of all, the main thing is to automate a previously manual activity. Only in a second step is then thought about how humans and robots share the work space.
MRK does not necessarily mean “human-robot-collaboration”, but could also stand for “human-robot-coexistence” in many applications?
Christian Tarragona: Exactly. Or for human-robot cooperation. There are different levels, so to speak. In coexistence, humans and robots work side by side, the work spaces do not overlap and a touch of the robot is not provided. In cooperation, humans and robots have a common working space, but do not work hand in hand with every step of the way. Rather, there is a defined engagement zone in which the robot slows its speed as soon as the human reaches into it. During the collaboration, humans and robots work in a common workspace. Touch between the two is allowed and here too the speed is adjusted to ensure safety at all times.