INDUSTRY EQUIPMENT


Bringing the human touch back to packaging 5.0

05/11/2018

CATEGORY: Machinery and applications BRAND: Universal Robots


Although there is the global industry movement 4.0 around the creation of the intelligent and connected factory of the future, there is also a new trend towards bringing the human touch back to production which is transforming the manufacturing process: Industry 5.0, a scenario where robots handle the tools and perform all the tasks whilst the human worker supervises the operations.


Jordi Pelegrí

 

The pressure to find the optimal price-performance ratio is increasing and in Europe it is increasingly difficult due to the increase in labour costs and the shortage of qualified and trained technicians.

The advanced level of automation in the simple production process that already exists in Europe opens an opportunity in the world market for small and medium-sized businesses within the packaging industry and offers an attractive alternative to the manufacturing brands to move production facilities to low-cost countries.

However, for tasks that require a high level of precision, the sensitive touch of the human hand has been essential for a long time and that can be problematic when it is exactly what is lacking, that is to say, qualified personnel to stack and pack. At the same time, production environments become increasingly less standardised – as production runs shorten – and require more adaptive and intelligent robotic systems. 

Thus, they become essential to carry out tasks such as palletising, bin picking, packaging and everything else related to the packaging of objects and products with different dimensions and weights. This means that short production runs can be easily automated without the need to re-programme the robot each time the product packaging size changes.

 

Accuracy and Speed

The key is in the force/torque sensors which allow collaborative robots to be equipped for packaging tasks for which the sensitivity of human hands has always been essential. This allows for greater speed and precision in all cases and – in repetitive tasks – even larger than the human hand and helps to increase efficiency and performance in productivity and is a way of reacting to the growing demands without significant additional costs.

Although in production processes, automation can only be used to its full potential when it is alongside the sharpness of human creativity, influencing during the processes. In this situation, man and machine complement each other, the human employee can use their creativity to devote themselves to more complex projects and use the cobot as a multifunctional tool.

This is what happens with the new series of Universal Robots with more advanced versions of the models in the classic series – the UR3e, the UR5e and the UR10e – each one named after its maximum load. This new platform of collaborative robot includes technological advances that allow for a quicker development to address an even wider variety of packaging tasks, thanks to the greater precision and sensitivity provided by the force/torque sensor integrated into the robotic arm.

It is a new intuitive user interface and redesigned touch-sensitivity that reduces the cognitive load and speeds up the development of the programme by simplifying the flow of programming which allows for a reduction in programming through a few clicks on a new, light, wide screen programming console.

 

More and better roles for the human employee

Collaborative robots can work hand in hand with human workers. They are useful because they can take on increasingly versatile, accessible and flexible tasks whilst the human employee is promoted to positions of greater value and responsibility.

The connected and collaborative workforce presents great opportunities to increase productivity and innovation in the industrial sector. It also presents the prospect of improving safety and satisfaction in the workplace.

According to a recent study by the World Economic Forum (1) by 2025, more than half of all current tasks in the workplace will be carried out by machines, a very high rate compared with the current 29%. However, this study also indicates that the robotic revolution will create more than 58 million new jobs over the next five years.

In conclusion, the option of using collaborative robots with force/torque sensors to provide touch-sensitivity is a value that benefits companies. It allows Spanish SMEs to access the global market and to be more competitive due to their versatility and ease of use.

 

(1) The Future of Jobs, World Economic Forum

 

Jordi Pelegrí is the Iberian Director of Business Development for Universal Robots, a Danish company formed in 2005 with the aim of making robotic technology accessible to small and medium-sized businesses. In our country, they have offices in Barcelona.

 

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