Mobile Cobots: Adding mobility to collaborative robot arms

From an early stage combinations of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and collaborative robotic arms (cobots) have been developed.

In recent years with rising labor costs in developed nations, a growing focus on productivity, a shortage of skilled labor, and the massive growth in the e-commerce industry, have these mobile cobots have gained in popularity, and according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) the use of mobile cobots is expected to grow significantly and the range of applications for a combined solution will widen.

Simply put, a mobile cobot is a collaborative robot arm put on an autonomous mobile robot platform. It sounds simple, but in order for the solution to work efficiently, both hardware and software to combine the AMR and the cobot must be applied. The Danish company Enabled Robotics has over the last years succeeded with the ER-Flex Mobile Cobot that uses Universal Robot’s cobot and MiR’s autonomous mobile robot with Enabled Robotics software and hardware, which means that customers are offered one integrated solution, handled with one simple user-interface for ease of use.

Increased productivity throughout the value chain

Cobots collaborate with humans and reduce operator intervention and boost productivity directly. When adding mobility, cobots can achieve a high degree of autonomy, and automate new types of tasks within material handling and production and allow workers to focus on higher value activities. The combined solution can also allow the same cobot to be used in different production scenarios for maximum utility. Mobile cobots can thereby increase efficiency in many different workflows significantly.

How companies can benefit from mobile cobots

Mobile cobots can be a gamechanger for companies that are struggling with attracting and retaining skilled labor and/or need to bring down production costs while improving productivity.

#1: Maximum utility of a single cobot

Because the mobile cobot can drive autonomously from one working station to another and no longer requires an employee to push it, it avoids bottlenecks and can work almost 24/7.

 #2: Improved productivity

With mobility, cobots achieve a higher degree of flexibility and autonomy creating efficiencies in tasks such as material handling and allowing employees to focus on higher value activities

 #3: Accelerated automation across workflows

While cobots have primarily been used in manufacturing settings and AMRs in logistics, the combined solution can automate new workflows within material handling, quality control, inspection, production etc.

#4: Better use of space

Mobile cobots are smaller than most industrial robots and do not require changes to the factory layout. They are a compact solutions, which makes them suitable for working in areas where there is not much space available.

#5: Improved workplace safety

Both mobile robots and cobots are developed with safety in mind. Both technologies take over the dull, dangerous, and dirty tasks for employees, and mobile cobots navigate safely on the shopfloor in the same environment as the employees.