The start of robotics in the industrial sector is conventionally traced back to 1978, the year of the first use of the SCARA (Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm) model, a robot with a revolutionary four-axis movement used for pick-and-place applications. Since then, industrial applications have seen the introduction of the use of robotics within the manufacturing processes. We have been experiencing a strong acceleration in recent years, thanks to the innovation brought by Industry 4.0 and the reduction in the costs of the equipment that has brought robotics even within small companies. Companies, therefore have more and more automatic systems and they are technologically more advanced also because they are “robotic”. But are we sure that robotics is always the right way? Many industrial sectors have taken advantage of this type of innovation, in particular those that have been able to take advantage of the best aspects of robotics. This includes labelling, a strategic sector within the B2B, especially in logistics, which requires precision, speed and flexibility. Traditionally, industrial robots have always been intended for dirty or dangerous work, but there are still processes that require the combination of the repetitive and precise work of a robot and the free will of the human being. For this reason, the definition of COBOT (collaborative robots) has come forward since the 1990s. A type of robot that interacts with a human operator in a workspace. The robots in this case no longer work autonomously but they are involved in a process which also includes humans. The robots, indeed the co-bots, become part of a collaborative space, and today there are an average of 74 robotic units per 10,000 employees. Very often the use of COBOT is associated with an innate safety concept, but this is not necessarily true, since it is not said that these robots are intrinsically safe. The ISO / TS 15066 standard requires compliance with various safety-related parameters, including manual driving, speed monitoring and separation or limitation of force and power.
This means that COBOTs do not necessarily eliminate the risk of accidents at work, as many of the parameters listed above depend on the type of application and the relative programming of the COBOT and not on its perceived intrinsic safety. This consideration is to be kept in mind in all sectors, including and above all in labelling. Because if the COBOT would move either too fast or with too wide an arc then the impact could result in injuries. In this event the advantages of the new technology would become secondary.
From the point of view of safety regulations, the work area must be made safe with a consequent increase in costs related to sensors and protections, frustrating or reducing any advantages brought by the introduction of the robot. It is therefore important that when a robotic element is introduced into a business process, the company assesses the associated benefits and risks simultaneously. The advantages in terms of processing remain evident, they include flexibility and optimization in processing as well as productivity growth. In industrial labelling, efficiency, precision and reliability of the production process and logistics are even more strategic elements. In general, that of COBOTs represents a more “intelligent” work system, this however requires the application of “intelligence” to all the challenges that the new industry will face in the next few years: that of safety and the effective economic advantage of robotics and how it can be combined with product identification technology. EIDOS, with its vast experience in the world of product identification and label application, is the ideal partner for analyzing customer applications and needs and therefore providing the most suitable solution, whatever the technology that will be used: traditional pneumatic, electric or COBOT applicators.