Thursday, May 2, 2013

What is a “Collaborative Robot”?

This is an exciting new category of Robot. If you think back to the 1950’s when the term ‘robot’ was first created, robots were imagined as mechanical representations of humans. They looked like humans with a head, a torso, two arms, etc., and could perform human-like tasks. An example is ‘Rosie’, the robot maid on The Jetsons cartoon.

Our new product, the ‘Baxter’ robot from Rethink Robotics, is a collaborative robot that is designed to work side-by-side with humans, doing human-like tasks. The key to being collaborative is that the robot must be able to work safely with humans nearby. Baxter has three important levels of safety:
·         Passive Safety - Inherently safe mechanical design, with compliant joints, back-drivable motors, protective covers and no pinch points
·         Active Safety –
o   Each of the seven (7) joints in each of Baxter’s arms has active force sensing which will limit the force exerted and will detect obstructions
o   360° sonar-based detection of people and environment
·         External Safety – Ability to connect external Emergency Stop mechanisms such as push buttons and safety mats

Most industrial robots today have to work in cages, to protect workers. Because of its inherently safe operation, Baxter does not need a cage, making it even easier to move around and repurpose.

Greg Selke
CEO ONExia Inc