Collaborative robots are becoming increasingly popular in the food industry. After all, they’re cost-effective, efficient, and safe to work around people! Speaking of safety, what makes a cobot safe? Here’s a quick guide on some of the safety features of cobots.

Why do cobots need special safety features?
One key quality of a collaborative robot is in its name: it needs to be collaborative. To make this possible, cobots are built with a variety of safety features that remove the need for physical guarding, while still maintaining a safe workspace for humans.

What are the Safety Features?
There are four types of safety features that can be incorporated into the design of a cobot, and any number of these can be combined depending on the intended use of the cobot.

1) Safety-rated monitor stop
This safety feature utilizes sensors to examine the cobot’s environment. If anyone is detected within a predetermined safety zone, the cobot will stop its path of movement. Once a person leaves this safety zone, the cobot automatically resumes and continues working. This feature is great for preventing workplace injury, as the cobot and human worker will never move simultaneously in the same space. However, depending on the extent of the safety zone, you may lose the feeling of collaboration, as the worker and the cobot can’t directly work together.

2) Hand guiding
This safety feature allows a cobot and a human worker to function in the same space, but only if the worker is directly controlling the cobot’s actions. Since the human operator will be guiding the cobot, they will be fully aware of the cobot’s movements, and they will not be in any danger as long as they operate the cobot correctly. However, even though the cobot can function while a person is within its safety zone, they still cannot work on tasks together simultaneously, since the human worker is responsible for controlling the cobot’s actions.

3) Speed and separation monitoring
This safety feature is similar to safety-rated monitor stop, but instead of stopping completely, the cobot slows down to a safe speed as a person enters its safety zone. The cobot will still stop if a human is detected to be too close, but the allowable proximity before stopping is much smaller compared to a safety-rated monitor stop’s safety zones. If a person enters the cobot’s safety zone causing it to slow down, they can leave the safety zone to have the cobot return to full speed again. Depending on the size of the safety zone, this feature allows a human worker and a cobot to work together simultaneously, since the cobot will be operating at a slow enough speed to prevent injury.

4) Power and force limiting
This safety feature utilizes force sensors to stop a cobot’s movement if it comes in contact with a person. When combined with speed and separation monitoring, worker safety can be significantly improved. Even if a cobot works at a reduced speed, there may still be accidental contact with a human worker, but this feature prevents any additional movement from the cobot if this happens. As a result, people can feel even safer while working together with a cobot in its safety zone, as they won’t have to worry about any pain or injury if contact occurs.

Consider This
With these features in mind, it is important to remember that safety configurations will differ from cobot to cobot. NEVER make assumptions about a cobot’s safety features, and always check the exact specifications of any integrated safety features. By doing so, you can ensure that the cobot is an appropriate fit for your work environment. Also, you can prevent workplace injuries by ensuring that the cobot only operates within its intended configurations. Fortunately, safety features are usually customizable based on user needs, so if you feel that a cobot isn’t safe enough for your workers, you can likely request an upgrade.

We hope this quick overview on safety features has provided you with a better understanding of What Makes a Cobot Safe.

If you’re interested in utilizing cobots for your business, Apex Motion Control has in-house experts available to the options available and how quickly you can integrate a Baker-Bot into your production line.