Three Trends to Watch in Cobot Development

By Michael Steuer | November 30, 2021

Cobots require high levels of functional safety, high load-bearing capacity with increased arm speed, and a lightweight design. Specialized connector solutions make it so.

Cobots in industrial applications

The industrial robotics space is changing fast. The latest generation of robots is taking on more complex tasks than ever before — and increasingly working alongside humans. Collaborative robots, or cobots, have adoption rates that top 11% year-over-year, representing one of the fastest growing sectors in industrial automation. This is for good reason — cobots offer a plethora of benefits to the industrial sector, from enhanced productivity to increased efficiency.

When looking ahead to the future of cobots, there are three important trends to keep in mind to ensure safe and durable operation.

1) The Rising Importance of Torque Sensors

robotic arm in industrial applications

Designing cobot components, especially robotic arms, is no small task. From unique customized solutions to harsh industrial environments, robotic arms must meet difficult engineering challenges. Industry-leading cobot requirements include high levels of functional safety, high load-bearing capacity with increased arm speed, and a lightweight design while still being compact, safe, and capable of complex functionality.

Additionally, robotic arm joints are subject to temperature instability, alongside extreme axial loading and force. Solutions must be durable to ensure accuracy and safety while being subjected to torque and high repetition.

Torque sensors can help designers fulfill the unique requirements of a robotic arm joint. The microfused technology in TE Connectivity’s torque sensor solutions has high load-bearing capacity and durability. Because microfused technology bonds silicon onto stainless steel using glass, it also creates a reliable and stable bond able to withstand temperature instability.

In addition to stability, torque sensors also provide dual redundancy. Two data channels are fed through a single chip which also has segregated channels, thereby preserving the integrity of the independent data outputs. This enables two separate measurements from different locations on a single structure, increasing accuracy and safety.

In a time when cobots are rapidly flooding the industrial space, torque sensor solutions are essential for ensuring safety and reliability. 

2) Building for Rugged Environments

Industrial robot and cobot applications often operate in harsh environments, including extremely high temperatures or high humidity and moisture conditions. Cobots might face chemicals used as industrial cleaning agents or experience electromagnetic interference on the factory floor. Through it all, the data connection points among robot and cobot applications must be durable enough to withstand these challenging conditions and keep production moving.

Heavy duty connectors (HDCs) are designed to provide a strong connection in volatile conditions. HDCs help ensure flexible design options with dynamic inserts alongside power, signal, and data connectivity. These durable connectors also ensure that the large quantities of data from the robots and the manufacturing environment are gathered and routed at the highest speed without interruption.

Reliable connectivity is essential, especially in harsh environments where humans and robots work alongside each other.

3) Flexibility and Miniaturization

In addition to rugged connectivity, there is increased demand for flexible and miniaturized cobot solutions in the industrial space. Thanks to their relative affordability compared to traditional robotics installations, cobots have gained in popularity with smaller and mid-size companies that are looking to automate production. However, these small and mid-size companies aren’t willing to rebuild their entire industrial process around a cobot. The solution, therefore, needs to be able to fit into spaces and processes that already exist.

Flexibility is also driven by the change in manufacturing from high-volume production to customization. Increasingly, solutions need to be adaptable to meet specific size requirements or production needs that fall outside simple standardization.

As miniaturization becomes a megatrend for the entire industrial space, cobots are no exception. Solutions are expected to be more compact, yet more powerful, than ever. Miniaturization of cobots also opens unique opportunities for electro-mechanical helpers that can exist outside huge production facilities. Institutions and businesses, for instance, could benefit from miniaturized cobots with the intelligence to wash dishes.

Cobots are on the rise. It is essential to ensure reliability, safety, and flexibility when it comes to adopting these solutions. The right connectivity solutions help meet these goals.

Explore TE Connectivity’s industrial robotics portfolio.

Michael Steuer
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