Smart Machines & Factories
Cobot boosts machine efficiency
Published:  22 February, 2017

As manufacturers face increasing demands for process efficiency, having the right robot is key to automation success, especially in the era of smart manufacturing. Universal Robots has developed a range of six axis robot arms with highly flexible deployment. Using a UR robot supplied by, X-STK | Applied Automation, HepcoMotion was able to automate a process in the factory and the company is seeing a significant increase in machine efficiency. Smart Machines & Factories reports.

With an increase in customer demand, HepcoMotion wanted a faster, more efficient process for loading and unloading a CNC milling machine. A UR10 six axis robot arm was installed and Hepco says it has seen efficiency on the machine increase by 47%.

The linear motion company was facing a number of challenges to the automation of this process. The robot would be required to meet a range of specific criteria for the application, including size and reach.

A challenging application

The features of the UR robot made it suitable for this application. Space was limited which ruled out many of the robots which require guarding. Universal Robots are collaborative and can operate without guarding, working safely right alongside employees after a risk assessment has been carried out. Built-in force control limits the force at contact. They are also lightweight and can be easily moved and redeployed to other tasks in the factory.

The largest of the UR robots, the UR10, still fit within the available area. While the other UR robots have smaller footprints, the 1300mm reach radius of the UR10 was required for the operation.

As the largest of the Universal Robots range, the UR10 is ideal for heavier weight tasks such as packaging and palletising. The robots are categorised based on payload limits and the UR3 and UR5 also differ in reach, weight and footprint. The UR5 is suited to applications such as pick and place and the UR3 is a lighter weight table top arm.

The need to automate was being driven by a requirement to fulfil more orders more quickly. Therefore, taking the machine out of action for any length of time would have been unacceptable. The UR robots can be deployed very quickly. No specialist programming skills are required and Hepco was able to get the UR10 up and running with minimal disruption. The average set up time for a UR robot is just half a day.


The pricing means UR robots do not demand large capital investment traditionally required by industrial robots. With all the advantages of advanced robot automation but none of the traditional costs associated with programming, set up and guarding, the average payback period is 195 days.

The collaborative age

Collobative robots are heralding a new age in robotics. With significant, rapid growth predicted, cobots will undoubtedly play a major role in the future of manufacturing. They are stimulating development and innovation and are a key part of Industry 4.0, opening up new areas for automation.

According to ABI Research, this segment of robotics is expected to increase roughly tenfold to $1 billion by 2020, aided by on-going technological innovations and decreasing prices.

It has been reported that 30% of the collaborative robots sold are being used in applications where a traditional articulated robot would operate. That means 70% are being used in new applications. As they are easy to use, flexible and relatively inexpensive, they are bringing value to areas where automation was previously impractical. They are making it accessible to smaller companies and improving productivity. For sectors such as medical assembly, cobots are an attractive proposition. They cause little disruption, being easily deployed to work alongside humans on the production line and do not require a large capital outlay.

While the UK may lag behind the rest of Europe in its use of industrial robots, manufacturers are beginning to realise the benefits offered by collaborative robots. Adopting new technology is vital if manufacturers are to become more competitive and profitable.

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