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New starter: Working with robots

08 Sep 2019Technology

Robots are entering the workplace, but not all of them are replacing people.

In fact, the new division of labour between humans and machines could create up to 58 million new jobs by 2022.

For industry and manufacturing in particular, collaborative robots – or cobots – are now making work easier for people. Cobots are collaborating with human colleagues to perform repetitive tasks, shouldering some of the physical burden.

YuMi – short for ‘you’ and ‘me’- is a two-armed robot that works alongside operators to assist with the assembly of small components.

Working together

5G enables real-time communication between the robot and operator, so they’re able to work together quickly and efficiently on a production line.

YuMi is able to react and respond within milliseconds so it doesn’t hit his human co-worker, making it safe to work side by side. Robots are after all heavy and extremely powerful – likely to cause serious injury in the event of a collision.

This means that there’s no longer any need for fencing/and or caging, making human/robot collaboration fairly simple.

YuMi in action. Picture credit: Vodafone

“The collaborative robot is connected via 5G to a set of sensors – in this case an intelligent device monitoring the immediate area to see where the operator is, recognising the movements they make during the assembly process,” says Carlo Ongini, sector lead at for manufacturing and industry 4.0 at Vodafone Italia.

“The robot and the operator cooperate to implement and assemble components.”

“All this is enabled by 5G infrastructure, 5G connections, high bandwidth for data transmission and very low latency, which lets the robot react in real time.”

New robotic production lines are also equipped with 5G and sensors, boosting productivity. They can react in real-time to motion and help automate processes, improving safety and precision.

Flexible working

For humans working alongside machines, 5G drives better accuracy thanks to technologies like Microsoft’s HoloLens and augmented reality (AR).

AR headsets feed detailed information in real-time to workers along the entire production line. They can identify the right component, giving users the relevant assembly instructions, including which parts to use, and where to place them.

AR and robotics. Picture credit: Vodafone

This gives workers variety – allowing them to rotate around the factory floor and quickly adapt to each new station. This in turn lifts the physical restrictions on an operator associated with performing repetitive tasks, making injury less likely.

Installation is easy – all you need is a network of 5G hotspots and sensors. So no expensive infrastructure or cabling, meaning it costs far less.

Mr Ongini believes this will transform how we work, with “5G [revolutionising] the future of services and businesses, especially in industry.”

“Technology will change the world of work, because we’ll move on to activity that focuses more and more on development, implementation, research and planning – so we can work out what has the greatest impact in different fields”.

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