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Cobots: the intelligent robot as a colleague

Cobots turn your factory into a smart factory. In 2014, KUKA developed the world’s first cobot: the LBR iiwa. It takes on production steps that can be strenuous, monotonous or dangerous for people. Thus, the collaborative robot optimises processes and increases productivity.

Cobots vs. robots: what exactly are cobots?

Cobots are collaborative or cooperative robots that can share the same workspace with people without any protective devices. Sensors and cameras on the cobot ensure that the robot never injures its human colleagues. Conventional industrial robots, on the other hand, require protective fences and other safety precautions.

Human-robot collaboration: safety guaranteed

Today, a robot is a machine which humans can touch and interact with. Workers and cobots share the same workspace without any concerns. This saves companies expensive feed systems and production space. When people and robots work safely together, conventional safety precautions become superfluous. In the event of unexpected contact, collaborative robots will, for example, reduce their speed and thus their kinetic energy. Hence, additional costs for safety technology and protective fences can be dispensed with. 

Without restricting fences, the way is paved for new, highly efficient and far more flexible tasks: be it as a work assistant in the industrial sector, as a service robot in public spaces, as a care robot in clinical settings or as a helper at home.

Cobots in Industry
No fence needed - the cobot LBR iiwa has sensors in its joints preventing hazardous contact.

KUKA cobots: applications in industry

Dangerous overhead work, monotonous and repetitive processes or meticulously small tasks: cobots take on these steps, ease the employees’ workload and deliver consistently high quality. With their integrated sensors, collaborative robots make it possible to automate delicate assembly tasks – they assemble automotive gears, insert rubber plugs or process flexible parts.

Thus, their human colleagues can focus on other segments of their work. Whilst the cobot is working on one part, the worker already prepares the following production step. The robots react intelligently to their environment and move independently. This is called human-robot collaboration (HRC) or collaborative robotics. Intelligent cobots open up new areas of automation: they load machines or logistics systems, build robots themselves and much more.

KUKA’s LBR iiwa cobot: ai in production

In 2014, KUKA laid the foundation for a new relationship between human and robot in production 4.0 with their LBR iiwa. As an element of a smart factory, the LBR iiwa can learn from its human colleagues due to its sensitive technology. Connected to a cloud and specifically programmed, this cobot can even document, check and optimise the results of its work independently.

Cobots in action: Ford’s body construction with four LBR iiwa

Humans and cobots work hand in hand at Ford. This case is about applying a sealant seam – a monotonous, exhausting and filthy work process. It is unpleasant work for humans but does not bother the collaborative robot: the worker has to manually programme the robot only once. The smart cobot then executes the motion sequence independently – quickly, precisely and efficiently.
Cobots as a factor of success: “Our employees can now focus on a smooth workflow,” says Michael Koch, production engineer at Ford.

LBR Med: a collaborative robot for the medical sector

Precision is a must, particularly in medical technology. With the KUKA LBR Med cobot, doctors and medical staff have a reliable colleague by their side.

The sensitive seven-axis lightweight robot can be used from diagnostics to treatment and surgical procedures. It can be used wherever strenuous, repetitive and tiring activities or particular precision are required.

KUKA's LBR Med cobot is a proven component in a variety of medical products. 
The cobot is also used by nursing staff in rehabilitation. ROBERT® the rehab robot helps patients to get used to moving again after surgeries, thus relieving the nursing staff both physically and mentally.

Advantages of cobots in industry

  • Employees

    Efficient division of labour:

    Humans and robots complement each other perfectly. Whilst the cobot carries out strenuous and monotonous tasks, the worker prepares the next steps, checks results and ensures an efficient workflow.
  • Safety first:

    Safely and quickly, the collaborative robot carries out tasks which are dangerous or unpleasant for human workers. The cobot even performs activities which demand a high level of concentration over a long period without errors.
  • Circuit Board

    Maximum automation:

    Intelligent robots are connected perfectly with one another. They learn to efficiently carry out work steps together. This is how intelligent manufacturing works with cobots (smart production). 
  • High quality

    High manufacturing quality:

    A robot works accurately, quickly and without any breaks. Also, a cobot can work intelligently and learn as well as optimise consecutive work steps. This leads to products of higher quality.

Industry of the future: how will humans and robots work together in the future?

Cobots play a key role in industry 4.0. They are all-rounders for modern, connected production and logistics that combines automation solutions with services and databases. However, a factory solely operated by robots will remain an illusion even in the smart factory. Humans will continue to be at the centre. But robots will support humans and ease their workload even more in the future.
People will be able to do their work more efficiently, more focused and, above all, more ergonomically. In an ever ageing society, this aspect becomes increasingly important. In the future, fewer and fewer employees will have to generate the entire productive output for the social systems. This is a challenge that can only be met by using the available labour more productively than in any previous generation.

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