6 Stages of Human-Robot Collaboration

While the recent move towards collaborative robots has created a lot of excitement, there’s more to adopting a “cobot” than meets the eye. Optimal utilization starts with a successful marriage of the application to the right stage of Human-Robot Collaboration. But how do you know which stage is right for you?

Collaboration starts at the application

Thinking about investing in a collaborative robot? How do you know if it’s right for you? Even if the robot is considered collaborative, the application itself may not be. Adapting the right stage of Human-Robot Collaboration to your application is the most important step towards ensuring the success of any implementation.


Stage One_Fixed Safety Fence

  • Classic configuration where hard guarding separates the operator from the robot
  • Eliminates contact
  • Majority of robot applications
Stage 1: Fixed safety fence separates robot and operator

Stage Two_Laser (Virtual Guarding) Separation

  • Occasionally shared workspace
    • Ex. Refilling components or changing out pallets
  • Safety-rated monitored stop
  • Power stays on, but contact only possible with stationary robot
Stage 2: Virtual guarding separation for occasionally shared workspace

Stage Three_Laser (Virtual Guarding) Separation

  • Intended shared workspace where intervention can be more frequent
    • Ex. Operator manually loads and unloads parts in the work cell
  • Speed and separation monitoring where the robot slows more often
  • Contact is only possible with a stationary robot
Stage 3: Virtual guarding separation for frequently shared workspace

The emphasis has become too much on the robot and less on the application, when in fact, it is the reverse that’s true.

Simon Whitton, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing, North America

Stage Four_Shared Workspace with No Virtual Guarding

  • Robot and operator work next to each other, but contact is not required
  • Power and force limited, where contact is possible, but not desired
Stage 4: Robot and Operator share the workspace with no laser - virtual barrier

Stage Five_Operator and Robot Must Work Together Collaboratively to Complete the Process

Ex. Hand guiding for assembly or teaching

  • Contact is desired, simultaneous motion
  • Power and force limited
Stage 5: Operator and Robot must work together collaboratively to complete process

Stage Six_Autonomous Collaborative Robot

  • Shared workspace where the robot and human may move simultaneously
  • Robot is power force limited and AGV has speed & separation monitoring
  • Frees collaboration from what is now considered a fixed event
Stage 6: Autonomous collaborative robot

Still not sure what stage your application is?

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