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Festo is driving human-robot collaboration forward with pneumatic Cobots.
First pneumatic robot on the market: the Festo Cobot is easy to operate, does not require a safety fence and will be attractively priced. © Festo SE & Co. KG

Industrial robots usually work through a specific workload for which they have been programmed in advance. In contrast, collaborative robots, or Cobots for short, work together with humans, which is why they are not separated from them in the production process by protective devices. They take the strain off particularly strenuous or monotonous tasks and make work easier and healthier. Hardly any other industrial market segment, it is assumed, will grow as rapidly in the coming years as robotics, especially in the human-robot collaboration segment. The Festo Group, which specializes in control and automation technology, has already been working for several years on Cobots that are designed to work particularly well with humans thanks to a pneumatic drive, i.e. compressed air as the working medium. The direct drives in the joints are more cost-effective and lighter because, in contrast to electric solutions, no heavy gears and expensive force-torque sensors are required. The first market-ready product has now been announced for fall 2023 at the Hannovermesse.

Thanks to the compliance of the pneumatic drives, Festo says, the Cobot acts sensitively – at a speed appropriate to the situation and in fluid, harmonious movements: “When touched, it is as soft as contact with a human.” Thanks to precise pressure regulators in the joints, the robot recognizes when it is being touched by a human and reacts with appropriate safety functions. In this way, he says, an employee can cooperate with the careful technical colleague completely safely. The “Festo-Cobot” weighs only 17 kilograms and, thanks to the “Robotic Suite” software, can be intuitively commissioned and quickly and easily programmed within an hour. At 670 millimeters, it has just the right reach to be perceived as a helping third hand in teamwork.

The Cobot’s main area of application is to be small parts handling with a payload of up to 3 kilograms. For small and medium-sized companies in particular, cobots are only attractive if they can take on a new task pragmatically and quickly and are not only intended for a permanent purpose. The Festo Cobot meets this requirement, he says: “It does not require an additional control cabinet, which is costly to connect and a hindrance. With its space-saving integrated control system in its own foot section, it is particularly flexible. Simple plug-in connections also enable ad hoc use without long changeover times.” In terms of price, the Festo-Cobot is also said to be attractive for small and medium-sized companies.

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