Introduction to Collaborative Robots 275

Introduction to Collaborative Robotics covers the four types of collaborative robots (cobots) as well as basic applications and safety considerations for cobots. Types of cobots include safety-rated monitored stop, speed and separation, power and force limiting, and hand guiding cobots. Using cobots in collaborative spaces alongside human employees can require any of the four types of cobots depending on the level of collaboration. Manufacturers looking to integrate cobots into manufacturing processes at their facilities should understand which types of cobots are appropriate for specific applications.

After taking this course, users will be able to identify common manufacturing applications and safety concerns for collaborative robots. Users will also understand the benefits of automating tasks with cobots compared to traditional robot automation.

  • Difficulty Intermediate

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 12

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Introduction to Collaborative Robotics
  • Collaborative Robot Technology
  • Types of Human-Robot Collaboration
  • Review: Cobot Basics
  • Cobot Applications: Material Handling
  • Cobot Applications: Machine Tending
  • Cobot Applications: Process Tasks
  • Cobot Applications: Finishing Tasks
  • Cobot Applications: Quality Inspection
  • Safety Considerations for Collaborative Robots
  • The Future for Cobots In Manufacturing
  • Review: Cobot Applications and Safety
  • Distinguish between traditional and collaborative industrial robots.
  • Describe features of collaborative robot technology.
  • Identify the four types of human-robot collaboration.
  • Describe collaborative robotics applications for material handling.
  • Describe collaborative robotics applications for machine tending.
  • Describe collaborative robotics applications for process tasks.
  • Describe collaborative robotics applications for finishing tasks.
  • Describe collaborative robot applications for quality inspection.
  • Identify safety standards and considerations for collaborative robots.
  • Describe how technological advances are impacting the future of collaborative robotics.
Vocabulary Term

abrasive finishing

The use of an abrasive, such as sandpaper, to polish and smooth the surface of a part. Abrasive finishing tasks can be automated using robots equipped with sanding tools.

additive manufacturing

AM. The process of joining or solidifying materials to make an object based on a three-dimensional computer model. Additive manufacturing methods typically build up layers of material to create an object.

artificial intelligence

AI. The ability of a machine or computer to imitate intelligent human behavior. Artificial intelligence allows machines to perform a process with autonomy.


A manufacturing process in which two or more components are joined together to create a finished part. Assembly robots are fast, consistent, and effectively self-inspect their work.

augmented reality

AR. A technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a view of the real world. Augmented reality methods maybe be used with smart safety goggles to visually alert the wearer to potential hazards.


The use of self-regulated equipment, processes, or systems that meet manufacturing requirements with limited human intervention. Automation is an efficient means of assembly.


The industry that manufactures cars and other motor vehicles. Automotive part production typically requires a variety of finishing tasks that can be performed by robots.

bar stock

Raw material in the form of long bars or cylinders. Bar stock is commonly used in metal manufacturing processes.


Collaborative robot. A robot that can be programmed to learn a specific task in order to assist humans. A cobot is designed to interact with humans in a shared workspace.

collaborative robot

Cobot. A robot that can be programmed to learn a specific task in order to assist humans. A collaborative robot is designed to interact with humans in a shared workspace.

collaborative robotics

A subset of robotics that focuses on enabling robots to work closely with human operators. Collaborative robotics is often a cost-effective alternative to traditional automation.

collaborative workspaces

An area in which a human works in coordination with a robot. Collaborative workspaces may have varying degrees of human-robot interaction depending on the application and the cobot technology.

computer programmers

A person who codes digital commands into a computing device. Computer programmers use various computer programming languages that tell a device what actions to perform.

computer vision

A deep learning capability that enables an artificial intelligence (AI) to detect and identify objects by recognizing visual patterns through a camera or on a screen. Computer vision can be useful for supervised or unsupervised machine learning but requires very large amounts of visual data.

contact sensors

A type of sensor that detects physical contact with an object or surface. Contact sensors for robots include tactile, force, and collision sensors.


Removing sharp projections left on a workpiece after a machining or grinding operation. Deburring is often done by hand or by robot using coated abrasives.

deep learning

An advanced form of machine learning that uses neural networks with multiple hidden layers. Deep learning algorithms can enable machines to exhibit advanced, human-like behaviors but require significant amounts of data.

digital thread

An integrated view of all the data and information about a machine or process throughout its lifecycle. The digital thread connects information from all aspects of a product into one seamless network.

end effectors

A device attached to the end of the robot arm in order to interact with a part, component, or material. The end effector, also known as an end-of-arm tool (EOAT), may be a gripper that allows the robot to pick up objects and place them down, or it may be a welding torch or tool, such as a grinder, that performs a manufacturing task.

force sensors

A device that uses electricity to measure the pressure between objects. Force sensors enable a cobot to adjust the speed of its movement based on the specified levels of pressure when colliding with people or objects.

fully compliant

Satisfying all design standards for safety. Fully compliant cobots can use either an active or passive strategy to achieve compliance.


A machine or device that uses a disc-shaped abrasive attachment to remove material from the surface of a workpiece. Grinders include surface grinders, centerless grinders, and cylindrical grinders.


A dexterous material-handling component that resembles and performs similarly to a human hand. Grippers allow robots to perform tasks such as handling small parts or assembling components.

hand guiding

A collaborative robotics capability that enables a human operator to program a cobot for a collaborative task by physically leading the cobot through the task steps. A hand guiding cobot can often be trained for a variety of collaborative applications.

human-robot collaboration

HRC. A manufacturing process where a human operator and a robot work closely together to complete the task. Human-robot collaboration is a growing robot application as it allows for more flexibility in the use of robots while improving the efficiency of an operation.

hybrid manufacturing

A process that uses both traditional and additive manufacturing (AM) to create a finished part. Hybrid manufacturing can involve either using a traditional manufacturing process on a mostly additively manufactured part or vice versa.

industrial robots

A reprogrammable machine sometimes used in place of a person in a manufacturing setting. Industrial robots perform dangerous or repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy.

Industry 4.0

Manufacturing that uses connected devices and digital technologies to combine the physical world with the digital. Industry 4.0 is also known as the 4th Industrial Revolution.

International Organization for Standardization

ISO. A nongovernmental organization based in Switzerland that develops and establishes standards, rules, and guidelines designed to ensure that products, processes, and services are fit for their purposes. The International Organization for Standardization publishes standards for a broad range of industries.


International Organization for Standardization. A nongovernmental organization based in Switzerland that develops and establishes standards, rules, and guidelines designed to ensure that products, processes, and services are fit for their purposes. The ISO publishes standards for a broad range of industries.

laser scanners

A device that uses a controlled beam of light to measure an object's geometric shape. A laser scanner is sometimes used to create a three-dimensional (3D) model.

lead-through programming

A programming method in which a robot is placed in "teach mode" while the trainer uses a remote teach pendant to manipulate the robot through the different steps of a task. Lead-through programming is the most common programming method.

lights-out factories

Facilities that are fully automated and can manufacture products without requiring operators to control certain processes. Lights-out factories can operate autonomously for extended hours while reducing labor costs.

machine learning

ML. The process that enables a digital system to analyze data in order to build predictive models and make decisions autonomously. Machine learning systematically solves problems using highly complex algorithms.

machine tending

Loading and unloading of materials into machinery for processing. Machine-tending robots are precise and often interact with the process using sensors to monitor the process and part quality.


A manufacturing process that involves removing material to form an object. Machining can occur using traditional methods, like turning, drilling, milling, and grinding, or with less traditional methods that use electricity, heat, or chemical reaction.

motion sensors

Devices that detect motion and stop a robot from operating when that motion is identified. Motion sensors can prevent robot accidents.


National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. An organization responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. NIOSH also provides robot safety guidelines.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

OSHA. A government agency that sets the standards for working conditions in the United States. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ensures that employees work in safe and healthy environments.

optical sensors

A type of sensor that detects the presence of an object through the use of a beam of light. Optical sensors help enable speed and separation cobot capabilities.


Applying a protective cover to materials, products, or parts. The consistency of packaging robots results in efficient use of packaging materials, such as cling film and adhesive tape.


The process of placing and securing containers or objects on pallets. Palletizing robots are especially useful for moving objects that would be too difficult or too heavy for humans to move.


The maximum amount of weight that a machine is able to manipulate. Payload limits vary robot to robot.

pick and place

A robot or robotic device that moves parts from one location to another. Pick-and-place robots, sometimes called part-transfer robots, improve the precision, quality, and speed of manufacturing operations.


An abrasive finishing process used to improve the surface of a part and give it a smooth, shiny appearance. Polishing tasks can be automated using robots equipped with abrasive finishing tools.

power and force limiting

A collaborative robotics capability that enables a cobot to adjust the speed and force of its motion based on physical contact. A power and force limiting cobot can use contact sensors to detect varying levels of force from contact.

preventative maintenance

PM. A type of maintenance performed while a component is in working order to keep it from breaking down. Preventive maintenance may include lubricating, tightening, and replacing worn parts.

proximity sensors

A device that uses an electronic sensing field to detect the presence of an object. Proximity sensors can be used in conjunction with robots to help position the robot in space relative to other objects.

quality inspection

The examination of a part during or after its creation to confirm that it adheres to quality specifications. During quality inspection, defects may be identified and corrected.

real time

The near-instantaneous interval of time that computers require to process data. Real time is virtually the same as actual time because computers process data nearly immediately.

risk assessment

A documented process that an organization uses to help plan for risks and opportunities. A risk assessment evaluates the control measures in place for hazardous activities.

safety standards

The practices and policies that a company puts in place in order to preserve the health and well-being of employees, equipment, and facilities. Safety standards for collaborative robotics minimizes the risk of human injury in human-to-robot collaboration.

safety-rated monitored stop

A collaborative robotics capability that enables a cobot to stop operating when a human enters or nears its workspace. A safety-rated monitored stop cobot can use motion sensors or proximity sensors to detect moving objects.


A machine or device that uses sand pads or belts to remove material from the surface of a workpiece. Sanders can be equipped as end effectors on collaborative robots.


A device that detects a change in physical and environmental conditions. Sensors can detect the presence or absence of an object or person and stop or start robot operation as a result.


A joining process in which a filler metal is melted at low temperatures to form a joint between two base metals. Soldering is often used to assemble or repair electronics.

speed and separation

A collaborative robotics capability that enables a cobot to adjust the speed of its movements when a human enters or nears its workspace. Speed and separation cobots may use light and vision sensors to detect the distance of objects in its field of sight.

surface finish

The degree of roughness and variation on the surface of a part after it has been manufactured. Surface finish can be improved using abrasive finishing processes, which can be automated using robots.

teach pendant

A device used to control a robot during programming. Teach pendants may have control buttons, a joystick, or a touch screen.


The unwanted but acceptable deviation from a desired dimension. Increasingly accurate dimensions require tighter tolerances.

tool offsets

An automatic adjustment to account for different tool geometries in a machining application. Tool offsets must be set for every tool loaded in the machine.

walk-through programming

A programming method for robots where a trainer physically moves the robot through different steps of the job process. Walk-through programming poses more safety risks to the trainer than lead-through programming and requires enhanced sensing technology.


A joining process that uses heat, friction, or a combination of methods to fuse two materials together permanently. Welding is used in a variety of industries from auto manufacturing to aerospace engineering.

work cell

The area composed of a robot and any external devices or equipment that interacts with the robot. Robotic work cells include the maximum volume of space that the robot can reach.