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Cobots Could Bring Jobs Back to America

Smaller manufacturers could level the playing field.

Last week, IEN Editorial Director of Digital Media David Mantey flew to Anaheim to check out West Pack, Medical Design & Manufacturing West, PLASTEC West, Design & Manufacturing Pacific, Electronics West, and ATX Automation Technology West.

Tell you what, let's call it UBM West (Manufacturing West?) and call it a day.

At the show, he met with Universal Robots to discuss the company's new UR3 as well as the emergence of collaborative robots (cobots).

The UR3 is Universal's next generation cobot with a 3 kg maximum payload. The smaller, table-top robot is designed for light assembly tasks and automated workbench scenarios.

Right now, cobots have the potential to disrupt the contract manufacturing market, or really any company working on low volume, high diversity applications.

Cobots are a fit for machine tending applications, such as at the CNC, where they would put in the part, close the door, twiddle their electronic thumbs for a second, and remove the finished part.

Really, they have the potential to make lights-out automation possible for small-to-midsize manufacturers. And some cobots are even finding ways to make processes leaner by calculating inefficiencies so manufacturers can put them to better use during downtime.

The robots could even play a part in reshoring, because as they take on larger roles, smaller manufacturers could level the playing field in terms of labor costs.

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