Robots For Hire - Automation Tech Within Reach of Small Business


Since Industrial robots made their debut, back in the sixties, they’ve become the tools of choice for big corporations. Traditionally, robots have been so expensive that they were out of reach for small businesses, but all that is changing and fast.

Companies like Rethink and Universal Robots are selling compact, intelligent, versatile robots known as cobots for under US$30,000.


A cobot made by Danish company Universal Robots works alongside a human metalworker. Photo credit: Universal Robots.

The increasing affordability and versatility of cobot-style technology has given rise to a new growth industry: robot leasing.

Companies like Hirebotics, in Nashville, TN, are now offering full-service plans that allow their clients to hire a cobot with maintenance and training included. Small manufacturing businesses can seek advice from a robot leasing company on how best to integrate cobots into their operations and outsource the installation and training to the for-hire company.

Cobots: cheaper and safer.

It’s not just the descending price point that’s allowed the robot hiring industry to emerge. The new generation of robots are cheaper than their forebears, but they’re also safer to work with, and much easier to install and train. One of the selling points of cobots like Rethink’s “Sawyer” (pictured below) is their outstanding safety features. Cobots are designed to work alongside human workers and have sophisticated sensor technology to avoid collisions that could cause injury to the people around them.



(Photo: Sawyer cobot. Photo credit: Rethink Robotics.)

Hiring cobots has become a viable option for small businesses because of their improved safety features and minimal set-up cost, but cobots have some notable disadvantages compared to their cousins in the heavy manufacturing industry.

Cobots are built with an emphasis on safety, so they are not very powerful. Although they are agile and able to perform complex tasks, the maximum lifting capacity for a typical cobot is only a few pounds. Cobots also move quite slowly. We’re accustomed to seeing robots in car manufacturing plants darting around with superhuman speed, but because cobots are designed to share their workspace with people, they are restricted from high-speed actions to avoid colliding with and injuring the humans around them.

Because of their safety conscious design, cobots are actually slower at performing most tasks than their human counterparts.

Cobots of the (not too distant) future will be teachers as well as workers.

At the moment, cobots really excel at performing meticulous, repetitive tasks, but their future looks a lot more exciting. Industry leaders are very optimistic about the way that cobots could help to optimize manufacturing procedures by collecting and sharing data about their tasks. With ever improving AI integration and advances in machine learning, tomorrow's cobots will be able to teach each other, and probably their human supervisors, how to do their jobs better.



(Photo credit: Rethink Robotics.)