Workshop: Collaborative robotics for SMEs

Duration: 16 hours (12 hours programming the robot)


Nowadays manufacturing is not about being faster, but being flexible. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are used to on-demand short series manufacturing, varying their products to retain market opportunities.

But they know competitiveness implies decreasing production costs, and reducing wages is no longer an option. Manufacturers think of automating, but they usually discard it. An automated production line, or a custom automation machine, can only be amortized with long series manufacturing that market no longer demands.

Even when they think about investing in traditional robots for specific tasks, engineering cost that has to do with fences or cages installation, integration with other machines, , and risk assessment, is higher than the robot itself, and makes total investment unaffordable.

Fortunately, a new working tool has appeared in the market: collaborative robots, or just cobots. They are more versatile than traditional robots, and can support workers by doing those routine tasks that nobody wants to do.

What’s the point of having employees waiting until an expensive laser machine finishes for removing the part and introducing a new one? What’s the point of having a talented person spending hours to prepare test tube racks for laboratory analysis? What about having instead a cobot for tending machines or preparing tube racks?

Cobots are cheaper than a traditional robot, can be installed easily on a workbench, or a stand close to a machine, can operate side-by-side with human workers, can be programmed intuitively by non-technical people, and can be integrated with PLCs or other automation elements when necessary.

If cobots are configured properly they are not dangerous, but the robot system also includes the tool and the part that the robot manipulates, so in order to ensure the safety of the operators, risk assessment is mandatory.

In this workshop, we will introduce cobots, their features, the appropriate way of integrating them into the production environment, their amortization period, risk assessment, technical specifications, etc.

But this workshop has a practical part that differentiates it from other existing training proposals: we bring the cobot to the classroom so that students can program it to perform tasks similar to real ones. Attendees can check how easily cobots are programmed, and evaluate by themselves cobots applicability to their current manufacturing context.

We start by reviewing the robot and controller system, how to set it up along with its gripper, and how to get it started, and how to program it intuitively with its web user interface. Then we implement two or more typical robotic applications.


  • Review the differences between new collaborative robots and traditional industrial robots.
  • Understand how cobots are designed for applications that were previously impractical to automate.
  • Discuss what tasks make sense with cobots.
  • Review how to interface with existing machines to avoid or reduce integration costs.
  • Explain how cobots become a tool for workers, not a black box, freeing workers from repetitive tasks to do more cognitive ones.
  • Review applications where cobots are being used in different industries.
  • Discuss how to address the habitual reluctance to implement cobots in the factory plant
  • Learn how to deal with risk assessment and application standards ISO 10218-1 and 2, and ISO / TS 15066
  • Learn features of a cobot, and basic selection parameters (performance, reach and payload, repeatability)
  • Discuss possibilities of connectivity and integration
  • Check the diversity of end effectors
  • Learn how to set up a cobot and put it to work
  • Teach the robot by demonstration
  • Program the robot from its user interface console
  • Learn essential steps in building robotic applications with cobots 

1.    Manufacturing: a new era
  • Mass customization
  • “Flexible is the new fast”
  • Yet a lot to automate
  • Traditional industrial robots are not flexible enough
  • Labor shortage
  • Automation requires human workers
  • Experts forecasts
2.    What’s a cobot (collaborative robot)
  • Differences with a traditional robot
  • Performance, reach and payload
  • Accuracy and repeatability
  • Key features of a cobot
  • Safety: ISO 10218-1 y 2, ISO/TS 15066
  • Connectivity and integration
  • Grippers and other end effectors

3.    Cobots in the workplace
  • What tasks are for a cobot
  • Cobots increase productivity
  • Cobots increase flexibility
  • Cobots increase skills of workers

4.    Cobots for SMEs
  • Cobots above 20 kEUR
  • Cobots below de 20 kEUR
  • Cobots for SMEs
  • Investing on a cobot
  • Deploying a cobot

5.    Programming a cobot
  • User interface
  • Teaching the cobot by demonstration
  • Setting up the end effector
  • Developing a program
  • Interacting with external devices