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JUL-AUG 2017

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Take a safe approach to collaborative robots 20 INTECH JULY/AUGUST 2017 WWW.ISA.ORG Technology enables humans and robots to work together By Carole Franklin N ot many years ago, the idea of collabora - tive robotics—with a robot and human worker sharing an active workspace— was met by strong skepticism. To ensure the safety of human workers, a variety of safeguard- ing systems prevented direct physical contact between the robot and its operator while the system was operational. Safeguarding might be a physical barrier or a light curtain that would shut down the robot system if the operator in- truded into the safeguarded space, or a variety of other technologies. The conversation has changed, however. To- day, as long as we can ensure that it will not cause pain or injury, we are comfortable with the idea of a robot or its tooling or workpiece touching a human. And technologies have advanced to the point where we can be more confident of our ability to prevent pain or injury from such con- tact. The change in available technology and at- titude has helped usher in an era of automation that enables humans and robots to work more closely together, while still being safe. This possibility of safe, close proximity is

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