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Cobot Maintenance and Longevity Tips

Collaborative robots, also known as cobots, have revolutionized the manufacturing industry with their intuitive programming, affordability and barrier-free operation. Their use in the manufacturing sector continues to rise, thanks to their ability to automate material handling, material removal, maintenance, quality control and more functions.

The collaborative robot market was valued at $1.2 trillion in 2023 and is projected to triple by 2030. Having these robots on your team is a cost-effective way of increasing productivity. However, to ensure they work as expected and you can reap their benefits, you need to maintain them properly.

Why Maintaining Your Cobot Matters

Like any other machine or equipment, robots require preventive maintenance. Reliability and precision are non-negotiable in the manufacturing industry, and you want your robots to always produce the expected results.

Regularly conducting preventative maintenance will help you avoid issues that can affect the cobot’s performance. Specifically, preventative maintenance can address the following issues:

  • Software breakdown: Uncontrolled loss of programs and vital information.
  • Position deviation: When the robot fails to perform within the intended parameters.
  • Safety issues: Cobot behaviors that are unpredictable and can cause injuries.
  • Cable damage: Issues with data cords and power, cables and wires, which may be fire hazards.

Signs That a Cobot Needs Maintenance

Performing preventative maintenance can lower the chances of your cobot breaking down or showing signs of damage. As a result, neglecting this maintenance means the robot may break down when you least expect it. The following signs can indicate that your cobot needs maintenance or repair:

  • Energy drain: If a cobot starts consuming more power than usual, it could be a sign of damage, and maintenance may be needed.
  • Uncommon sounds: Pay attention to the type of sound the cobot produces. If you notice anything unusual, inspect the robot to identify the problem.
  • Obvious damage: If you notice any damage to the cobot’s parts, such as the cable, sensor or arm, you should make repairs.
  • Inconsistencies and repetitions: When the cobot can’t consistently make repetitive motions, it’s a major concern for both productivity and safety reasons. Erratic movements can cause injuries to employees.
  • Software challenges: Software glitches may affect a cobot’s performance. These software issues are easy to identify. 

If it’s been a long time since you last maintained the cobot, you don’t need to see any signs to do maintenance. You should inspect the cobot as soon as possible and perform maintenance if necessary. At that point, it’s important to establish a routine maintenance plan so you can prioritize the care of your cobot.

Developing and Following a Comprehensive Cobot Maintenance Plan

Without a scheduled plan, skipping or forgetting preventative cobot maintenance is easy. This is why you should have a maintenance plan that includes scheduled periods when specific types of maintenance are required. Take the following steps to develop, follow and update your plan:

  1. Assess the cobot’s needs: Identify maintenance requirements that are specific to the type of cobot you have — check the manufacturer’s recommendations for information. Additionally, consider your work environment and how it might affect maintenance. For example, a cobot that operates in busy conditions may need more frequent lubrication and cleaning.
  2. Prepare a maintenance schedule: Create a checklist or calendar that reminds you when to perform specific types of maintenance. The schedule may include daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual checks and maintenance.
  3. Perform maintenance according to schedule: Follow and adhere to the scheduled maintenance plan you prepared, ensuring you and your team don’t skip any checks. Use the appropriate materials and tools for your cobot’s maintenance. Whoever is doing the maintenance should wear protective gear to avoid injuries or damage to the cobot.
  4. Review the maintenance plan: Maintenance ensures the cobot always works optimally. Your plan should include evaluations to check the efficiency and effectiveness of the maintenance you’ve been doing. Does the machine still break down even after regular maintenance? Are you performing the appropriate maintenance? Are there areas that need improvement? You should also seek feedback from cobot users after doing maintenance.
  5. Educate yourself and others about maintenance: Educate other team members on how to maintain the cobot properly. You should also update yourself on the latest developments in robotics to implement new and effective maintenance methods as they arise.

General Cobot Maintenance Tips to Follow

As part of your maintenance plan, you’ll want to include specific checks and tests to ensure the cobot is operational and identify any issues. The specific repairs you do will depend on your cobot’s make and model, so always consult the operator’s manual to form the foundation of your approach. However, general checks like the following are also important:

Perform Daily Visual Checks

Perform daily visual checks on the cobot for any possible damage or signs of impending damage. This step should be an integral part of your team’s process so you can identify potential issues quickly and before they worsen. For example, you or a team member can visually check the cables and bolts to make sure they’re configured properly

Conduct Software Updates

Regular software updates are crucial to ensure the safety of the cobot. In addition, software updates allow for the addition of new operational features. Check out your manufacturer’s recommendations on software updates. A software update may include features that make it easy to diagnose and troubleshoot your cobot and provide the ability to export logs to the manufacturer’s customer support.

Ensure Proper Airflow

Proper airflow is required in a cobot’s controller to prevent overheating, which can cause damage. This damage may compromise the robot’s life span. Clean the cooling fans every three or so months to avoid overheating and keep your cobot running properly for longer.

Clean Sensors and Optics Regularly

Optics and sensors are crucial vision tools for cobots. Cobots rely on these tools to move, pick up items and drop them. Ensure the sensors and optics are clean and free of debris or dirt to ensure the cobot’s performance isn’t compromised. Dirty or poorly maintained optics may also make the cobot unsafe to use.

Work With Qualified Technicians

When you need repairs done on the cobot, work with qualified and authorized personnel who can do the work properly and professionally. Attempting to do the work yourself without the right knowledge can result in cobot damage or safety issues for yourself. It’s always better to invest in expert assistance when it comes to maintaining your equipment.

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