Previously, production robots had to be separated from people by protective cages, programmed by specialised engineers, and affordable by only large scale manufacturers with deep pockets.
But now, a new robot named Baxter; designed to work safely alongside people while uncaged and tackle a wide range of tasks, is set to make automation not only accessible but also affordable to Australian manufacturers.
With efficiency in production cost critical for Australian manufacturers to compete with their offshore peers, Baxter could be the player Aussie manufactures of all sizes need on their team.
How exactly does Baxter work?
Baxter works uncaged alongside people to complete repetitive production tasks that are typically difficult or expensive to automate, freeing up its human co-workers to focus on higher-level, more value-added tasks.
And one of the best things about Baxter is that it requires no programming – line workers can train it in minutes, with no expertise in software, robotics or engineering.
Furthermore, Baxter is intelligent and intuitive – once is it taught how to carry out a required task, the task is stored in its memory to perform again in the future.
Baxter is also mobile and retrains quickly for fast line changeovers.
Also, don’t let Baxter’s face fool you; it’s far from a gimmick.
It works with sensors to provide one of the safety elements which enable it to work collaboratively and safely alongside people. The face acknowledges when someone is now close by and also indicates where the robot is about to move.
Baxter, which was created by Adelaide born Rodney Brooks in 2012 with a vision to make robotics more accessible, usable and practical, has fast become part of the fabric of the American manufacturing industry and is now set to make its mark on Australia too.
Pullman Learning Group is the regional distributor for Baxter and has appointed SAGE Automation as the authorised integrator in Australia.
The first installation of a Baxter Robot in Australia just took place recently in February at the iconic South Australian family owned chocolate maker, Haigh’s Chocolates.
See Baxter in action
What do workers say about working alongside Baxter?
Photo credit: Rethink Robotics