Engineer safer collaborative robots with new technical specification

Friday, 19 February 2016
Engineer safer collaborative robots with new technical specification.

Engineers and robot cell integrators can now better improve the safety of collaborative robots, thanks to the publication of the ISO/TS 15066 technical specification to help them conduct risk assessments when designing and installing collaborative robots.

Collaborative robots refers to installations where humans and robots are not isolated from each other, as has been the case traditionally. Via various safety measures and advanced AI, collaborative robots can work together with humans in the same space without endangering the human workers. They are increasingly used in industrial applications around the world.

Work on ISO/TS 15066 started in 2010, and involved an ISO committee with members from 24 countries, who reached a consensus on the document. These new guidelines will help ensure the safety of human workers in collaborative robotic systems.

As a Technical Specification, ISO/TS 15066 plays a supplemental and supporting role, providing extra clarification and information on the industrial robot safety standards ISO 10218-1 and ISO 10218-2 published in 2011.

They are needed because the last revision of the ISO 10218 standards were focused on traditional industrial robots; collaborative robots were still on the cutting edge of emerging technology in 2011, and so the ISO 10218 standards did not address them in detail.

ISO/TS 15066 describes the different collaborative robotic concepts and details the requirements to achieve these. In addition to design and risk assessment requirements, it also presents a research study on pain thresholds versus robot speed, pressure and impact for specific body parts.

Universal Robots is a pioneer in collaborative robotics, having released the collaborative UR3, UR5 and UR10 robot arms. The company released the first UR robot in 2008, and launched in Australia and New Zealand in March 2014. It was part of the committee drafting the ISO/TS 15066 specifications.

According to the company's Global Compliance Officer, Lasse Kieffer, the new document will play an important role as a solid foundation for future work in the area of collaborative robotics.

"We are pleased that the industry with ISO/TS 15066 now has received additional published specifications to guide the implementation of cobots (collaborative robots) operating safely with humans,” he said.

Universal Robots CTO Esben Østergaard further commented that work remains to be done.

"The world needs a conservative approach towards robot safety, but there is still a lot of ongoing research on safe human-robot interactions and how to define practical guidelines in order to unleash the full potential of collaborative robots. We look forward to following this work as it evolves," he said.