Collaborative Robots Standardized under ISO 15066
Kagan Pittman posted on February 18, 2016 | 5809 views

Collaborative robots, or cobots for short, have been growing in popularity due to their flexibility and ability to work side-by-side with humans.

Robots like Rethink Robotics’ Baxter and Universal Robots’ UR series sport sensor technology not found in conventional industrial robots. With this technology, the cobots can sense their proximity to human workers and prevent accidental impacts – an ability which can eliminate the need for safety cages.

Humans train Baxter for a variety of tasks on the factory floor. (Image courtesy Rethink Robotics)
Humans train Baxter for a variety of tasks on the factory floor. (Image courtesy Rethink Robotics)

Despite the technology’s unique advantages over conventional industrial robots, many end users are still cautious to adopt the new and non-standardized technology for safety concerns.

Fortunately, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has recently published the ISO/TS 15066 document.

The new document provides supplemental and supporting information to the 2011 industrial robot safety standards ISO 10218-1 and ISO 10218-2, in order to effectively standardize safety and inspection procedures for cobots.

The document will help integrators of robotic cells assess risks more effectively when installing cobots by detailing different collaborative concepts and safety requirements.

Additionally, the document includes a research study on pain thresholds vs. robot speed, pressure and impact for specific body parts.

The study presents a grid developed by the University of Mainz, Germany, which outlines the limits of exhaustive force and pressure levels certain body parts exposed to the robots can handle. The intent behind the grid is to help integrators with risk assessment.

To compliment the research study, the new ISO document outlines the calculations necessary to determine the maximum allowable speed robots can reach without violating the established pain thresholds for cobot-human impacts.

ISO warns that some of the information in the document could potentially change as more knowledge becomes available.

The new document was drafted by an ISO committee with members from 24 participating countries and included representatives from collaborative robot manufacturers.

“When the last revision of the ISA 10218 standards came out back in 2011, they were focused on traditional industrial robots, collaborative robots were still a new technology and not addressed in detail,” said Lasse Kieffer, Universal Robots’ global compliance officer. “We are pleased that the industry with ISO/TS 15066 now has received additional published specifications to guide the implementation of cobots operating safely with humans.”

The U.S. Standards body for robotics, ANSI Standards Approval Committee for Robotics (R15) will bring the ISO/TS 15066 into the U.S. for adoption as an ANSI-registered Technical Report (TR), designation ANSI/RIA TR R15.606:2016.

The new technical specification is now available at www.iso.org.

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