According to the IFR’s World Robotics 2021 Industrial Robots study, there are more than three million industrial robots in use in factories around the world. By 2020, Spain will have 3,400 new robot installations globally, out of a total of 384,000 units supplied. By 2021, 12,000 industrial robots were deployed in agriculture and the food sector, and are used throughout industry.
While the COVID-19 epidemic accelerated the development of AI, few have really examined the long-term implications. An essential component of safety and health in the workplace is robotic safety.
Directive 2006/42/EC, which has become obsolete as a result of recent technical developments, is to be replaced by COM/2021/202, proposed by the European Commission. The assessment on the safety and legal ramifications of robots, the internet of things and artificial intelligence concluded that the Machinery Directive, in particular, needs to be updated.
To manage the dangers and harness the benefits, the European Commission plans ambitious EU-wide legislation on artificial intelligence (AI). Beyond the ethical standards set in the framework of the OECD or the G20, it targets suppliers and operators. Because of the relationship between AI and robotics, including the so-called cobot, this idea signals the end of self-regulation of an entire industry.
The most widely used Robotics Industry Association (RIA) definition of a robot describes it as a reprogrammable multifunctional manipulator capable of moving objects such as materials, tools or special devices along variable trajectories. The term “industrial robot” now refers to this concept, approved by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).
The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) distinguishes between industrial manipulation robots and other robots as follows: A multi-purpose, autonomous, reprogrammable handling machine with three or more axes, referred to as an “industrial handling robot”, can move or remain stationary while positioning materials, components, tools or special devices for the execution of various tasks in different phases of industrial production.
Modern technical innovations have transformed industrial robots, reducing the cost of automation and providing them with additional vision, mobility and learning capabilities. In the 20th century, the concept of the humanoid was first proposed, and in the late 1990s, in 1996, J. Edward Colgate and Michael Peshkin developed the cobot, a robot designed to physically interact with people in a cooperative work environment. They are now being installed in companies of all sizes to change the manufacturing model and participate in the great Industrial Revolution 4.0, which is happening now, some 25 years later.
Collaborative and mobile robots are revolutionising risk prevention and occupational health and safety, and are expected to increase tenfold to 34% of industrial robot sales by 2025. Cobots are the fastest growing segment of industrial automation, and Artificial Intelligence can add intelligence to robot automation, creating a robot that acts with human patterns.
In collaboration between the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and the International ISO Committee TC 184/SC 2, the first global standards for industrial robots have been created: En 775 Industrial manipulator robots and EN ISO 10218-1 Robots and robotic equipment, respectively. Part 1 contains standards to eliminate or adequately diminish the risk associated with the fundamental hazards and risk scenarios described in these systems. Robotic systems and integration in Part 2.
All standards are in a permanent process of revision, although most aspects do not change substantially, the current corrected version of the Spanish Association for Standardisation (UNE) is UNE-EN ISO 10218-1:2012 Robots and robotic devices. Safety requirements for industrial robots, which will be superseded by PNE-prEN ISO 10218-1 and UNE-EN ISO 10218-2:2012 Robots and robotic devices. Safety requirements for industrial robots. Part 2: Robotic systems and integration in force, to be superseded by PNE-prEN ISO 10218-2.
To help integrators of robotic cells conduct risk assessments, ISO/TS 15066:2016 sets out safety criteria for collaborative robots that interact directly with a person in a collaborative workspace. For the ethical design and use of robots, the British Standards Institute (BSI) standard (BS 8611:2016) provides guidance.
For occupational health and safety, robotic disruption offers both possibilities and challenges. Robots that can operate on their own are being used to replace humans doing dangerous, boring or unhealthy work, avoiding exposure to potentially harmful materials and environments and reducing ergonomic, physical and psychological risks. Robots can already handle radioactive materials, work in explosive environments and perform repetitive, dangerous or unpleasant activities. They can also perform a wide range of other tasks.