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Lifting barriers to collaborative robot safety deployment

An EU initiative is supporting collaborative robot developers by providing safety-relevant services and addressing certification-related complexities.

Digital Economy icon Digital Economy

Injuries caused by jobs involving lifting, pushing, pulling, holding and repetitive movement are among the main occupational risks. Such hazards and associated costs are driving the need for automation and robotics to reduce injury from tedious, monotonous or dangerous jobs. An increasing number of companies are using solutions to improve health, productivity and flexibility where collaborative robots, or cobots, are designed to work with or in close proximity to humans. The popularity of exoskeletons, or wearable robots, is also rising to prevent lifting injuries of employees or help decrease physical rehabilitation time in medical applications. But what about the safety of such tools? Safety regulations could be a barrier to cobot deployment unless they are easy to access, understand and apply. Enter the EU-funded COVR project that is addressing exactly this issue and making the safety assessment process clearer. As noted in a news item, exoskeleton-based technological solutions “can reinforce the ergonomic aspects for the benefit of the worker, the company and society.” Although such tools are already entering the market for various tasks, “there is a lack of active exoskeleton for helping in activities to be performed in atmospheres with risk of explosion (due to inflammable gas or powder), which require certification ATEX [atmosphere explosible]. Collaboration within the COVR framework will help in the application of ATEX regulation to wearable robots.” ATEX involves EU regulations relating to equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres, such as those that contain flammable gases, mists, vapours or combustible dusts. Describing the exoskeleton-based product in the same news item, Juantxu Martin, chief technology officer at GOGOA Mobility Robots, a company that develops wearable solutions to help people increase capacity for movement, says: “ALDAK is an active exoskeleton developed by GOGOA. It provides lower back assisted movement using assist-as-needed algorithms, helping workers to lift heavy weights (until 40 kg) protecting the lumbar zone and decreasing back pain.”

One-stop shop

COVR helps established companies and start-ups like GOGOA to analyse, test and validate the safety of cobot-related applications. COVR (Being safe around collaborative and versatile robots in shared spaces), which will run until December 2021, aims to provide a single point of access for users from all domains and fields of cobot applications and from all countries. As explained in a video on the project’s YouTube channel, COVR offers a toolkit framework that creates a unified approach to safety assurance. It’s also establishing five safety hubs in Europe for manufacturers and technology developers to bring their robots for testing in well-equipped facilities. In addition, COVR provides funding for initiatives related to the design and installation of pilot cobot systems, and development of cobot systems or components, including safety components or systems. “COVR wants to make every robot that shares space with humans safe,” as stated in the same video. For more information, please see: COVR project website


COVR, collaborative robot, cobot, safety, robot

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