Interview with Yosuke Sawada

DENSO Robotics COBOTTA PRO: The Cobot Maximizing High Productivity.

Ahead of last year’s automatica (June 27th-30th), we talked to Mr. Yosuke Sawada about the robot product family COBOTTA PRO by DENSO Robotics which was presented at the fair in all variants and in exciting multiple applications. 


Why did DENSO Robotics develop the COBOTTA PRO? 

Sawada: Well, if you compare the two categories of robots available, the non-collaborative and the collaborative robots, cobots, of course, are still an emerging market. We do have a wide range of non-collaborative robot types for fast industrial production at mass scale, but some of our existing customers, as well as new ones, started to ask for a different kind of robots, requiring low volume and high variation models. Robots that have to be able to work together and interact safely with humans.  

This is a completely different approach than that of robots for mass production, as these cobots are often placed next to humans (workers) working together. In this case, a robot concept was needed that would focus on the work performed by humans. This demand resulted in the development of a specific market, an emerging demand when compared to non-collaborative robots, but an interesting and growing market. 

The COBOTTA and the COBOTTA PRO really are two different concepts. While they both are collaborative robots being used in similar applications, COBOTTA was designed to work with humans all the time and work next to human or work in front of human, while the COBOTTA PRO is effective in both cooperative and non-cooperative scene and always in pursuit of productivity, so it is particularly suited for multi-step processes. And the COBOTTA PRO was not only developed to facilitate cooperation between humans and robots, but also to continuously maximize productivity, both with simple tasks and in multi-step processes.  


Which impact does the COBOTTA PRO have on the market? 

Sawada: Let me start with an observation here: Many customers I meet are still thinking that a cobot has to be slow. But I believe that is a misunderstanding. Of course, the COBOTTA PRO fully complies with the ISO/TS 15066 specifications of safety requirements for collaborative robots and the work environment. But this specification never focused on the robot's speed, which is limited by force and pressure on parts of the human body, A cobot, after all, can only move as fast as long as the force and pressure is below the allowable range. 

With the COBOTTA PRO, we wanted to develop a safe cobot that offers high productivity as well. And I believe that customers using the COBOTTA PRO are now realizing that a cobot can move fast. That's the impact this robot will have on the market, we hope: Establishing a safe and high-speed cobot. 


For which business areas is the COBOTTA PRO suited? 

Sawada: The COBOTTA PRO is suited for all major industries, such as the automotive sector, for example. We don’t see any limitations there and we are already getting requests from all kind of different industries such as logistic, electronic and medical/pharmaceutical industries, for example. In the end, we would like to see the COBOTTA PRO to be used across all sectors. However, according to research data, about 70% of Cobots today are used for quite simple and low performance applications.  

However, in my opinion, this does not reflect the real need, but rather I think that users have adapted their applications to the limited performance of the existing Cobots. But with COBOTTTA PRO we want to focus on even more complex and high-performance application both in well-known industries as well as in R&D and new areas. 


What are the biggest advantages of COBOTTA PRO and what are the biggest unique selling points? 

Sawada: First, moving fast is quite an important advantage, with a safety concept that maximizes high productivity. This is a robot with a top speed class (if there is a bigger distance between the cobot and the human), given that the COBOTTA PRO has a maximum TCP speed of 2.500 mm/s. We also integrated some new technologies,  

compact and highly rigid torque sensors are built into each axis/ joints as well as optionally a touch sensing soft cover featuring a two-layer design consisting of a soft silicon cover and a high-sensitivity built-in sensor. That is why the COBOTTA PRO offers an increased speed for collaborative operations. And that is a major, added-value advantage for customers when compared to other cobots in the market.  Another advantage is the easy programming and integration of the COBOTTA PRO into a system. It offers new teaching and programming systems such as a user-friendly, direct teaching feature allowing the cobot to be taught intuitively in a short period of time or the extensive, TÜV certified functions for both safety and productivity are developed. 

And in order to be able to perform in the more difficult, high-value applications I talked about, you need additional new technologies around 3D (machine) vision, for example, and a control system that can control the peripheral equipment around the robot. In a nutshell, we designed something new that now can be used in a new and more flexible way and that is the CRC9 robot controller. It is necessary to flexibly incorporate advanced technologies in the world, such as AI in order to adapt more difficult, high-value application. 

That’s why we developed RC9 (CRC9) controller. 

The key feature of the CRC9 robot controller is its open development environment. In the past, functions could only be implemented within the scope of the robot manufacturer's development environment, which made it impossible to implement functions in the real-time layer. In contrast, the CRC9 can not only be used as a robot controller for its own robots, but also allows the user and system integrators to develop their own application software in the same environment. This significantly increases the range of applications that can be automated. 


To what extent has the COBOTTA PRO already proven itself in the market and when will it be established in the market? 

Sawada: Well, it is already beginning to be established in the market one year after its introduction and we expect it to be fully established in the market by next year. We have installed the cobot in different DENSO Automotive production sites in assembly applications as well as installing it in lab facilities, to mention just two examples.  


How can you create and maintain competitive advantages with the COBOTTA PRO? 

Sawada: We will continue to focus on the advantages I talked about, first and foremost on the productivity the COBOTTA PRO already offers. That means the cycle times for each application, of course, which are shorter than those of our competitors’ cobots. Customers can expect the COBOTTA PRO to always be a cobot offering maximum productivity. 


About Yosuke Sawada  

Mr. Sawada has been with DENSO since 1985.  From 1992 to 2004, he worked in the global research and development department for industrial robots in Aichi, Japan, and was then responsible for expanding the business of DENSO Robotics Europe until 2011. Since 2011, he is the Global Director of Product Planning of the robotics portfolio at DENSO.