March 22, 2023

Collaborative Robots in the Kitchen


What Are Collaborative Robots?

The first collaborative robot (aka “Cobot”) was sold in December 2008 by Universal Robots (UR), where they installed a UR5 robot to automate CNC machine tending, according to UR’s website: The History Behind Collaborative Robots Cobots. We are starting to see more and more collaborative and industrial robots being used to automate dull, dirty and repetitive tasks in the restaurant. The global market for collaborative robots was $1.1B in 2022, according to Markets and Markets and projected to be $9.2B by 2028 so this technology is well established and projected to grow at a 41.5% CAGR over the next 5 years. As we continue to see more Cobots automating tasks, such as the deep-frying process shown by Middleby’s FryBot, the food service space could be a big growth market for Cobots.

According to A3 Robotics’ website “What Are Collaborative Robots?”, here is their definition:

“Collaborative robots are a form of robotic automation built to work safely alongside human workers in a shared, collaborative workspace. In most applications, a collaborative robot is responsible for repetitive, menial tasks while a human worker completes more complex and thought-intensive tasks. The accuracy, uptime and repeatability of collaborative robots is designed to complement the intelligence and problem-solving skills of a human worker.”

Collaborative vs Industrial Robots

There are multiple ways to design an automation system from conveyor/gantry systems (X, Y and Z dimension movements) to using industrial and collaborative robots that have 6 or 7 joints to perform movements. When you are using robots, safety and work area considerations must be considered depending on what type of robot is used. The same A3 article mentioned above, says the following on the robot differences.

“Collaborative robot designs differ greatly from their industrial robot counterparts. Featuring rounded edges, force limitations, and light weights, collaborative robots are first and foremost designed for safety. Most collaborative robots are equipped with a series of sensors to avoid collisions with human workers, as well as safety protocols to shut down if any form of unplanned contact occurs.”

If an industrial robot is used, the safety assessment would most likely require the robot to be enclosed to prevent any human from walking into the robot work area where a potential robot collision could happen. There are other safety measures, such as safety scanners and safety vision systems, that could be taken to ensure the work environment is safe.

With most collaborative robots, the safety measures and logic that is built into the robot can meet safety standards based on their design without requiring the need for the robot to be “caged in” when installed in the kitchen. Collaborative technology increases flexibility for the kitchen environment, helps manage those “Oh-no, something broke down” moments and allows humans and robots to work alongside each other without concern.

In summary, this article covered the following:

  • What are Collaborative Robots
  • Collaborative Robots have been around for years and have high growth potential
  • The food service space is projected to be a big growth market for Collaborative Robots and technology
  • The difference between Industrial and Collaborative Robots
  • Collaborative technology increases flexibility for the kitchen environment allowing humans and robots to work alongside each other without safety concerns