VU kicks off COBOT training in Indiana

VU kicks off COBOT training in Indiana

Representatives of Polygon Composites Technology participate in a cobot training at Gene Haas Training and Education Center in Lebanon.

December 13, 2022

LEBANON, Ind. – Vincennes University continues to make its mark statewide in bringing the future of automation to Indiana by conducting the first collaborative robot training course at the Gene Haas Training and Education Center in Lebanon. The client was Polygon Composites Technology, located in Walkerton, Indiana. Polygon Composites Technology develops composite products for different industries such as medical, construction, and agricultural.

The cobot training was conducted as part of the Fast Track program, sponsored by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and in partnership with Carmel-based Telamon Robotics and Purdue University Manufacturing Extension Partnership (Purdue MEP) to introduce cobots to Hoosier companies.

The collaboration is a model of how regional stakeholders are partnering in industry-driven workforce development initiatives.

According to Polygon Composites Technology Application Engineer Ray Perry, “Vincennes University’s ability to provide state-of-the-art technology and training solutions for manufacturers to use at an offsite training facility is an excellent opportunity for manufacturers to get employees up to speed on new technology. It allows employees to train on cutting-edge cobots without the obstacles of working within the constraints of a production environment.”

VU’s training course, including how to operate, program, troubleshoot and redeploy a cobot, is being offered to interested companies, who also are able to pilot the use of a cobot at no cost for a period of 90 days.

“The cobot training was approachable by all of our associates with varying levels of prior cobot experience, from the novice to the experienced user,” Perry said. “The well-paced individual attention given to each participant by multiple onsite instructors allowed us to all complete the training exercises before proceeding to the next task.”

Cobots are deployed to support and improve the efficiency of the human worker. They can serve as additional support for the human by giving them an extra set of hands. They enhance productivity rather than replace humans in the workplace. The deployment of cobots is expected to grow in many other sectors, including retail, food service, and medical fields.

A cobot in a manufacturing setting could be a robotic arm with a grasping mechanism that performs
repetitive tasks like picking and placing as humans perform the more valuable assembly. Improvements in sensor technology allow cobots to interact with humans safely, work at human speeds, and some are even guided by human contact. Cobots are smaller, able to be moved, and easier to reprogram to perform different tasks.

VU’s Center for Applied Robotics and Automation (CARA) encompasses unique labs with more than 32 cutting-edge cobots at the Vincennes CampusJasper Campus, and Gene Haas Training and Education Center. VU plans to deploy 10 cobots at partner high schools and career and technical education centers throughout the state. The cobot labs are supported by an $8 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

“The VU lab in Lebanon is an extraordinary facility,” Perry said. “Each participant has their own cobot to work with along with a variety of end effectors to provide exposure to all manners of cobot use. The cobot training at VU has benefited Polygon Composites Technology by level-setting the knowledge base amongst all the users of our TechMan cobot.”

Perry commended VU’s Director of the Center for Applied Robotics and Automation (CARA) Paulo Dutra e Mello for his insight into future potential uses for cobots in Polygon Composites Technology facilities.

Cobots are one way for companies to combat the current shortage of employees across many sectors of the economy by helping current employees maintain or increase productivity. 

According to Dutra e Mello, “The reality I see every day in factories and businesses across the United States is that there is a glaring need for qualified labor to deal with high demand in manufacturing, particularly in this digital age. Truth be told, this trend is happening across the world.”

The mission of CARA - in collaboration with other related programs at VU - is to upskill Indiana’s workforce and prepare students to support the existing and future needs of programming, coding, maintaining, creating systems, developing, implementing, and managing collaborative robotics solutions in various industries across Indiana and nationally as the marketing for the emerging technology evolves.

VU provides employers with demonstrations, workshops, and access to cobot technologies, applications, and models. 

Cobot technology is transforming the workforce and altering the look of workplaces as jobs in many sectors are increasingly becoming automated. The investment in cobots is expected to grow rapidly over the remainder of this decade.

The global collaborative robots market size was valued at $1.23 billion in 2022, according to Dutra e Mello. It is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 31.5% from 2022 to 2030 to $ 11.04 billion. The growth is attributed to the increasing adoption of cobots in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), added Dutra e Mello.

VU continues to make significant investments that support the efforts of the University’s industry partners and employers throughout Indiana and beyond.

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