22 Jul 2024


ISO issues guidance on using collaborative robots safely

The ability of collaborative robots to share space with human workers requires new approaches to ensure safety

The ISO (International Standards Organisation) has published its long-awaited standard that gives guidance on ensuring the safety of humans working with collaborative robots. ISO/TS 15066:2016 – Robots and robotic devices – Collaborative robots specifies safety requirements for collaborative industrial robot systems and the work environment, and supplements the requirements and guidance given in ISO 10218-1 and ISO 10218-2, published in 2011. The 33-page document will help integrators of robotic cells to conduct risk assessments when installing collaborative robots.

Work on ISO/TS 15066 started in 2010. The standard has been drafted by an ISO committee with members from 24 countries, including representatives from collaborative robot manufacturers.

It does not apply to collaborative robot installations designed before it was published.

The ISO specification provides guidance for installations where a robot system and people share the same workspace. In such operations, the integrity of the safety-related control system is of major importance, particularly when parameters such as speed and force are being controlled.

A comprehensive risk assessment is needed to assess not only the robot system itself, but also the environment in which it is placed.

The standard describes different collaborative concepts and the requirements needed to achieve them. As well as covering design and risk assessment, it also includes the results of a research study on pain thresholds vs. robot speed, pressure and impact for specific body parts.

The specification supplements and supports the general industrial robot safety standards, ISO 10218-1 and ISO 10218-2, and provides extra guidance for collaborative robots. The collaborative operations described depend on the use of robots that meet the requirements of ISO 10218-1 and are integrated to comply with ISO 10218-2.

Although the specification does not apply to non-industrial robots, the ISO says that the safety principles could be useful in other areas of robotics.

The ISO also points out that collaborative operation is a developing field, and that the values for power and force limiting included in the new technical specification will probably evolve in future editions.

The US body for robotic standards, the Ansi Standards Approval Committee for Robotics (R15), plans to adopt ISO/TS 15066 as an Ansi-registered Technical Report (TR), designation ANSI/RIA TR R15.606:2016.

“When the last revision of the ISO 10218 standards came out back in 2011, they were focused on traditional industrial robots ­– collaborative robots were still a new technology and not addressed in detail,” says Lasse Kieffer, global compliance officer at the Danish robot manufacturer, Universal Robots, who was a member of the ISO committee that developed ISO/TS 15066. “As the leading manufacturer of collaborative robots, our robots feature adjustable safety functions to comply with these guidelines.”

“We acknowledge that the world needs a conservative approach towards robot safety,” comments Universal Robots’ chief technology officer, Esben Østergaard, “but there is still a lot of on-going research on safe human-robot interactions and how to define practical guidelines in order to unleash the full potential of collaborative robots. We look forward to following this work as it evolves.”

•  ISO/TS 15066:2016 – Robots and robotic devices – Collaborative robots is available from ISO, priced CHF 138 (about $140).