While the first robotic arm was launched into the industrial market as early as 1961, it wasn’t until the early 1980s that assembly lines and manufacturing companies realized the value of these machines.
While previous varieties of robots were designed for low-level, repetitive manufacturing work, modern advances in technology have created a set of intelligent collaborative robots with applications in surgical practice and military bomb diffusion.
In principle and practice, robot arms have become a critical part of modern-day life. They are now less expensive, more flexible, and it is only a matter of time before they become a household name. Let us look at some basic robotic facts that you may be unaware of.
Interesting Facts about Modern Robotics
- Did you know that the MIT company iRobot has sold over 20 million collaborative robots worldwide? These robots were specifically designed for consumer use and are effective in performing basic cleaning tasks. These robots have also been used in hospitals and military bases and are efficient and highly reliable.
- With a large population of the elderly, Japan’s government is heavily invested in care robots to revolutionize health services. Japan has also dedicated a large chunk of its GDP to developing more effective, intuitive robot arms that instinctively stock medicine cabinets.
These mobile cobots are programmed to care for patients with immobility hence making them a fundamental part of modern healthcare.
- Did you know that there are robot farmers? Many developed countries have now bought into the idea of automating farming. In this case, robots identify when to plant, water, weed and when a crop is perfectly ripe, just in time for the harvest.
Agronomists have also adopted this practice in dairy farming, where milking and livestock feeding have become fully automated. Note that these are existing technologies, not emerging trends.
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- Machine learning has also evolved from the comprehension of simple commands to the point where robots learn to perform complex tasks. Aside from the military applications of diffusing bombs, there is the case of a small humanoid robot from Georgia tech that was taught to play angry birds by children.
The concept here is that a robot can learn to perform a task by simply mimicking specific movements. The fascinating part of all this is that modern robots don’t need practice-they can learn an entire surgical procedure just from observing it!
- There is also an existing technology that now allows amputees to access robot arms. This tech by Professor Gil Weinberg employs muscle sensors to help amputees control these arms. Although it is yet to enter the industrial market, it is considered one of the break-away technologies of the 21st century.
There is the anticipation that at some point, these robotic prostheses will be able to function from brain activity, making amputees completely self-sufficient.
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How Does a Robot Arm Work?
Before going any further, it is critical to understand the basic operations of a robot arm and the various applications it is suitable for.
How it works
A robot arm, as the name indicates, is specifically designed to replicate a human limb. With the use of six joints, each controlled by a step motor, a bionic robot arm can move in up to 20 degrees of freedom. Note that a human arm can only move through six degrees, making modern robot arms more flexible, accurate, and versatile.
The reason robotic arms perform with such precision is that step motors are digitally controlled to facilitate perfect task replication. They also equipped modern robots with motion sensors to ensure a move in precise increments and maintain the pivot radius within the designated floor space.
Industrial robots can establish a knowledge base by storing the exact movement sequence required to achieve a specific task. This pattern is then replicated with an accuracy of up to one-hundredth of a millimeter. This accuracy alone makes these robots perfect for industries that require product consistency, such as vehicle assembly lines and manufacturing companies.
Examples of Robot Arms in the Industrial Market
Most of the bionic robots and high-tech collaborative capabilities mentioned in the first part of this article have a tiny footprint in industrial circles. There are, however, a few robot arms that have already made their way into circulation in various lines of production.
- Cylindrical robot arms are rigid varieties that are good for linear and rotary motion. These robots have a cylindrical coordination system that suits assembly plants or spot welding. Any function that requires a robot arm to move up-down and around.
- Scara robot arms have a far more sophisticated design for production lines that require varying degrees of flexibility. These robots can do anything from fitting minor components in tight spaces to several pick and place applications.
- Cartesian robot arms are another brand of robotic technology. Using motors and linear actuators, they coordinate through three-dimensional spaces to maximize reach. The use of high-end articulating joints helps in pick-and-place operations. These robots function best along with conveyor belts as they can pick, rotate and place products where they need to be.
Of the several types of robot arms in the market today, these are the most utilized. Other brands like the spherical robot arm have similar operational capabilities to other utilities on this list and hence provide the same functional quality.
Robot Arm Uses
The value of robotics is versatility. Robot arms today can be used to perform any task, regardless of how tedious or complex. Unlike humans, these machines have a higher payload, which means that even a standard collaborative robot can carry up to 10 times what a typical adult human can lift.
These robots are also extremely precise (0.01mm), work faster, and do not tire. What you are looking at here is a set of machines that can assemble, weld, pick, drop and even provide healthcare. Robotic arms are used in several industries today, from toxic waste disposal to orthopedic surgery.
Lastly, the primary feature of robot creation was to help the human workforce avoid dangerous working environments. Robots today can be programmed to perform tedious tasks that are repetitive and dangerous, hence freeing up space for humans to undertake more complex tasks.
Robot arms are the future of manufacturing. They provide industry, flexibility, and added safety. For companies with a high-volume production line, these robots have improved productivity and increased operational capacity. Fortunately, robot arms are slowly integrating into retail and consumer environments. It is only a matter of time before they become a household name.