Robot Anatomy and Related Attributes
Joints and Links
Common Robot Configurations
Joint Drive Systems
Robot Control Systems
Sensors in Robotics
Industrial Robot Applications
Material Handling Applications
Assembly and Inspection
lead through Programming
Robot Programming Languages
Simulation and Off Line Programming
Engineering Analysis of Industrial Robots
Introduction to Manipulator Kinematics
Accuracy and Repeatability
An industrial robot is a general purpose, programmable machine possessing certain anthropomorphic characteristics. The most obvious anthropomorphic characteristic of an industrial robot is its mechanical arm, that is used to perform various industrial tasks. Other human like characteristics arc the robot's capability to respond to sensory inputs, communicate with other machines, and make decisions. These capabilities permit robots to perform a variety of useful tasks. The development of robotics technology followed the development of numerical control (Historical Note 7.1),and the two technologies are quite similar. They both involve coordinated control of multiple axes (the axes are called joints in robotics), and they both use dedicated digital computers as controllers. Whereas NC machines arc designed to perform specific processes (e.g., machining, sheet-metal hole punching, and thermal cutting), robots are designed for a wider variety of tasks. Typical production applications of industrial robots include spot welding, material transfer, machine loading, spray painting, and assembly.
Reasons for the commercial and technological importance of industrial robots include the following:
Robots can be substituted for humans in hazardous or uncomfortable work environments.
A robot performs its work cycle with a consistency and repeatability that cannot be attained by humans.
Robots can be reprogrammed. When the production run of the current task is completed, a robot can be reprogrammed and equipped with the necessary tooling to perform an altogether different task.
Robots are controlled by computers and can therefore be connected to other computer systems 10 achieve computer integrated manufacturing.
The word "robot" entered the English language through a Czechoslovakian play titled Rossum's Universal Robots. written by Karel Capek in the early 1920s.The Czech word "robota'' means forced worker. In the English translation, the word was converted to "robot' The story line of the play centers around a scientist named Rossum who invents a chemical substance similar to protoplasm and uses it to produce robots. The scientist's goal is for robots to serve humans and perform physical labor, Rossum continues to make improvements in his invention, ultimately perfecting it. These "perfect beings" begin to resent their subservient role in society and turn against their masters, killing off all human life.
Rossum's invention was pure science fiction (at least in the 19205;however, advances in the modern field of biotechnology may ultimately be capable of producing such robotic beings) our short history must also include mention of two real inventors who made original contributions to the technology of industrial robotics. The first was Cyril W Kenward, a British inventor who devised a manipulator that moved on an xyz axis system. In 1954, Kenward applied for a British patent for his robotic device, and the patent was issued in 1957
The second inventor was an American named George C. Devol. Devol is credited with two inventions related to robotics. The first was a device for magnetically recording electrical signals so that the Signals could be played back to control the operation of machinery. This device was invented around 1946,and a U.S.patent was issued in 1952.Tbe second invention was a robotic device. developed in the 1950s. that Devol called "Programmed Article. Transfer," This device was intended for parts handling. The U.S. patent was finally issued in 1961.It was a rough prototype for the hydraulically driven robots that were later built by Unimatiun, Inc.
Although Kenward's robot was chronologically the first (at least in terms of patent date), Devol's proved ultimately to be far more important in the development and commercialization of robotics technology, The reason for this was a catalyst in the person of loseph Engel berger. Engelberger had graduated with a degree in physics in 1949.As a student, he had read science fiction novels about robots. By the mid1950s. be was working for a company that made control systems for jet engines. Hence. by the time a chance meeting occurred between Engeloerger and Devol in 1956, Engelberger wns"predisposed by cd ucation,avoclltion, and occupation toward the notion of robotics."! The meeting took place at a cocktail party in Fairfield, Connecticut. Devol described his programmed article transfer invention to Bngelberger. and they subscqucr.tly began considering bow to develop the device as a commercial product for industrvIn 1%2, Unimauon, Inc. was founded, with Engelberger as president. The name of the company's first product was "Ururnate," a polar configuration robot. The first application of a Unimate robot was for unloading a die casting machine at a Ford Motor Company plant.