Automated Robots vs Autonomous Robots

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Today’s industrial robots are much more advanced than their original predecessors. They have become more adaptive, intelligent, and versatile. The advancements made in robotic technology has created a new classification for robots and that is autonomous robots. All industrial robots are automated as that is part of what defines the FANUC Arcmate 120ic/10L and other industrial robots, however, not every articulated robot is considered autonomous.

It is often assumed that automated and autonomous robots are the same or interchangeable, but this is not the case. The difference between these two classifications comes down to how much human involvement is needed.

Automated Industrial Robots

Automated industrial robots are those that are mechanically controlled machines that can be programmed and reprogrammed to automatically execute production related tasks. Automated robots rely on human involvement for programming, operating, maintaining, and in some cases extra guidance. Automated robots take over repetitive, dangerous, or time consuming tasks from humans, but human involvement is still needed in some capacity, whether it be setting up, loading/unloading parts, or monitoring the robotic system. All industrial robots are automated, and most robots used by manufacturers today fit this classification. Popular applications include welding automation, material handling, material removal, painting, assembly, and machine tending among many others.

Automated robots are programmed to automatically complete tasks over and over. When changes are needed due to different part types, a new application, or other process changes human involvement is needed to reprogram the robot. Automated robots lack the technology to adjust to variables on their own.

Autonomous Industrial Robots

Autonomous industrial robots are those that require minimal to no human intervention. These are industrial robots that feature additional technology that provides the robot with feedback about its surrounding environment in order for the robot to adapt to changes on its own dynamically. It is possible to convert an automated robot into an autonomous one. Integrating the FANUC LR Mate 200id with a robotic vision system, force sensors, and a tool changer provides it with the technology for it to operate without human involvement and to adjust to variables on its own. When it comes to programming, offline software is used which allows all programming to take place through a PC without involving the six axis robot, further limiting human interaction with the robotic system.

Autonomous industrial robots are allowing companies to convert to a lights-out manufacturing concept. Lights-out manufacturing involves the complete automation of a factory through autonomous robots, eliminating human labor. Autonomous robots are equipped with the technology to adapt to changes and self-monitor their own operation. Lights-out manufacturing has become particularly appealing as many companies face severe labor shortages and rising costs. Automating an entire factory with the ABB 6640 and other robots, drastically reduces expenses through the elimination of labor costs. Autonomous robots provide reliable, consistent, efficient, and high-quality labor. Autonomous robots and lights-out manufacturing are still relatively new concepts but are expected to become the new industry standard. Manufacturers in the automotive, electronics, and robotic industries have already implemented autonomous robots to convert to lights-out manufacturing.

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