How Technology Has Advanced the Application of Robots

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The history of industrial robots dates back to 1937, when the world’s first known robot was developed. Since that time technology has greatly improved which has allowed for the advancement of the application of industrial robots. Once only bulky, rigid machines limited to performing simple processes, modern industrial robots have come a long way since the inception of their ancestors. Today’s robots are highly sophisticated, versatile machines that are capable of automating most manufacturing processes.

Robotic Technology and Devices

One contributing factor to the advancement of the use of industrial robots is due to the development of various devices, sensors, and software that can be integrated with robots to enhance their operation. Robotic vision systems, force sensors, and collision detection provide articulated robots with sensory feedback for greater autonomy. Vision systems give robots the sense of “sight,” significantly improving their operation. A vision integrated FANUC Lr Mate 200id can distinguish different part types from one another while in operation, avoiding making part changes through programming. Robotic force sensors provide touch feedback to robots, allowing them to adjust force applied to workpieces. This has allowed robots to automate complex finishing processes such as sanding, polishing, and grinding. Force sensors help the FANUC M-20ia apply accurate and constant pressure to the surface of workpieces for high-quality finishes. Collision detection has allowed for multiple robots to operate in close vicinities to one another without interference. This has allowed for entire production lines to be automated. Collision detection has also aided in improving robot safety by avoiding contact with other objects or workers.

The development of automated tool changers has allowed industrial robots to automate a sequence of tasks and made them more versatile. Tool changers automatically change a robot’s end-effector, allowing a multipurpose robot to quickly switch tasks. Integrating the Yaskawa MH24 with a tool changer allows it to move from cutting to welding to material handling quickly and efficiently.

New Types of Applications

Industrial robots have been used to automate welding, material handling, and assembly applications for decades. Advancements in technology has allowed robots to expand their scope and take on more complex versions of those processes. Technology has also allowed industrial robots to break into new applications such as 3D printing, inspection, and worker training.

High Mix Tasks

Previously industrial robots were only used to automate highly repetitive tasks, meaning processes that involved little variation. Today with more intelligent programming, vision systems, and sensors, industrial robots can be deployed to automate processes with a high mix of part types, steps, and product volumes. Industrial robots are more flexible in their operation with the ability to adapt to changes quickly for the automation of high mix applications.

Lights-Out Manufacturing

One of the biggest advancements in the application of industrial robots is the automation of entire factories. Many companies are converting or have already converted their factories into lights-out facilities. Lights-out manufacturing involves running an entire factory with automated equipment. Improved technology has allowed industrial robots to become more autonomous making fully automated factories a reality. Vision systems, artificial intelligence, and sensors allow robots like the FANUC R-2000ic to operate accurately without supervision.

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