Invention of Robots has brought about revolutionary changes in the field of industrial manufacturing. In the earlier part of the century humans were engaged in jobs, which were very dangerous and involved serious health hazards, but in 1956, Unimation a company founded by George Devol and Joseph F. Engelberger invented the first robot. These were initially used in industries where it was required that dangers involved in working should be reduced like in spot welding, die casting and forging and then gradually they were employed in areas requiring greater strength and accuracy than human beings.
Industrial Robots are automatic devices, which to an extent simulate the human behavior or more specifically human activity. Robots are important part of the science of Automation. Automation involves machines and computers that are capable of learning and performing various types of operations. The word robot has been derived from the Czech word “robota” meaning compulsory labor. The robots are used in industries to perform various functions like material handling, spot welding, spray painting, die casting, ironing, forging, assembly operations, palletizing, dispensing, testing, water jet cutting, picking and placing heavy goods etc.
Robots are made in various shapes and sizes and generally their load carrying capacity depends up on their size and strength. An average human sized robot is capable of carrying a load of more than 100 pounds and can also move it very quickly at the rate of +/-0.006 inches. One of their major advantages is that they can work continuously for days and years at a stretch without developing any fault. Due to this persistent accuracy robots are fast becoming indispensable part of various industrial set-ups. Most often these robots are used for repetitive painting, welding and operations like picking up and placing products into the machines.
The industrial robots can be programmed for performing a single function at a time and can only perform that particular function till they are reprogrammed. The cost of a robot is not very huge, but generally the cost of programming the robot is so high that instead of reprogramming it the manufacturers find it more economical to buy a new one for a different task. In simpler terms we can say that usually the cost of the robot is just a fraction of the cost of programming it.
Robots are made up of easily available materials. Steel, cast iron and aluminum are commonly used for making the arms and bases of robots. In mobile robots, rubber tires are fixed for smooth and quiet operation. Robots may be electronically operated and also laser or radio controlled. The exposed parts of the robot are enveloped with flexible neoprene sheaths and bellows.
The importance of robots in industries is increasing day by day and they constitute a very important part of the modern industries. Robots have made so many things possible, which could not be even thought of around 6 decades ago. They have taken the place of manual labor, especially in places where people worked in very dangerous and hazardous conditions like welding, die casting and forging. They have brought about revolutionary changes in the field of industrial manufacturing. According to a research conducted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe the worldwide purchase for robots is increasing at the rate of approximately 19% every year.
In recent years Robots are also being used in industries like consumer electronics and food packaging where robots outweigh the precision and quality of assembling the products as compared to work done by human hands. Earlier on some people protested the inclusion of robots in industries on the account that this will render many people unemployed. But these fears have also been allayed and the best argument in this regard has been given by economist James Miller. He says “True, the existence of automation might depress workers’ wages but it shouldn’t ever leave them unemployable.”