The hero of the trend to bring manufacturing back to North America is the industrial robot. Whether it's picking up delicate glass or lending a clean hand to food lines, the factory robot is taking on more and more human tasks.
We present a slideshow that shows the range of robotic help for industry. Advances in motors, strength, speed, vision, and axis control are making the robot a smart and efficient choice for repetitive, accurate action.
Click on the bot below to start the slideshow.
Global Specialties' Banshi Robotic Arm is controlled by a ATMEGA64 microcontroller that is programmable via open-source tools in C. The robot comes with many example programs already written. Or you can write your own custom programs using the free, open-source WinAVR software. (Source: Global Specialities)
Bobjengr, I ran into something similar when I was young -- like you, before college. I worked a press. In order to make sure you didn't lose fingers, you had to press two buttons to make the press comes down, thus ensuring your hands were out of the way. But, that meant many disfigured pieces. The press worked better if you could hold the corner of the piece when it was being stamped. In order to make this work, the owner had taped one of the buttons closed. I lost a corner of my thumb during that fine job.
Rob--great slide show. One other wonderful use for robotic systems is taking over hazardous repetitive tasks. Years ago, (and I do mean years ago) I was a die-setter on a press line. This was the summer before I decided to go to school for an engineering degree. All was well for a time period and then a 35 ton OBI (open back inclined) press started double clutching. It was one of our older presses and had a reputation for mechanical difficulties. The operation was 1.) the press operator would manually load a blank into the die set, 2.) press a foot switch, 3.) remove the formed part--by hand, and 4.) remove the "engineered" waste--by hand. The operation was trained and had run that press for some years. It was very close to closing time and he decided to continue working until the shift was over then turning in a maintenance ticket to have the machine worked on that night on second shift. To make a long story short, the operator lost three fingers on his right hand due to two extremely quick "hits" of the ram. I was just a kid at the time but have never seen so much blood in one spot in my lift. If we flash forward 50 years, we see that most modern presses have "pick and place" robotic systems actuated by double-palm switches. These systems have greatly reduced the number of catastrophic injuries.
@AnandY Not so fast there. Check out the work of Peter Abbeel at University of Berkely. He teaches robots to visually observe and then follow the task -- such as folding towels in a pile of laundry. We can incrementally duplicate human intelligence a step at a time and finally invent our descendants. At some point, they will become conscious and we will have to talk about machine rights. It's sad that we resist talking about animal rights, even today.
I agree AnandY. The fact that robots are good at repetitive tasks and do only what they're programmed to do makes them perfect for many factory jobs. I've always seen these jobs are soul killers -- having done them when I was young -- so I'm happy to see robots get these jobs. The downside is that a factory worker who might have earned enough to live on may now be working at a fast-food restaurant making less than a living wage.
@ GlennA, you are absolutely right. In fact you have brought into light the limitation of robotics that robots are only good at simple and repetitive tasks. That is because human intelligence can't practically be replicated. Robots are machines designed and programmed by humans and they can do only what they are told to do. That is what they are good at doing without making errors.
Good point AnandY. Yes, you're seeing improvements in sensors. We're also seeing improvements in other robot components, including motors, drives, axes for movement. Plus, the cost of all of this keeps coming down.
So far as I understand robotics is the production of artificial intelligence, is it? Anyway, robots are around for some time now but they seemed to be struck with no real advancements. Now, as in this slideshow, we are witnessing some advancements. I have a question though. Are these developments not related to sensors more precisely than to robots?
The main reason for using robots is return on investment. The accounting basis - tax deductions and depreciation allowances make robots less expensive. At least on the spreadsheet. The dollars on the bottom line make the decision.
Thanks Ralphy Boy. I think vision systems have shown some real advances in the last couple years. Same with pressure sensors. Both of these advances are big steps in robotics. Vision systems can now easily detect colors and shapes at astounding speed.
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