The five most important robotics trends of 2012, like the top five of 2011, will enable volume manufacturing and greater integration of robotics with machine vision and automated systems. Some trends discussed in the slideshow below outline very targeted applications. Yet, once again, the developments in each are relevant to other, often very different types of applications, which concern robot design and the design of the systems in which they work.
Click the image below to start the slideshow:
Just like people, robots do things better with two hands. More dexterous robots will be valuable in several applications, from surgery to materials handling, or even picking up samples as they walk across the surface of Mars. A step -- perhaps a grasp -- in the right direction is the small robot with two arms, two hands, and opposable thumbs described in Dual-Armed Robot Making In-Roads.
At Automate 2011, the SDA5D lifted spherical objects from a nearby table. It's being adopted in industrial applications from logistics and palletizing to automated assembly and distribution. A larger model is deployed in automotive assembly plants and by the National Aeronautics and Space Administrtion (NASA) for space simulation operations.
Very informative wrap up on what to watch for in terms of robotics trends in 2012. I would definitely agree with the last point--the idea that the software needs to--and is--catching up with the hardware. Just like all of the embedded software being added to cars to enable and all the new gadgetry, I imagine it will be the software that will ultimately drive the utility of these new robots, especially the ability for manufacturing engineers to more easily configure and program the robots to do their stuff.
In comments on an earlier robotics article, one engineer told us that programming by hand was excruciating. So the point and click interface described in that article I gave the link to definitely was an improvement. But the big problem it solved, along with the entire package, was making it easier to program smaller robots in smaller cells doing fewer, lower-volume jobs.
Nice slide show, Ann. I love to look at pictures of robots. As for the software, I was under the impression there are fewer and fewer instances where robots need to be programmed by hand. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I thought more of the robots were now plug and play -- or at least as plug-and-play as possible.
Thanks, Rob. For industrial use, whether it's welding or assembly, or some other function, robots have to be programmed, since their complex movements must interact with other machines in 4-D. That said, the programming itself can either be hands on code crunching, or a simpler, point and click GUI, which is one of the big changes in the ABB story I gave the link to below.
I wonder if we are starting to see more applications for two-armed robots. I know that single-armed robots can't do some simple operations, such as lifting and manipulating non-rigid objects. Is the manufacturing world starting to find applications for these two-armed units?
Good point, Chuck. It's interesting to observe that two-armed robots are in a way a mashup of industrial robots and the newer humanoid robots you explored so well in your piece, "Humanoid Robots Take Shape."
The most interesting part of the application of two armed robots will undoubtedly be the programming, even moreso if they are programmed point-by-point from a pendant in the manner of one armed robots. Synchronizing the motions of two arms will add a whole additional dimension to the task. OF course, there may be programming methods available that take that into acount, which would be a valuable addition. I certainly hope that robot programming has advanced past the manual point by point path entry that I had to use, which was "a few years back". I have not seen any description of other programming methods mentioned in any detail in any Design News writeups, so I wonder what does exist currently.
The most interesting part of the application of two armed robots will undoubtedly be the programming, even moreso if they are programmed point-by-point from a pendant in the manner of one armed robots. Synchronizing the motions of two arms will add a whole additional dimension to the task. OF course, there may be programming methods available that take that into acount, which would be a valuable addition. I certainly hope that robot programming has advanced past the manual point by point path entry that I had to use, which was "a few years back". I have not seen any description of other programming methods mentioned in any detail in any Design News writeups, so I wonder what does exist currently. Are there any responses?
Lantronix Inc. has expanded its line of controllers for sensor networks with the release of a rugged controller that improves management of automation systems used in a number of industries, including manufacturing, oil and gas, and chemicals.
Inspired by the hooks a parasitic worm uses to penetrate its host's intestines, the Karp Lab has invented a flexible adhesive patch covered with microneedles that adheres well to wet, soft tissues, but doesn't cause damage when removed.
A quick look into the merger of two powerhouse 3D printing OEMs and the new leader in rapid prototyping solutions, Stratasys. The industrial revolution is now led by 3D printing and engineers are given the opportunity to fully maximize their design capabilities, reduce their time-to-market and functionally test prototypes cheaper, faster and easier. Bruce Bradshaw, Director of Marketing in North America, will explore the large product offering and variety of materials that will help CAD designers articulate their product design with actual, physical prototypes. This broadcast will dive deep into technical information including application specific stories from real world customers and their experiences with 3D printing. 3D Printing is