Industrial Robot Types & Features

Published: 09th August 2010
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The most commonly used robot configurations for industrial automation include articulated robots (The first and most common), SCARA robots and gantry robots (Cartesian Coordinate robots, or x-y-z robots). In the context of general robotics, most types of industrial robots would fall into the category of robot arms (inherent in the use of the word manipulator in the above-mentioned ISO standard).

Industrial robots exhibit varying degrees of autonomy. Robots are programmed to faithfully do specific actions over and over again without variation and with a high degree of accuracy. These actions are determined by programmed routines that specify the direction, acceleration, velocity, deceleration, and distance of a series of coordinated Replica Omega motions. Other industrial robots are much more flexible as to the orientation of the object on which they are operating or even the task that has to be performed on the object itself, which the robot may even need to identify. For example, for more precise guidance, robots often contain machine vision sub-systems acting as their "eyes", linked to powerful computers or controllers. Artificial intelligence, or what passes for it, is becoming an increasingly important factor in the modern industrial robot.

The first company to produce an industrial robot was Rumination, founded by Joseph F. Eagleburger in 1962, with the basic inventions of George Devon. Rumination robots were also called programmable transfer machines since their main use at first was to transfer objects from one point to another, less than a dozen feet or so apart. They used hydraulic actuators and were programmed in joint coordinates, i. e. the angles of the various joints were stored during a teaching phase and replayed in operation. For some time Unimation' s only competitor was Cincinnati Milacron Inc. of Ohio. This changed radically in the late 1970s when several big Japanese conglomerates began producing similar industrial robots. Rumination had obtained patents in the United States but not in Japan, so their designs were copied and then improved upon in that country.

In 1969 Victor Scheinman at Stanford University invented the Stanford arm, an all-electric, 6-axis articulated robot designed to permit an arm solution. This allowed the robot to accurately follow arbitrary paths in space and widened the potential use of the robot to more sophisticated applications such as assembly and arc welding. Steinman sold his design to Rumination who further developed it with support from General Motors and later sold it as the Programmable Universal Machine for Assembly (PUMA). In 1973 KUKA Robotics built its first industrial robot, known as FAMULUS, this is the first articulated Replica Tag Heuer industrial robot to have six electromechanically driven axes. Interest in industrial robotics swelled in the late 1970s and many companies entered the field, including large firms like General Electric, and General Motors (which formed joint venture FANUC Robotics with FANUC LTD of Japan) . US start-ups included Automatic and Adept Technology, Inc. At the height of the robot boom in 1984, Rumination was acquired by Westinghouse Electric Corporation for 107 million US dollars. Westinghouse sold Rumination to Stubbly Faberge's SCA of France in 1988. Stable was still making articulated robots for general industrial and clean room applications as of 2004 and even bought the robotic division of Bosch in late 2004.

Eventually the deeper long-term financial resources and strong domestic market enjoyed by the Japanese companies prevailed, their robots spread all over the globe. Only a few non-Japanese companies managed to survive in this market, including Adept Technology, Stubbly Animation, the Swedish-Swiss company ABB (ASEA Brown-Bovary), the Austrian manufacturer igm Robotersysteme AG and the German company KUKA Robotics.

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