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What is an Industrial Robot?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: n/a, Taaee, Computer Engineer, Gmg9130, Photographee.eu
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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An industrial robot is a robot which is utilized in industrial settings. In order to be officially considered an industrial robot, the robot must be capable of moving in three or more axes, usually with the use of an articulated arm which allows a full range of motion. It must also be automatically controlled, and it is reprogrammable. Industrial robots show up in a wide variety of settings and can be used in many different ways.

A classic use of industrial robots appears on assembly lines, where the robots put products together, check products to make sure that they conform with standards, and package products. Some assembly lines are totally automated, with robots doing all of the work from start to finish. Robots can also be involved in palletizing and preparing products for shipment, quality control, and so forth.

There are a number of advantages to working with robots. With an industrial robot, production capacity can usually be increased without needing to sacrifice safety. Robots can handle tasks which are dangerous for people, and they can be taught to do basic tasks for which paying a person might become expensive. An industrial robot is also capable of high levels of precision and control, which can be critical for product quality.

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Disadvantages come along with the advantages. Some people have protested the increasing use of robots to do jobs which people once did, arguing that this deprives people of jobs. Furthermore, robots are not always as good as human workers when it comes to catching problems. A robot is only as good as its programming, and if a programmer fails to foresee a program, a robot cannot identify it or act to fix it.

An industrial robot can be programmed in a range of different ways. Some are remotely programmable, allowing people to make adjustments to programming from a control room. In other cases, someone needs to work directly with the robot to program it. The programming can vary considerably in sophistication, as well. Some manufacturers ship their robots with basic programming, while others do not, anticipating that the robot will be programmed at its end destination.

Using an industrial robot in manufacturing requires a company to have someone who is familiar with robots available. On a big manufacturing line, a full time staff may work with the robots to make adjustments as needed. For smaller companies, an on-call technician may be needed to keep a robot or robots operating effectively.

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hamje32
Post 4

@nony - Well, the fact is that quality control is still a human function in my opinion. The robots industry still has not been able to produce a single robot capable of looking at a product and really evaluating if it meets quality control standards.

The robots can make the stuff, but at the end of the line humans are needed to see if the stuff is good enough to ship. That’s why Santa still uses elves and not robots.

nony
Post 3

@David09 - Industrial robots don’t get tired, they can do the same, repetitive movements over and over again, and they don’t take breaks. This is why we use them.

Unless you want to have old fashioned assembly lines with underpaid workers then robots are the way to go. I say “underpaid” because that’s the only way you are going to drive costs down to a level that is comparable to what you can get with robots.

China has large assembly lines of workers and they pay them very little and offer negligible health care. In my opinion robots are a way for the United States to compete at comparable price points.

David09
Post 2

@everetra - I agree and think that industrial robots could be integrated within existing facilities that use some measure of automation.

For example you can use small industrial robots and hook them up with CNC machines. These are machines that are used in metal working and stuff.

Both robots and CNC machines have to be programmed, and nobody protests the use of CNC machines, do they? To me they are very compatible technologies. This is just the world we live in.

The good news is that if you become such a programmer you will be in demand, because not everybody knows how to work with this kind of equipment.

everetra
Post 1

I am a great believer in automation, whether you are talking about computers or automation. I’ve never understood the claim that robots are job killers because they replace manual labor.

In my opinion, they are job creators. You need people to operate some of these industrial robots. People who don’t want to operate them can work in other parts of the company.

The only sense in which an industrial robotic environment is bad for jobs is if you’re dealing with people who don’t want to adapt. One way or another we all have to constantly update our skills, regardless of what profession we’re in; technology is here to stay in my opinion.

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