Robotic arms, also sometimes known as industrial robots are often defined as mechanical arms. They are devices that work the same as a human arm, and with joints that can rotate in different directions or move on an axis. These robotic arms are programmable and used for performing specific operations in fabrication, manufacturing, and other industrial tasks. They can range from small arms that perform detailed and intricate jobs and can be hand-held, or big enough with a reach that can construct a building.
Originally, the robotic arms were designed for factory mass production, especially in the automotive industries. They were deployed to reduce worker injuries and to undertake boring and repetitive tasks. The earliest robotic arms were used for simple, but repetitive welding jobs. As the years go by and technology advances, the robots are fitted with sensors and robotic vision, which makes them more effective.
History of Robotic Arms
The first robotic arm was built in 1954 by George Devol. In 1962, General Motors joined in by implementing the Unimate robotic arm for car assembly. In 1969, the industrial robot controlled by a computer, called “The Stanford Arm” was built by Victor Scheinman. The Stanford Arm had six axes and was the first of its kind, which inspired the robots that came after.
In 1969, Nachi, a Japanese company developed the first hydraulic arm, and in 1973, a German company called Kuka built the first commercial robotic arm with six axes. At first, the robots were used for spot welding, but later their uses grew. Technology advanced, and more end-of-arm tooling became available. The robotic arm thereafter became a universal robot, used by almost all manufacturers. Currently, the end-of-arm innovations include suction devices that fold sheet metal, heating devices for molding and bending, and 3D Printing tool heads.
Sensors and Robotic Vision Advancement
One of the most important advancements in robotics is sensor development. In 1974, Victor Scheinman built the Silver Arm, which assembled small parts via feedback from pressure and touch sensors. The robots back then had sensors for measuring the robot’s joint angles, but advancement in technology means the sensors have significantly impacted the work a robot can do.
Here are a few of the things the sensors can do, and what they provide.
- 2D sensors include video cameras via which the robot detects movement in a specific area. This
allows the robot to adapt its actions and movements according to the data the camera conveys.
- 3D Vision sensors are a novel technology that promises to help the robot to make complex decisions. This will happen via two cameras placed at varying angles, or a laser scanner that provides the robot with a three-dimensional view.
- A Force Torque Sensor allows the robot to know the force it applies and gives it an allowance to change the amount of force as needed.
- Collision Detection sensors give the robot a keener awareness of its environment
- Safety sensors are used for ensuring that humans working around and with the robot are safe. The safety sensors let the robot know when to start or stop operating if it senses a person within its work envelope. If the robot comes into contact with the person or an object, it immediately grinds to a halt until the object is removed or the person moves away.
These are not the only sensors, and some include heat or tactile sensors. These sensors provide myriad benefits for robotic arms by providing the robotic arm with information that assists it to make decisions.
The robotic arm became almost a necessity for manufacturers to improve productivity, consistency, precision, and product uniformity. Due to the increase in productivity, it followed that the return on investment (ROI) for most was achieved much faster. The robotic arm has come a long way since the first robot, and the rapid advancements in technological innovations have not stopped. In another ten years, who knows what the robotic arm will be capable of?Updated Date: 26 January 2021, 08:23