As consumer demand has risen over the years, production lines have struggled to keep pace. Fortunately, with the rapid evolution of technology comes more automated processes. This is especially true in manufacturing, as industrial robots are now being used to help out with repetitive tasks to make the manufacturing line more efficient. Studies have even shown that industrial robots can help companies remain competitive, in addition to boosting productivity and safety for human workers.
However, what are industrial robots exactly, how do they work, and what do they do? Before committing to utilizing an industrial robot, it is important you know the answer to these questions. Here, we take a look at what they do, their components, and the industries that use them. For those interested, make sure to read on and find out more!
What are industrial robots?
Simply put, an industrial robot – or rather, an industrial robot arm – is a specific type of robot designed for manufacturing. They can move in many directions and people can program them to carry out simple tasks including welding, painting, assembly, and more. As a result, people can use industrial robots in a wide variety of industries, such as automotive, agriculture, pharmaceutical, and others. Most of the tasks that industrial robots do tend to be repetitive and monotonous. For instance, manufacturers can program industrial robots to apply paint to a certain product, pick or select certain goods, or package orders and get them ready for shipping. As technology develops, the capabilities of these robots are expected to expand, with more businesses anticipating further changes in the future.
Old Robots vs Modern Robots
In the past, industrial robots tended to be a lot simpler, as they could only be programmed to perform narrowly defined tasks. Most robots were not able to identify what a specific object looked like, meaning they based an object’s location on distance.
Now, thanks to the implementation of cameras and visual sensors on industrial robots, these AI technologies can help them to sense their surroundings, meaning industrial robots can start performing more complicated tasks.
For example, some industrial robots can be programmed to sort through a pile of items and can recognize and point out irregularities in objects. This makes them incredibly useful when it comes to quality assurance. Therefore, these new capabilities allow robots to operate more safely and consistently, in addition to expanding the range of tasks they can perform.
Although certain characteristics of industrial robots will vary depending on who makes them, they are defined by the international standard ISO 8373:2021 as: “a multifunctional, reprogrammable, automatically controlled manipulator, programmable in three or more axes that can be fixed in one area or mobile for use in industrial automation applications.”
On the whole, there remain four main parts to an industrial robot. This includes the manipulator, the controller, the power supply, and the human interface device.
The manipulator refers to the robotic arm, which is typically mounted to a base. The arm contains multiple joints that allow it to move in many directions. The more rotary joints an industrial robot has, the more freely it can move. The vast majority of industrial robots tend to have either four to six joints.
The arm then has a controller, which is the brain of the industrial robot. This place holds all the programming codes. The controller is also where the robot receives signals from the system. Aside from receiving signals, the controller can also process and send them back out, which helps to control the robot’s actions.
In addition to signals, industrial robots can receive input through their human interface device. As its name suggests, this is where a human interacts with an electronic information system, either by inputting data or providing output.
Of course, all industrial robots need to have some kind of power supply, in order to get and maintain their energy to do work. This is often in the form of electrical energy.
Industries that use them
Because industrial robots provide so many advantages to companies and manufacturers, they can use them in pretty much every industry. In fact, even small to mid-sized businesses are using them too, especially as it has become more affordable to buy an industrial robot. Here are a few sectors that often use industrial robots:
When it comes to the logistics industry, industrial robots are often used to help with the transportation and packaging of products. These tasks can include pick and place, screwing, or palletizing. Industrial robots can also be used to help with quality inspections so that manufacturers know that their products meet a certain standard before being sent out to customers.
Surprisingly, the food industry has seen an increase in automation in the last few years. This is mainly a result of increasing consumer demand due to the rise in online shopping, with people wanting products faster than ever before. Therefore, using industrial robots is a way for companies to maintain competitiveness and meet customers’ demands. Robots can be used in tasks such as machining, welding, and even robotic butchery.
There is no doubt that the pharmaceutical industry has seen a huge shift in recent years, mainly thanks to the global pandemic in 2020. As such, the medical sector had to rapidly alter its method of processing and responding to changing health situations. Automation is one way that major pharmaceutical companies have been able to comply with people’s demands, in addition to maintaining the proper amount of social distancing. Pharmacies can use robots to sort specimen samples, in addition to testing and manufacturing medical machines. However, it still remains to be seen how the industry will develop in the future.
This is one of the most popular sectors that uses automation and industrial robots. In fact, it could be considered a trailblazer, as it was one of the first industries to adopt robots in the manufacturing process. This is mainly due to robots having incredible accuracy and consistency, in addition to speeding up productivity. With automobiles becoming more complex, industrial robots are there to ensure every vehicle is in tip-top standard before being sent out and driven in. Most industrial robots are in charge of tasks such as assembly, painting, screwing, sanding, welding, and more. In addition, with consumers looking for more customization in their products nowadays, industrial robots can help businesses keep up with the ever-increasing demand.
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