Evolution of the Robotic Arm
Since its inception in 1961, the robotic arm has redefined the relationship between man and machine. This robotic limb has effectively revolutionized industry automation, allowing manufacturing and assembly companies to speed up production capacity and improve operational capabilities.
What many people are unaware of is that George Devol, the inventor of the very first robotic arm, was a self-taught engineer. He pioneered the first electro-mechanical machine that has progressed into a digitally operated, programmable robot. With the help of Joseph Engelberger, Devol introduced his invention to the industrial world and began a revolution that continues to shape the modern industry.
These two pioneers of industrial automation also introduced the concept of machine learning. This idea meant that they envisioned an age where robots could be taught and programmed to perform complex tasks. The fundamental argument was that these machines could effectively function based on specific commands.
It took two decades for Devol to develop a selling point, and it was mainly on the lines that a robot could perform repetitive tasks with the same level of accuracy and without fatigue. The biggest problem was the premise that the robotic arm would eventually replace an aging workforce and put low-level employees out of work. This fact alone made finding a market difficult and frustrating.
It was not until Devol turned his attention to the European market that people began to warm up to his idea, and with the boom of the automotive industry in the 80s, his robot became a huge success.
Rare Known Facts about Industrial Robotic Arms
Autonomy in Commercial Spaces
An emerging trend making waves is that you can purchase autonomous robots at the retail level. While surgical, manufacturing, and large assembly lines pioneered the use of industrial robots, these machines have become accessible in consumer environments. Smaller companies are now getting the value of automated stock-taking that is faster and more accurate. Retail chains such as supermarkets are now deploying robotic arms for both indoor and outdoor use.
In retail circles, these robots have significantly improved mobility and are now offering better safety.
More than 2 Million Robot Units are Installed Globally
While it wasn’t until the late 1970s that the first 6-axis robotic arm made the market, it took only a few years for Europe and Asia to buy into this revolutionary invention. The 80s and 90s saw automotive industries in Japan, China, and the UK using robots to handle high volume production. The robotics market has exploded since then, with over 2 million industrial-level robots operational worldwide.
Asia is the leading adopter in this case, with China, Japan, and Korea all being beneficiaries of industrial automation. Other countries such as the US are also close behind, with Germany leading the line in Europe mainly due to its highly sophisticated automotive industry.
While Japan has been at the forefront of industry and innovation, China surpassed it in 2013, becoming the leading nation in robot purchases. Fundamentally, the rise of robotics is now challenging other countries to embrace automation, and it is only a matter of time before they join this list.
The growth of robotics is now more rapid than ever before. Manufacturing companies will need to invest heavily in this technology in order to establish and maintain a competitive edge.
Robotic Arms in Surgical Practice
Devol envisioned a machine that could be taught to replicate any procedure and perform complex tasks several times with the same level of precision. This dream has been realized as robotic arms are now performing intricate surgeries with levels of accuracy that were previously considered impossible.
Robotic arms perform hundreds of thousands of surgeries every year with better results. You are looking at machines that offer precision within a hundredth of a millimeter, something that even the best surgical team may be unable to achieve.
These collaborative robots are now working together with some of the world’s most impressive physicians to develop and perform highly effective surgical techniques. With these robots, there is a zero error margin and hand tremors have become of the past. As many industries are beginning to warm up to robotic arms, it is critical to note that collaborative robots have been a reality in surgery for more than ten years.
The State of Robotics and Navigation Technology
Modern technology has shifted focus from rigid robots that require lots of floor space to infrastructure-free, autonomous robots. The concept of automated guided vehicles or AGVs contributed to the development of automated mobile robots (AMRs). While AGVs were rigid, modern AMRs can operate beyond the confines of an infrastructure-dependent operational system.
Not that AGVs are not efficient. The main idea is to create a system of mobile robots that can operate with no infrastructure and be more effective in performing various tasks. AMRs are still a novice technology, but many countries are beginning to consider the value they may bring to the market. Things such as autonomous mobile vehicles and carts are exciting prospects for many investors.
Collaborative Robotics Arms
Lastly, the emergence of cobots has brought a new dynamic to the world of robotics. This new technology has increased human-machine interactions to a large degree. While previous robots replaced the human workforce, collaborative robots work to secure safe interaction and collaboration.
Essentially, these robots work with humans in the same workspace to increase productivity. The reason cobots have become popular over the years is that they are relatively affordable and highly versatile. They can be used in various applications and are equipped with padding and sensors that make them safer to work with.
Modern collaborative robots are also easy to program, flexible, and do not require a lot of floor space. This set of features makes them perfect for small to medium enterprises looking to automate operations. The massive increase in the supply of collaborative robots has also improved accessibility, making it easier for SMEs to integrate them into their businesses.
Robotics has come a long way since its breakout in the 1960s. As technology continues to grow and new inventions surface, there is no telling just how much current trends will influence the future of the industrial robotic arm. What we can say for sure is that this technology is here to stay.