Robot - what´s that?
The human race has had a dream since the stone age: To have automatic help, to do our work for us. From the middle ages up to the beginning of the 20th Century, people tried time and again to build such machines. But such machines, although they were miracles of mechanics, never had much practical meaning.
Vaucanson* was enticed by the idea of creating an artificial human being.
But his goal seemed too far-fetched. So he altered his dream: He built a duck.
His automated duck could flap his wings, drink water, and eat grains. The latter was 'digested' with chemicals and disposed of in duck fashion...
* Jacques de Vaucanson
source: Hesse, S.: Golems Enkel,
The Droids of the Swiss Droz & Droz (1774)
Even today, every first and third Sunday morning of each month there is a demonstration of three robots in the museum of fine arts in Neuchatel. These robots, created by Droz father and son, are of a writer; an artist; and a piano player.
The robots of Droz & Droz ... are a giant step in the creation of robots. It is quite impressive when the 70 cm tall robots (the writer left and the artist right) start their complex tasks.
The writer can be programmed with an arbitrary text of up to 40 symbols. The artist can draw the following pictures: the drawing of melt from a butterfly; a dog named Toutou, a portrait of Louis' XV; and a portrait of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
source: Hesse, S.: Golems Enkel,
The term 'robot' was coined in 1920 by the Czech author K. Capek in his play 'RUR'. He described mechanical humans, who would sit on workbenches instead of their human counterparts. The root comes from the Slovak work 'robota' which means 'work'.
The birth year of the practical use of robots - the invention of the industrial robot - was 1956. George C. Devol applied for a US-Patent for the 'Programmed Hand Over of Articles', which he was awarded in 1961 under PN# 2988237. The first prototype was built in 1958 by 'Devol Consolidated Control Corporation'. The first serial produced industrial robots were built in the early 1960's by company Unimation.
The slow incorporation of industrial robots into actual work environments was only expedited in 1968 when Japan massively entered the robot business. Since then the development and usage of industrial robots has skyrocketed.
Robots can move about different axis, rotating and linear. Depending on how several of such axis are connected, robots have different working spaces and type names, i.e. scara robot, articulated or linear robot:
|Scara robot||6-axis articulated arm robot||linear robot|
|(source: 6-axis articulated arm robot: http://www.robtec.de)|
The following only pertains to scara and articulated robots
The question for a definition of what a robot is, exist as many answers as robots. Keywords here are ability for multiple axis, flexibility, and programmability.
For more more information about the foundations of robot technique, look into these (in German).
The 21st century will be the century of the robot. Robots will enter into all areas of our lives, in industry as well as in the private sector. Today, robots can already be found in many aspects of industrial productions. For instance, they can transport, stack, assemble, screw, load, unload, package, sort, cut, weld, mold, beam, solder, dosage, clean, flame, glue, proof, spray, paint, foam, palletize, drill, measure, test, check ... (see applications).
But the industrial usage of robots is only a subcategory. They also research, attend to us, and clean up. They hear, see, and talk to us. Robots today can even walk, fly, climb, swim, dive, and even help with complicated operations in hospitals. And all that not only in movies.
This all is not science fiction, but real in scientific laboratories.
And what a robot does in it's spare time? Since robots are very talented, they have many hobbies. Athletic ones can play table tennis, volleyball or soccer. Who is more a thinker plays in chess. Musical talented ones play piano, guitar or flute.
Robots today could be a lot more widely used in the industry. But in a lot of Western-Europe-Society, unlike in asian countries, people have many prejudices, and fears prevail.
Arguments can often be heard, such as:
Robots are too expensive
Most robots are used in serial and small serial serial production. Amortization usually occurs in 1-2 years. Wherever robots can be used, they are always more cost effective than manual production.
Robots are too complicated
Robots are much easier to control, as certain common PC-Operating systems.
Robots are job-killers
Right. On the same way as the wheel, the steam engine, the loom, the railway, the combine, the car...
The evolution never stops. Behind that, robots take over a lot of heavy, dangerous or harmful to health jobs and further arise new work fields.
Robots can't do that
This is a very relative statement. Hardly nothing exists in industry today that robots can't accomplish.Only the cost effectiveness must be checked.
Robots can't react to changes
That depends on how many senses they were built with. A fact is that after the introduction of robots always both quality and quantity of products increases. Behind that robots enforce neat work. The Monday-morning or Friday-evening shift-problems are forgotten.
Robots don't get tired, sick (of course they go, but the time they are sick is nothing compared with a human), and don't take time off.