Understanding the Basics of Robotics: History, and Assembly of Robots
How did the Robots come into Existence, and How are they Assembled Today.
Man has always been fascinated with robots, even before it existed. Most of our sci-fi literature like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and movies like Terminator, Wall-E, too chase the idea of how robots are good or bad till date. Today, robots not only carry heavy loads around or run along the assembly lines, but they are also used in the field of healthcare, food delivery, space exploration, and so on. They have made our lives essentially easier. Even if there have been some unfortunate incidents like in 2015 when a 22-year-old worker was grabbed by the robot and crushed against a metal plate. Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, or the trepidation that robots will ultimately cost us our jobs has not prevented the booming field of robotics. But have you ever wondered how the whole concept evolve in the first place? Or how the assembly of a robot takes place?
The word robot comes from the Czech for forced labor. In was first used in a play called R.U.R. or “Rossum’s Universal Robots” by the Czech writer Karel Capek in 1921. The plot of the play was the typical storyline: man makes a robot, then the robot kills the man. And, the word robotics was inadvertently coined by science fiction author Isaac Asimov in his 1941 story ‘Liar!’ In 1942, Asimov’s Runaround mentioned about Three Laws of Robotics:
- A robot may not injure a human or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Although in today’s reality, no robot uses these three laws.
Well, there are different accounts of how robotics began. Some experts say, Egyptian water clock dating 1500 BCE, found in the tomb of Amenhotep I is the first instance of robotics. Others say it began around 270 BCE, when Ctesibus, a Greek engineer, made organs and water clocks with movable figures. Some people even claim that the history of robots dates back to 400BCE when Archytas designed and built a mechanical bird that could be propelled into the air by using steam. This supposed ‘robot’ is now called The Pigeon.
Irrespective of who designed the first robot, this technology took huge strides under the expertise of Leonardo Da Vinci, who built a ‘Robot Knight’ that could, sit, stand, and move its arms using pulleys and cables in 1495.
But, the earliest robots as we know them were created in the early 1950s by George C. Devol, an inventor from Louisville, Kentucky. The invention known as Unimate was a robotic arm device that transported die castings in a General Motors plant in New Jersey. In the late 1960s, robotic entrepreneur Joseph Engleberger acquired teamed up with Devol and modified his creation into an industrial robot and formed a company called Unimation to produce and market the robots. For his efforts and successes, Engleberger is known in the industry as “the Father of Robotics.” The robot caught so much attention and curiosity that it even appeared on The Tonight Show in 1966.
In 1958 at the Stanford Research Institute, Charles Rosen led a research team in developing a robot called “Shakey.” Shakey was far more advanced than the original Unimate, which was designed for specialized, industrial applications. Being equipped with a camera and bump sensors, Shakey could wheel around the room, observe the scene with his television “eyes,” move across unfamiliar surroundings, and to a certain degree, respond to his environment. He was given his name because of his wobbly and clattering movements. It was the beginning of the robotic revolution.
Assembly of Robots:
Robots share building components like humans. According to a HowStuffWorks article, a typical robot has a movable physical structure, a motor of some sort, a sensor system, a power supply, and a computer “brain” that controls all of these elements. They are human-made machine versions of animal life that replicate human and animal behavior. An industrial robot resembling a human arm with six joints is generally mounted to a stationary base structure rather than to a movable body. This type of robot has six degrees of freedom, meaning it can pivot in six different ways.
The leading robot manufacturer, KUKA, cites that the first step in the assembly of a robot is done in a flexible robotic cell. It starts at with assembly of axis 1, comprising the base frame, the gear unit, and the so-called rotating column. The workers perform screw-fastening and other intricate tasks, while a KR 1000 Titan robot moves the individual parts, some of which are very heavy. Then, a KR Agilus applies the sealing compound to the gear unit. Afterward, the production personnel gradually assemble axes 2 to 6. Together, axes 4, 5, and 6 constitute the complex in-line wrist in which half of the many individual components are installed. And this is how most robots are assembled.