How Robots Work

 How Robots Work

How Robots Work
The inspiration for the design of a robot manipulator is the human arm, but with some differences. For example, a robot arm can extend by telescoping—that is, by sliding cylindrical sections one over another to lengthen the arm. Robot arms also can be constructed so that they bend like an elephant trunk. Grippers, or end effectors, are designed to mimic the function and structure of the human hand. Many robots are equipped with special purpose grippers to grasp particular devices such as a rack of test tubes or an arc-welder.

The joints of a robotic arm are usually driven by electric motors. In most robots, the gripper is moved from one position to another, changing its orientation. A computer calculates the joint angles needed to move the gripper to the desired position in a process known as inverse kinematics.

Some multijointed arms are equipped with servo, or feedback, controllers that receive input from a computer. Each joint in the arm has a device to measure its angle and send that value to the controller. If the actual angle of the arm does not equal the computed angle for the desired position, the servo controller moves the joint until the arm's angle matches the computed angle. Controllers and associated computers also must process sensor information collected from cameras that locate objects to be grasped, or they must touch sensors on grippers that regulate the grasping force.

Any robot designed to move in an unstructured or unknown environment will require multiple sensors and controls, such as ultrasonic or infrared sensors, to avoid obstacles. Robots, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) planetary rovers, require a multitude of sensors and powerful onboard computers to process the complex information that allows them mobility. This is particularly true for robots designed to work in close proximity with human beings, such as robots that assist persons with disabilities and robots that deliver meals in a hospital. Safety must be integral to the design of human service robots.

How Robots Work : Uses of Robots

More than 1 million robots are estimated to be in operation in the industrialized world. Many robot applications are for tasks that are either dangerous or unpleasant for human beings. In medical laboratories, robots handle potentially hazardous materials, such as blood or urine samples. In other cases, robots are used in repetitive, monotonous tasks in which human performance might degrade over time. Robots can perform these repetitive, high-precision operations 24 hours a day without fatigue. A major user of robots is the automobile industry. General Motors Corporation uses approximately 16,000 robots for tasks such as spot welding, painting, machine loading, parts transfer, and assembly. Assembly is one of the fastest growing industrial applications of robotics. It requires higher precision than welding or painting and depends on low-cost sensor systems and powerful inexpensive computers. Robots are used in electronic assembly where they mount microchips on circuit boards.

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