The dictionary meaning of robot is a mechanical man or a more than humanly efficient automation. It is an automatic apparatus or device that performs functions ascribed to human beings or operates with what appears to be almost human intelligence. But this defamation does not give a human shape to the robot. The robot does the work of a human being.
The Robot Institute of America has given a very interesting definition on an Industrial robot. Industrial robots are usually used at industries. “An Industrial robot is a reprogrammable, multifunctional manipulator designed to move materials, parts, tools or special devices through variable programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks”.
So, a robot is capable of being reprogrammed. This characteristic distinguishes it from a fixed automation. A fixed automation is designed to do one and only one specific task. If the specification of task changes even slightly the fixed automation becomes incapable of performing the task. It is designed to perform according to one fixed specification.
However, a robot can be reprogrammed to perform even when specifications are changed drastically. The original programme is simply erased and the new programme takes care of the changed tasks. This feature that a robot can be reprogrammed makes the robot a flexible device. Hence, manufacturing systems which use robots are called flexible manufacturing system (FMS) due to this flexibility.
Karle Capek was the first person to introduce the word ‘robot’ and Sir Isaac Asimov coined first time the word ‘robotics’. According to Asimov, robotics is the science of dealing with robots. Hence robotics involves a scientific study of robots.
The study includes design, selections of materials of proper quality for the components, fabrication, study of various motors required for moving the components, design of electronic circuits, computers and computer programming and control of robots.
Since robots and robotics are still in the developing stages, a considerable amount of research is being pursued in this line. Depending on the area in which robots are to be used, robotics includes disciplines such as biology, medical science, psychology, agriculture, mining, outer space engineering etc.
Mainly two types of robots are there, i.e. fixed robot and mobile robot. The fixed type robot is fixed to a particular location while doing his work with his hands. A mobile robot moves form place to place. Mobility is given to robots by providing wheels or legs or other crawling mechanisms.
Basically robot has five major components such as,
(a) The Manipulator,
(b) The End effectors
(c) The Locomotion Device
(d) The Controller and
(e) The Sensors.
In a robot system, all the above five components are interfaced properly so that each component can work in a co-coordinated fashion for the effective and efficient functioning of the robot. In an industrial robot system, a mini computer is being used as the controller. Sensors are measuring instruments that measure quantities such as position, velocity, force, torque, proximity, temperature etc.
Applications of Robots:
Though robots are used widely in industries but they are also popular in other fields like agriculture, nuclear energy, fire fighting, mining, undersea exploration, space exploration, medical applications etc.
Use of robots in industries are very common because they can offer reduced cost of production, increase productivity, improve production quality, and can operate hazardous and hostile environment. Robots, at industries are classified according to the type of work they perform like Pick- and place robots, point-to-point robots, assembly robots etc.
In agriculture, robots are now successfully utilized for fruit picking, potato digging etc.
(3) Nuclear energy:
Handling of radioactive substances in a nuclear power station is an important work done by robots. This relieves the human beings from doing such hazardous tasks.
(4) Fire fighting and mining:
Robots can perform hazardous works like fire fighting to extinguish the fire and in mining operations.
(5) Udersea exploration:
Robot can go dip into the sea of depth 2 to 6 kilometers attached with submarine for deep sea exploration. SCARAB-such a robot, was used to retrieve the black-box of the ill-fated Air India Jumbo ‘Kaminski’.
(6) Space exploration:
Robots are used widely in space exploration and space research.
(7) Medical applications:
Robots have been valuable in the areas of artificial replacement of missing parts of human body (Prosthetics) and providing exoskeletons (orthotics) on an invalid arm or leg.