Because robotic systems can be integrated into semi-automated factory systems to improve efficiency, they have been a key element in the move toward fully automated and highly productive manufacturing processes for many different industries. Robotic systems can be found across a range of applications and specified to fill a variety of unusual niches, from industrial device assembly to assistance in microscopic medical procedures.
Industrial manufacturing robots have a distinct set of capabilities that enable them to perform in industrial environments, as well as distinguish them from other specialty robotic systems. An industrial robot can perform a wide variety of tasks, including material handling and tooling, or can be designed to handle specific manufacturing operations. To operate, a robot depends on a complex network of mechanical gestures triggered by sensors and computer integrated software. In an integrated robotic system, there are different areas of automation, thus providing varying levels of complexity and ability within the system as a whole.
An integrated robotic system typically includes several of the following capabilities and components: essential safety features, environmental and feedback sensors, environmental interfaces, and a comprehensive data management and storage system. These features, both as individual components and as one unified system, help to facilitate the successful execution of a designated production process.
But underneath each major component lie numerous subcomponents, responsible for ensuring that even the smallest robotic movement occurs smoothly and enabling the system as a whole to perform at a high level. One of the most important subcomponents is the robotic manipulator, which resembles a mechanical arm. The manipulator is jointed to allow a greater range of motion, but all joints are geared toward allowing the end-piece, known as the effector, the greatest range of motion because it is responsible for interacting directly with the external environment and conducting physical tasks. The effector, which has the ability to move in more ways than the manipulator, is the most flexible part of the robotic arm. In robots that must move about the factory floor (as opposed to a stationary robot with moving components), a vehicle enables movement along a programmable path.
Yet not all industrial robots possess the same range of motion nor move along the same axis. In fact, the manner in which a robot moves can be in one or a combination of seven ways. Common methods of movement include: point-to-point, straight line, defined curves, and sensor-guided motion. In point-to point motion, a robot moves between several predetermined points. In straight line movement, a robot simply moves forward but does not rotate or move between more than two points. Defined curve movement allows a robot to curve and move along a programmed path. A robot functioning under sensor-guided movement depends on sensor feedback to inform the way it moves.
All kinds of robotic movement are programmed using complex algorithms that take into consideration the parameters of the work environment, the speed at which the robot will move, and the timing of surrounding movement. External conditions, such as noise and vibrations, are also significant factors. Along with the necessary algorithms for dictating motion, a robot also depends upon task-specific software.