Exploring Robotic Technologies – Historical and Modern Applications

Just like additive manufacturing solutions, robotic technologies continue to revolutionize modern industry workflows. Read all about the development of industrial robots and some of their modern applications.

Robotic technologies have enriched a variety of industries ever since they were invented. Robots are especially suited to perform dangerous, dirty or repetitive tasks and do that with high endurance, speed, and precision. They weld and paint cars, put stock on shelves in warehouses, pick out items for orders, transport goods from point A to B, move fragile materials without damage, assist with gluing, assembling, cutting, grinding and support humankind in every so far possible way.

The International Federation of Robotics has predicted a worldwide increase in adoption of industrial robots and they estimated 1.7 million new robot installations in factories worldwide by 2020. Also, the types of robots that are used are getting increasingly diverse, including, for example, articulated robots, delta robots (which have parallel arms) and SCARA robots, as well as cartesian coordinate robots.

Writing Robotic History

The application fields of robotic technologies have increased over time, but contrary to popular belief, they don’t necessarily make human work obsolete. Rather they allow humans to specialize and relieve us of repetitive works (read here, for example, how the robotics technology revolutionizes the packaging industry).

The first industrial robot was introduced already over 80 years ago. It was completed by „Bill“ Griffith P. Taylor in 1937 and was powered by only a single electric motor. In comparison to modern industrial robots, its functions were rather limited. Five axes of movement were possible and its most pronounced skill was the grab and grab rotation.

The first robotics patent was granted in 1961 to George Devol, who co-founded the world’s first robotics company in 1962 with Joseph F. Engelberger. They called it Unimation: an abbreviation of Universal Automation.

Today, robotics are a vital part of modern industry workflows and not only simplify production, but also optimize it due to the undeniable accuracy of the technology. Modern robots are not so much about mechanical processes, but they have evolved into data collectors. They can be integrated into the workforce.

Personalized Food Production with Robots and Printers

The B2B company BeeHex are developing robots and 3D printers for food production with the aim of a more personalized, time-effective nutrition. Originally, BeeHex was a NASA spin-off company that worked on enhanced nutrition possibilities in outer space, but as there are no long travels to space planned for now, they are concentrating on terrestrial food production.

At the moment, they are collaborating with a pizza chain in Columbus, Ohio, and are planning the first digital snack stand. Their technology modernizes food preparation and automates high speed food personalization for big and small food. It is on a good way to revolutionize the food production industry.

A Robotic Nurse with 3D-Printed Fingers

In the past, robots were asked to do very specific tasks, usually in a fixed location. Nowadays, they are characterized largely by their mobility. Students and professors at Imperial College London are developing a robot with dexterous 3D-printed fingers to assist the elderly or physically-challenged, in order to cope with the growing shortfall of nurses in the U.K.

The advantages of this joined technology are summarized by Yiannis Demiris, director of the personal robotic laboratory at Imperial College:

“There’s an increasing need for technologies that will allow people to maintain their independence, and through that, satisfy their fundamental human desire for privacy and dignity.”

Robotics as well as additive manufacturing have revolutionized our view of creation, manufacturing, art and many other fields of life. The combination of both offers possibilities to modern industry that were previously inconceivable and they are getting more and more advanced and accessible to the public.

Innovations in the industrial printing sector seem limitless and time will tell, where technologies like industrial robotics and additive manufacturing will lead us. The combination of both has already today proven useful. Where else do you see potential for their joined functions?