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The Evolution and Applications of Robotic Arms in Industry



Robotic Arms

Motorized robotic arms replicate human arm motions using joints and articulations to do jobs quickly and precisely. Automating repetitive and heavy-duty procedures in industrial settings boosts production rates and accuracy while promoting safety in risky environments. They also use AI and machine vision for immediate data analysis and predictive maintenance for performance.


History of Robotic Arms


Early Developments

Leonardo da Vinci created a mechanical knight with four degrees of freedom and an analog controller in 1495. The concept gave the robotic arm human-like motions. Wolfgang von Kempelen invented a robotic-armed chess automaton in the 18th century. This robot, "The Turk," was controlled by a disguised human operator but showed early automated movement and control. Undoubtedly, such early mechanisms established the foundations for current robotic arms and demonstrated that mechanical automation can accomplish complex tasks.


Modern Innovations

The Unimate was the first to produce a robotic arm in 1961. It refined automation while executing repeated activities precisely. The Rancho arm, developed in 1963, is an electrically powered, multi-degree-of-freedom robotic arm for disabled people. Scheinman's Stanford arm (1969) and Minsky's Tentacle arm (1968) further boosted robotic flexibility and control. The 1974 MIT Silver Arm provided force feedback for sensitive procedures. Aird was the first cyborg with a neurally controlled robotic arm in 1993. Recently, direct mental control of robotic arms has heightened their accuracy and adaptation in real-time applications using brain-machine interfaces.


Robotic Arms

Introducing Robotic Arms


Design and Components

Complex robotic arms are precise and efficient. Controllers execute programmed commands accurately as the brain. The arm is made of steel or cast iron and has shoulder, elbow, and wrist portions. As hands, end effectors grab, weld, and assemble. Stepper motors and hydraulics control joint movement. Feedback from advanced sensors allows immediate modifications and crash avoidance. Hence, such integration lets robotic arms do heavy jobs precisely.

Types of Robotic Arms

  • Articulated Arm

  • Cartesian (Gantry) Robot

  • Cylindrical Robot

  • Polar (Spherical) Robot

  • SCARA Robot

  • Collaborative Robot (Cobot)

  • Parallel (Delta) Robot

  • Anthropomorphic Robot


How Robotic Arms Work


Mechanics and Movement

Joint articulation and kinematic chains enable accurate robotic arm motions. Links in each joint create a chain that facilitates rotation and translation. Most robotic arms have 4-6 joints while replicating the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. Multiple degrees of freedom allow an articulated robotic arm to tackle complicated tasks. Commonly, six DOF permits complete 3D spatial manipulation. Inverse kinematics algorithms figure out joint angles to position the end effector properly. The method solves complex equations using iterative or optimization techniques.


Control Systems

Stepper motors, hydraulics, and pneumatics let robotic arms move precisely. CNC machining uses stepper motors since they move in set increments for placement. Hydraulic systems suit automobile assembly due to their force. Pneumatic machines are cheaper for small, repeated activities but less accurate. Motion sensors add to precise control with real-time arm position and speed data. E.g., encoders on each joint provide the control unit with precise angular positions for adjustments. So, the combo gives robotic arms great dependability for delicate operations.


Industrial Applications


Common Uses

In manufacturing, robotic arms dominate in precise machining and assembly. They accurately conduct strenuous duties and eliminate waste. In vehicle manufacturing, robotic arms spot weld with millimeter accuracy to strengthen structures. On the other hand, in machining, the arms can yield sub-millimeter tolerances. Automating stacking using palletizing robots, which can handle 80-700 kg, increases throughput. Production lines move components faster using material handling robots. Pick-and-place robotic arms can make 200 picks per minute consistently. Additionally, real-time flaw detection by inspection robots with sensors offers quality control.


Advanced Applications

Artificial intelligence and machine vision render robotic arms intelligent. For example, Intel® RealSense™ cameras allow for accurate object recognition and manipulation. They are flexible because they adjust to object orientation and positioning. Meanwhile, edge computing gives immediate robotic arm performance information. Predictive maintenance systems foresee failures using sensor data. In addition, pharmaceutical production uses AI-enabled robotic arms for exact medicine delivery. AI-powered agricultural robots pluck ripe fruits for greater output.


Criteria for Selecting Robotic Arms


Load Capacity and Orientation

Load capacity and orientation matter when choosing robotic arms. Load capacity must surpass payload-end effector weight. For example, a robotic arm handling 20 kilogram pieces might have a 25 kg capacity. Framework design affects load capacity. Cartesian robotic arms with linear actuators can manage heavier weights than SCARA for lighter jobs. Robotic arm orientation influences efficiency. Vertical mounting is good for overhead activities. 

On the other hand, horizontal is helpful for assembly line work. Importantly, workspace restrictions must match the arm's range of motion. Cylindrical arms are flexible but need enough room. Consequently, corresponding load capacity with framework design keeps the robotic arm in its optimal range. It helps lower mechanical strain and expand its usefulness.


Speed and Travel

Applications needing rapid, accurate motions require speed and travel. Manufacturer ratings are important for these characteristics. For instance, a Delta robotic arm may reach 50 m/s² acceleration for high-speed pick-and-place jobs in electronics production. Although slower, articulated robotic arms are more flexible and ideal for delicate welding processes. 

Moreover, travel distance affects performance in large-scale processes. A Cartesian arm may go 1.5 meters X, 1 meter Y, and 0.5 meters Z. CNC machining demands accuracy across long distances, so such specs are necessary. Furthermore, acceleration and deceleration characteristics impact throughput. SCARA's high-speed arms must balance speed with gentle handling to avoid harming sensitive components. Therefore, knowing speed and travel criteria guarantees the robotic arm satisfies application requirements without forfeiting accuracy or safety.


Precision and Environment

Due to micrometer tolerances, semiconductor production needs precision. Repeatable accuracy is vital for component alignment in robotic arms. Temperature and humidity also matter. Cleanrooms need robotic arms with negligible particle emission, which requires unique seals and materials. 

Also, dust and moisture may affect sensor performance and accuracy. Such instances need dust- and water-resistant IP67 robotic arms. Workplace vibrations also impair productivity. Precision activities need anti-vibration mounts and isolation. So, choosing robotic arms calls for considering accuracy and environmental conditions for reliable functioning in specific industrial settings.


Duty Cycle

Robotic arm maintenance and operating intensity depend on the duty cycle. Industrial robotic arms in 24/7 manufacturing must last. For example, a 50% duty cycle robotic arm may run for 12 hours without downtime. Exceeding this cycle might cause overheating and premature wear. 


Also important are maintenance intervals. Arms used in car assembly include modular components for rapid replacement. Preventing joint wear involves coordinating lubrication schedules to duty cycles. Integrated sensors provide real-time joint health tracking and predictive maintenance. It alerts operators to possible faults before they fail. While analyzing the duty cycle, the robotic arm is chosen according to its capacity to bear the operating load yet being efficient and durable.


If you're also thinking of integrating robotic solutions, contact us to know how we may help you.

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