The controller is the "brain" of the industrial robotic arm and allows the parts of the robot to operate together. It works as a computer and allows the robot to also be connected to other systems. The robotic arm controller runs a set of instructions written in code called a program. The program is inputted with a teach pendant. Many of today's industrial robot arms use an interface that resembles or is built on the Windows operating system.
Industrial robot arms can vary in size and shape. The industrial robot arm is the part that positions the end effector. With the robot arm, the shoulder, elbow, and wrist move and twist to position the end effector in the exact right spot. Each of these joints gives the robot another degree of freedom. A simple robot with three degrees of freedom can move in three ways: up & down, left & right, and forward & backward. Many industrial robots in factories today are six axis robots.
The end effector connects to the robot's arm and functions as a hand. This part comes in direct contact with the material the robot is manipulating. Some variations of an effector are a gripper, a vacuum pump, magnets, and welding torches. Some robots are capable of changing end effectors and can be programmed for different sets of tasks.
The drive is the engine or motor that moves the links into their designated positions. The links are the sections between the joints. Industrial robot arms generally use one of the following types of drives: hydraulic, electric, or pneumatic. Hydraulic drive systems give a robot great speed and strength. An electric system provides a robot with less speed and strength. Pneumatic drive systems are used for smaller robots that have fewer axes of movement. Drives should be periodically inspected for wear and replaced if necessary.
Sensors allow the industrial robotic arm to receive feedback about its environment. They can give the robot a limited sense of sight and sound. The sensor collects information and sends it electronically to the robot controlled. One use of these sensors is to keep two robots that work closely together from bumping into each other. Sensors can also assist end effectors by adjusting for part variances. Vision sensors allow a pick and place robot to differentiate between items to choose and items to ignore.