Industrial Robot History

Nov 29, 2017

Industrial robots continue to evolve and grow in their service reach as technology continues to advance. Integrating an industrial robot onto your production line will help to keep your manufacturing line competitive on a global scale. Contact experts to get started with your integration process today.

Industrial robots

Robot­ic Ideas Began Cen­turies Ago:

The idea of an auto­mat­ic device to help serve or work for humans has long been in exis­tence as it is doc­u­ment­ed in his­toric tales, such as ideas like auto­mat­i­cal­ly open­ing doors. 

Around the 9th cen­tu­ry, hun­dreds of pre­served texts and ideas were accu­mu­lat­ed and came togeth­er to cre­ate a book called The Sci­ence of Inge­nious Mech­a­nisms.” This book and the Renais­sance peri­od com­bined to bring many sci­en­tists and the like (includ­ing da Vin­ci) to imag­i­na­tive­ly cre­ate some of the first automa­tons (objects that move auto­mat­i­cal­ly). Most were cre­at­ed for joy and laugh­ter (The Lady Musi­cian) but they slow­ly began to bring the past chal­lenges to life.

Then, robots devel­oped a neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion from a play called Rossum’s Uni­ver­sal Robots” which pre­miered in Prague in 1921. In the play the robots helped with the work human’s would nor­mal­ly do and then revolt­ed, killed their mas­ter, and destroyed all life on earth. The R.U.R. was writ­ten to take place in the 60s, which is actu­al­ly when the indus­tri­al robots made their first appear­ance. Some­time lat­er, a sci­ence fic­tion writer, Isaac Asi­mov, cre­at­ed fun­da­men­tal laws for robots that are still used today. 

Intro­duc­tion to Indus­tri­al Automation:

Fast for­ward hun­dreds of years to the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion. This brought with it an increas­ing demand for pro­duc­tion and con­se­quent­ly, moti­va­tion for automa­tion.

The inven­tion of the Numer­i­cal­ly Con­trolled (NC) machines, the pop­u­lar­i­ty of the com­put­er (1950), and the inte­grat­ed cir­cuit (1970s) all helped to make it pos­si­ble to begin to devel­op the very first, yet sim­ple, indus­tri­al robot. 

The first ones were able to replace humans for the heavy, dan­ger­ous, and monot­o­nous tasks. How­ev­er, they had zero exter­nal sens­ing and were used for sim­ple tasks such as pick and place.

Even­tu­al­ly, devel­op­ers were able to cre­ate more com­plex motions, put on exter­nal sen­sors, and add more appli­ca­tions such as weld­ing, grind­ing, debur­ring, and assem­bly. Since then, indus­tri­al robots have been able to cut costs, increase pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, improve qual­i­ty, and help takeover dan­ger­ous or harm­ful tasks. 

Indus­tri­al Robots are Born:

George Charles Devol, often called the father of robot­ics, invent­ed the first indus­tri­al robot, the Uni­mate, in 1954. A few years lat­er, Devol and entre­pre­neur Joseph F. Engel­berg­er were dis­cussing inter­est­ed at a part and their com­pa­ny, Uni­ma­tion, was born. 

So how exact­ly would you define an indus­tri­al robot? A mechan­i­cal device that is auto­mat­i­cal­ly con­trolled, ver­sa­tile enough to be pro­grammed to per­form a vari­ety of appli­ca­tions, and re-pro­gram­ma­ble with a large works pace, sev­er­al degrees of free­dom, and the abil­i­ty to use an arm with dif­fer­ent tooling. 

The first pro­to­type, Uni­mate, was pro­duced in 1961 and installed in GM’s fac­to­ry for die cast­ing han­dling and spot weld­ing. It cost $65,000 to pro­duce yet was sold for $18,000. After that, GM installed 66 more Uni­mates and Ford became inter­est­ed as well. The indus­tri­al robot future was cer­tain to be bright with all of the auto­mo­tive inter­est and investment. 

Mod­ern indus­tri­al robot arms con­tin­ued to evolve in the 1960’s and 70’s around the globe. The com­pe­ti­tion from com­pa­nies around the world con­tin­ued to pro­duce a high demand for indus­tri­al robots. This spurred fur­ther research and tech­ni­cal devel­op­ment and items such as the devel­op­ment of the micro­proces­sor helped to cre­ate cost-effec­tive con­trol sys­tems that were still powerful. 

In 1963, the six-joint­ed Ran­cho Arm was cre­at­ed to assist hand­i­capped. This was fol­lowed by the ten­ta­cle arm, designed by Mar­vin Min­sky in 1968. It was able to lift a per­son and had 12 joints.

The first suc­cess­ful sto­ry of a busi­ness devel­op­ing a spe­cif­ic robot based on their needs was cre­at­ed in 1967. This com­pa­ny devel­oped a robot to com­plete a spray paint­ing appli­ca­tion and even­tu­al­ly became ABB. This is only one exam­ple of when large com­pa­nies began to devel­op their own indus­tri­al robots. 

So, indus­tri­al robot­ic devel­op­ment con­tin­ued to quick­ly evolve, and in 1969 the Stand­ford Arm even­tu­al­ly led to com­mer­cial arm pro­duc­tion. The Stan­ford Arm was one of the first elec­tron­i­cal­ly pow­ered, com­put­er-con­trolled arms. By 1974, it reached a lev­el of sophis­ti­ca­tion where it could assem­ble a Mod­el T water pump.

The Stan­ford Arm was fol­lowed by the Sil­ver Arm in 1974. The Sil­ver Arm was cre­at­ed by MIT’s David Sil­ver to per­form pre­cise assem­bly using touch and pres­sure sen­sors and a micro­com­put­er. Dur­ing that same year, these arms led to Vic­tor Schein­man, the inven­tor of the Stan­ford Arm, to form Vic­arm, Inc. to man­u­fac­ture indus­tri­al robot­ic arms. Schein­man was instru­men­tal in the cre­ation of the PUMA (pro­gram­ma­ble uni­ver­sal manip­u­la­tor for assem­bly) for Unimation. 

By the mid­dle of the 1970s, indus­tri­al robots had boomed and were expect­ed to grow at rates around 30% per year. The indus­tri­al robot­ic indus­try offi­cial­ly took off and nev­er looked back. 

In the 1980’s, auto­mo­tive com­pa­nies show­ered robot­ic com­pa­nies with invest­ments. The enthu­si­asm and fund­ing were not always matched with under­stand­ing. Gen­er­al Motors Cor­po­ra­tion spent more than $40 bil­lion on new tech­nol­o­gy in the 1980’s, but a lack of under­stand­ing led to cost­ly robot fias­cos. In 1988, robots at the Ham­tram­ck Michi­gan plant wreaked hav­oc — smash­ing win­dows and paint­ing one anoth­er. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the pre­ma­ture intro­duc­tion of robot­ics began to cre­ate finan­cial instability. 

It was­n’t until recent­ly that the robot­ics indus­try has regained mid-1980 rev­enue lev­els. The Amer­i­can robot­ics mar­ket dis­ap­peared as Japan­ese and Euro­pean bought up companies. 

2010 brought a huge accel­er­a­tion in demand due to the con­tin­ued inno­v­a­tive devel­op­ment and improve­ment of indus­tri­al robots. By 2014, there was a 29% increase in robot sales across the globe. 

It is an excit­ing time to be a part of the robot­ic world as our globe becomes more aware of the amaz­ing ben­e­fits of indus­tri­al robots. 

*his­toric robot facts are from this online source.

*addi­tion­al 2010-present sta­tis­tics can be seen here.

For more infor­ma­tion or to inte­grate an indus­tri­al robot onto your pro­duc­tion line, con­tact Robots​.com experts today; 8777626881 or reach rep­re­sen­ta­tives online.

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