Science & Technology in Action

9th Edition

Let the Robots do the work

Boston Scientific

Robotic machines first appeared in the manufacturing industry in the 1950s. Since then, there has been significant scientific and technical advances in robotic design and functioning. This lesson looks at this historical evolution and describes the fundamental physics and mechanics involved.
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Contains the full lesson along with a supporting toolkit, including teachers’ notes.

Lesson excerpt

Boston Scientific manufactures medical devices such as pacemakers, defibrillators, catheters and stents. The production environment must be tightly controlled, clean and free of any contamination. Machines such as robots can operate with great precision and consistency without requiring interaction with humans or other sources of contamination. In this lesson we look at the general field of technology called robotics which deals with the design, construction and use of robots.

What is a robot?
A robot is a machine that mimics the movements or behaviour of a living being, most often a human. It is a method of automation. Standard automation addresses a process and performs it automatically. Robotics takes the movement of limbs and functions of the senses and replicates these. The concept of robots goes back a long way. Engineers and inventors from ancient civilisations, including Ancient China, Ancient Greece, and Ptolemaic Egypt, attempted to build self-operating machines, some resembling animals and humans. About 1495 Leonardo da Vinci designed a robotic knight that could sit up, wave its arms, and move its head and jaw. In 1926, Westinghouse Electric Corporation created Televox, the first robot put to useful work. The word robot was introduced by the Czech writer Karel Čapek in his play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), published in 1920.

To read the full lesson, download the pdf above.

True or False?

  1. Robots always mimic the shape of living creatures. false
  2. A delta robot is a form of parallel robot. true
  3. Cartesian robots use articulated arms. false
  4. A gantry robot is a form of Cartesian robot. true
  5. An articulated robot has fewer degrees of freedom than non-articulated. false
  6. A pressure sensor is a form of actuator. false
  7. The piezoelectric effect is caused by magnetism false
  8. Robots’ ‘hands’ are called ‘end effectors’. true
  9. ‘BASIC’ can be used to program microcontrollers. true
  10. The rotation of an object is call precession. false
  11. A linear actuator acts in a straight line. true
  12. A rigid body in space has six degrees of freedom. true
  13. The term ‘robot’ was coined by Isaac Asimov. false

Glossary of terms

articulated (or jointed-arm) robot
autonomous robot
cardiac arrhythmia