Science & Technology in Action

16th Edition

Robotics in industry

Boston Scientific

Computer Science
Robotics is regarded as an interdisciplinary branch of engineering and science because it involves knowledge and skills from so many different areas including mechanics, engineering, electronics, hydraulics and pneumatics, computer programming, machine vision and sensory feedback.

Available downloads

The full lessons along with a supporting toolkit are available in three different formats, A4, A3 and as a Powerpoint deck.

Lesson excerpt

In popular media robots are often presented as humanoid machines that are able to perform complex tasks in a seemingly intelligent manner. The reality is usually quite different. Robots are machines that can be programmed to perform repetitive tasks with a high degree of precision autonomously, i.e. with little or no human intervention. They may also be capable of changing their behaviour in response to changing conditions. This is often facilitated by ‘machine vision’.

Industrial robots

In industry robots are often used to:
    • pick up items and move them to another place
    • inspect items and reject those that do not meet specifications
    • analyse products automatically
    • pack items into boxes for sale or transport
    • store and retrieve items as required.
In the motor industry robots are commonly used to carry out much of the assembly, welding and painting of vehicles.

Types of robotic manipulation

Basic articulated robot arms can swivel or turn in two dimensions (XY) and move up and down in the Z-direction. More advanced articulated robots have many rotating joints and can perform more complex movements, e.g. SCARA robots. They are generally faster than XYZ robots. Examples include car-assembly robots (as shown above) and product handling robots in factories. XYZ robots (or Cartesian robots) can move only along three axes that are at right angles to one another.

True or False?

  1. Robots are machines that can be programmed to perform specific tasks. true
  2. Humanoid robots are autonomous machines. false
  3. Adding a camera to a robot gives it machine vision. false
  4. Some industrial robots can pack items into boxes. true
  5. Cartesian robots are the same as articulated robots. false
  6. Delta robots are used for stacking shipping containers. false
  7. Robots are particularly good at performing repetitive tasks. true
  8. Robotics involves electronics, engineering and many other disciplines. true
  9. Autonomous vehicles use several technologies for environmental sensing. true
  10. Artificial intelligence enables some robotic systems to gradually learn and improve with practice. true