Aye, Robot! How High Tech is Changing the Assembly Line
The science fiction image of droids and robots going about daily life alongside humans is quickly becoming a reality. Futuristic fiction has predicted modern advancements in science and tech as we watch robots learn from humans and join assembly lines and factory floors.
Check out our favorite labor-intensive robots to inspire your own view of the future of tech:
Adept’s Autonomous Intelligent Vehicle (AIV) is an automated means of moving products around a manufacturing space. The Lynx requires no facility modifications in terms of its guidance, and uses software to detect, learn, and respond to obstacles in its environment. The robot functions as part of a processing line with humans and other machines, and fulfills organizational tasks currently owned by factory labor. It is compatible with a myriad of software and hardware modifications, and can move boxes continuously, sparing its human coworkers time and back pain.
This anthropomorphic robot displays a pair of eyes, an attempt at making the machine more approachable. Baxter’s designer, Rethink Robotics, claims to have created the world’s first robot with “common sense” in 2012, using the Intera software platform. Baxter operates using Intera 3, allowing it to watch and learn from demonstrated tasks and use the context of this new learning to augment its overall understanding of the workspace. Instead of Baxter’s human coworkers being forced to reprogram task information for a particular station on the assembly line, non-technical personnel can modify programs as needed simply by showing Baxter what is expected of him.
Like Baxter, YuMi is a collaborative industrial robot that combines two flexible arms with accurate vision built into its dexterous grippers. It also features sensitive control feedback and pliable software for developers. YuMi’s most unique advancements are its human-like reach and attention to detail in assembling small parts, and its ability to learn from (and replace) human labor on a manufacturing line. The robot is designed to both work safely alongside human colleagues and take the place of humans in potentially dangerous work environments.
This unique arm support is a component of the futuristic exoskeletons that will augment human labor amidst increasingly intelligent software. Such systems improve product assembly by alleviating the physical stress of their human counterparts. Users wear the x-Ar on their arms to gain mechanical support in repetitive tasks such as grinding, welding, painting, and more. The x-Ar supports the stamina necessary for precise movement—something manufacturers will likely continue to adopt as a means of increasing productivity, while decreasing the fatigue and discomfort of laborers.
The technology used to grab and move objects makes this robot unique. Electroadhesion is a flexible, ultra-low energy technology that eliminates the need for vacuums and other traditional grippers. The Robotics Business Review found that for a week’s worth of energy costs for a conventional vacuum gripper, the Grabit’s electroadhesion grip could be operated for up to 10 years. The robot’s technology enables scratch- and smudge-free handling of delicate surfaces by eliminating compressive force on objects. Grabbing stuff has never been so futuristic.