Industrial robots first appeared in 1954, and by 1962 they were performing spot welding and extracted die-castings at the General Motors plant in New Jersey. Since then, robots have taken away some work in factories but opened new job opportunities in other roles. The variety of tasks and situations in which robots can perform is one reason the robotics company RobotWorx says that industrial robots are reshaping the manufacturing industry.
Arc-welding robots are common in steel production and automobile manufacturing plants. While human operators most often do the preparatory work, robots handle the parts and perform the weld. In addition to improving weld consistency, decreasing cycle times and enhancing production efficiency, welding robots have distinct health and safety advantages. Welding, which involves applying intense heat to connect two pieces of metal, exposes human workers to hazardous fumes and risks of arc burns. Replacing human workers with welding robots eliminates these risks.
Assembly robots are especially common in industries that use lean manufacturing processes. According to the ABB Group, a global power and technology company, an automated assembly line supports lean manufacturing businesses ranging from food processors to automotive manufacturing plants in a number of ways. Robots reduce waste, and decrease both wait and changeover time as they increase accuracy, consistency and assembly line speed. In addition, robots save human operators from tedious assembly line jobs.
The faster and more efficiently you can pick and pack products as they come off the assembly line, the better. However, picking and packing jobs require dexterity, consistency and flexibility, which over time can not only tax the health and safety of human workers but also decrease efficiency and speed. Picking and packing robots ensure consistent throughput, a measure of productivity within a given amount of time, which is why picking and packing robots are common in manufacturing industries.
Although welding, assembly, and picking and packing robots are the most common types of industrial robots, some industries use robots to perform other tasks. For example, electronics and optical industries that are sensitive about contamination often use clean-room robots that perform tasks in isolated, sealed and insulated environments. Aerospace, automotive, electronics, food and textile industries use water-jet robots to cut, drill and clean a variety of materials. Milling, drilling and cutting robots are common in CNC industries, such as tooling and prototype development.