One can’t put the brakes on technological advancement, especially in the current century. Thus, it is not difficult to imagine the same advancement happening to robots. We used to imagine actual productive robots engaging in manufacturing and assembly lines. But the world has changed since 2005. Today, these robots have not only evolved but also permeated into different industries. Is it a good thing? Who knows, but we are here to figure out how they work in-depth.
What are robots? What can they do?
Starting at the start, what are robots, and what makes them tick? Well, they are a type of automated machine that can complete specified tasks, with little to no human supervision or intervention, without compromising speed or focus. It is not a new subject area, as robotics has been a part of the tech world for at least fifty years.
These robots are programmable, and the field that discusses the development and production of robots is called robotics. While most robots share some common characteristics, they operate on different autonomy. Hence, we have both remote-controlled robots and automatic bots.
Since robots do not run the risk of death and or diseases, it makes them the perfect candidates for not-so-ideal tasks. Here are a few jobs that a robot could do better than humans:
- Automates repetitive industrial tasks
- Can work in hazardous environments
- Aids corporate security
- Aids medical surgeries
- Delivery service
Reading the advantages and disadvantages of a robot will give you a better idea.
Common characteristics of a robot
Despite their difference, most robots share a few common characteristics, such as:
- Mechanical construct – Every robot has a mechanical part to aid with task completion without taking environmental factors into the equation.
- Electrical component – Robots also require power to run. They need energy to perform operations. And this energy is mostly electrical. Hence, the robots have to have electrical components that can circulate power.
- Computer programming – Robots also require a brain to function. And since they don’t have one, algorithms, codes, and programming together act as a brain or the central control system of a robot. It is this computer programming that makes a robot future-proof and offers avenues for progress.
How do robots work?
As of now, the majority of the robot “community” engages specifically in performing heavy, repetitive, and manufacturing tasks. They are used when a job is deemed too risky, difficult, or rigorous for a human. But how do they actually work? And we are not talking about specifics, but the theory behind what a job is to a robot and how they go about completing it.
First, any robotic engineer begins by specifying the nature of the task by breaking down the complete process into smaller packages. Then he has to design a robot with some basic features that are:
- The ability to sense things.
- The capability of processing things sensed.
- And lastly, to take action based on the processing.
In robotics, these are the three pillars that stipulate the workings of a robot. These are perception, cognition, and action. A robot gets built around these principles based on the job requirement. For example, a manufacturing robot arm doesn’t require cognition or even perception in most cases, only action. On the other hand, a robot vacuum cleaner requires both perception and action but not cognition.
Now, most robots on this earth work fine with only perception and action modules. And most engineers also agree that to be a robot, the machine has to fulfill at least these two criteria. As for cognition, it is a long-standing debate that has only recently seen some shifts due to AI.
Main components of a robot
Finally, we are at the last segment of the article, which will discuss the various components a robot is made of and how it uses them to work. For better understanding, we have divided these components into Hardware and Software.
Hardware is the physical aspect of a robot, and before AI, it was the core of the machine, as most robots were being made for heavy lifting. Typically, a robot’s hardware includes the main body, motors, and sensors.
1.1 – Body Type
The body of a robot is based on its application. Some are humanoid-shaped, some only have an arm or legs, and some are only wheels. Similarly, the material used to create the body also differs accordingly. The most common materials used are plastic, steel, and carbon fiber. Robots are delicate, as even an additional gram of weight has to be adjusted to reduce the burden on power consumption.
1.1.1 – Actuators
The body of a robot is only its outer shell. What makes the bodywork are the actuators that are made up of different motors. A device is only considered a robot if it has a movable frame. Actuators are responsible for it. They are made up of metal or elastic and operated by compressed air and or oil.
1.1.2 – End Effectors
And then, we have End Effectors, the external components of a robot that aid with task completion. Since they are external to a body, they are replaceable. These tools, although crucial to a task, are not an integral part of a robot as they need to be interchangeable for convenience. Imagine a robot with a fixed drill instead of an arm. If the drill malfunctions, the whole arm has to get replaced. But by creating a replaceable drill and attaching it to a robot arm, we can work around the issue.
1.2 – Motors
Motors are primarily responsible for a robot’s movement. There are different types of motors used in a robot, such as vibrating disks, bidirectional step motors, rotational motors, and pumps. Most of these work in tandem for the robot to function accordingly.
1.3 – Sensors
Sensors collect environmental information and feed it to the central processing unit for further understanding and application. These are essential to some robots. Cameras, microphones, pressure sensors, speedometers, thermometers, position sensors, humidity meters, and tactile sensors are the few common sensors used in a robot.
1.4 – Power Source
And finally, we have the power source that is at the core of robotics. Because without energy to power up the device, a robot can’t function. And it is the task of the power source to provide the energy needed by the robot. The most common form of energy used in a robot is, undoubtedly, electricity. It can be a direct supply or in the form of a battery. Some robots are also made to run on solar energy, and there are a few that run on petroleum products.
Software powers the control system of a robot. It decides how the robot should operate, how to execute commands, what to do in case of errors, etc. Basically, it is the brains of a robot. The software helps robots overcome the barrier between humans and machines.