After hundreds of lonely years of doing what he was built for, Wall-E (from the movie by the same name), a garbagecollecting robot discovers a new purpose in life (besides collecting knick-knacks) when he meets a sleek search robot named Eve. They experience love at first sight. They possess an instant chemistry of belonging to each other.True to his love, Wall-E also protects Eve from wind, rain, and lightening.
Tracing its origin way back to 1495 when Leonard Da Vinci designed The Mechanical Knight, the first human-like mechanical device, robots have evolved into humanoids with artificial intelligence, which can mimic human expressions. On the industrial front, UNIMATE, the first digitally operated and programmable robot installed in 1961 to lift hot pieces of metal from a die casting machine and stack them, has since evolved into mechanical marvels which can execute the most complex manoeuvres with more speed, precision and agility.
In 1953, Grey Walter used a tortoise in his cybernetics research. In the 1960s, the work started to replace the lost human limbs, the development of which significantly contributed to the development of the robots. In 1969, a more sophisticated mobile robot, Shakey, was built at Stanford Research Institute. Shakey was set to solve simple tasks like recognising an object using vision, then find the way to the object and perform some action on the object.
All this has been made possible, thanks to robotics.
From the early to mid 80s, the robot industry grew very fast primarily due to large investments by the automotive industry. With the boom in the auto and manufacturing sector, robotics is gearing up for sharp growth. At Tata Motors, the employee strength has come down by 20 per cent, while the company’s turnover has increased 2 1/2 times. Its Pune plant alone has invested in 100 robots and the automaker is adding more.
Going forward, there is immense potential for robotics deployment in the auto sector. Robotics can play a critical role in automobile manufacturing as automation can positively impact the cycle time of producing a vehicle. The major advantages of using robots are productivity improvement, improved flexibility and scalability, ergonomics, quality improvement and cost reduction in the long run.
While in some applications, a simple Uniaxis transfer of component would suffice, there are yet another whole range of applications which require the precision and agility of Multiaxis robots.
At Maruti, a large number of in-house automations have also been developed including automatic spot welding automations in weld shops, transfer and loading/unloading of components in machine shops, and lot of other automations across the plant.
DiFacto Robotics and Automation, a technology company offering outsourced engineering services in the areas of Robot simulation and offline programming, on-site robot commissioning and programming, technical consultancy and design services and robot training, “Robots are used in a wide range of industrial applications such as material handling, spray painting, sealing, grinding, polishing, inspection etc.”
While the automotive sector is the biggest user of robots, other sectors that prominently employ them are the food and beverage industry, packaging industry, textile, plastics, pharmaceutical/biomedical, printing, machine, electronics, etc.
Some of the other areas where robots are used include research and development laboratories for handling of certain materials which may not be handled by humans, either due to precision and care required in handling or due to harmful nature of the same. Robots are also used in surveillance and reconnaissance in military, space exploration as well as the entertainment and hospitality industry.
With the growing demand of automation and dependency on robots to perform multiple tasks, are there chances of employee strength going down?
It is absurd to say that robots can supersede employee strength. On the contrary, robotics will create a plethora of employment within the auto industry. One should not forget that robots don’t run by themselves, they need humans to instruct them to carry out the tasks. At the onset, it may seem that robots can cause unemployment by replacing human workers, but they in turn also create jobs such as robot technicians, salesmen, engineers, programmers and supervisors etc.
Needless to say, with the current trends in the automotive industry, robotics will have a very significant role to play. Robots have revolutionised the industrial workplace. Thousands of manufacturers rely on the productivity, high-performance and savings provided by modern-day industrial automation. Robotic automation has dramatically altered factories throughout the globe.
Humans may not be as developed as the robots, but that’s because they exist more to represent the whole of humanity rather than particular individuals. Wall-E and Eve are a testament to the level of genius, but are humans ready to add some intellectual gravity for the world to chew on.