State of the Art in Theory and Practice of Industrial Robots

Today industrial robots present a mature technology. They are capable of lifting hundreds of pounds of payload and positioning the weight with accuracy to a fraction of a millimeter. Sophisticated control algorithms are used to perform positioning tasks exceptionally well in structure environments.

FANUC, the leading manufacturer of industrial robots, has an impressive array of industrial robot products ranging from computerized numerical control (CNC) machines with 1 nm Cartesian resolution and 10-5 degrees angular resolution to robots with 450 kg payloads and 0.5 mm repeatability. Some of their robots include such features as collision detection, compliance control, and payload inertia/weight identification. The control software supports networking and continuous coordinated control of two arms. Force feedback is sometimes used for assembly tasks.

The nature robotic workcell has changed since early days of robotics. Instead of having a single robot synchronized with material handling equipment like conveyors, robots now work together in a cooperative fashion eliminating mechanized transfer devices. Human workers can be seen in closer proximity to robots and human-robots cooperation is closer to becoming a reality.

However, industrial robots still do not have the sensing, control and decision making capability that is required to operate in unstructured, 3D environments. Cost effective, reliable force sensing for assembly still remains a challenge. Finally we still lack the fundamental theory and algorithms for manipulation in unstructured environments, and industrial robots currently lack dexterity in their end-effectors and hands.

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