Applications of Robots


As more and more applications of robots are designed for specific tasks this method of classification becomes more relevant. For example, many robots are designed for assembly work, which may not be readily adaptable for other applications. They are termed as “assembly robots”. For seam welding, some suppliers provide complete welding systems with the robot i.e. the welding equipment along with other material handling facilities like turntables etc. as an integrated unit. Such an integrated robotic system is called a “welding robot” even though its discrete manipulator unit could be adapted to a variety of tasks. Some robots are specifically designed for heavy load manipulation, and are labelled as “heavy duty robots”.

Current and potential applications of robots include:

  • Military robots
  • Caterpillar plans to develop remote controlled machines and expects to develop fully autonomous heavy robots by 2021. Some cranes already are remote controlled.
  • It was demonstrated that a robot can perform a herding task.
  • Robots are increasingly used in manufacturing (since the 1960s). In the auto industry, they can amount for more than half of the “labor”. There are even “lights off” factories such as an IBM keyboard manufacturing factory in Texas that is 100% automated.
  • Robots such as HOSPI are used as couriers in hospitals (hospital robot). Other hospital tasks performed by robots are receptionists, guides and porters helpers.
  • Robots can serve as waiters and cooks, also at home. Boris is a robot that can load a dishwasher. Rotimatic is a robotics kitchen appliance that cooks flatbreads automatically.
  • Robot combat for sport – hobby or sport event where two or more robots fight in an arena to disable each other. This has developed from a hobby in the 1990s to several TV series worldwide.
  • Cleanup of contaminated areas, such as toxic waste or nuclear facilities.
  • Agricultural robots (AgRobots).
  • Domestic robots, cleaning and caring for the elderly
  • Medical robots performing low-invasive surgery
  • Household robots with full use.
  • Nanorobots
  • Swarm robotics


KUKA industrial robot operating in a foundry

Puma, one of the first industrial robots

Baxter, a modern and versatile industrial robot developed by Rodney Brooks

Robots need to manipulate objects; pick up, modify, destroy, or otherwise have an effect. Thus the “hands” of a robot are often referred to as end effectors, while the “arm” is referred to as a manipulator. Most robot arms have replaceable effectors, each allowing them to perform some small range of tasks. Some have a fixed manipulator which cannot be replaced, while a few have one very general purpose manipulator, for example, a humanoid hand. Learning how to manipulate a robot often requires a close feedback between human to the robot, although there are several methods for remote manipulation of robots.

Mechanical grippers:

One of the most common effectors is the gripper. In its simplest manifestation, it consists of just two fingers which can open and close to pick up and let go of a range of small objects. Fingers can for example, be made of a chain with a metal wire run through it. Hands that resemble and work more like a human hand include the Shadow Hand and the Robonaut hand. Hands that are of a mid-level complexity include the Delft hand. Mechanical grippers can come in various types, including friction and encompassing jaws. Friction jaws use all the force of the gripper to hold the object in place using friction. Encompassing jaws cradle the object in place, using less friction.

Vacuum grippers:

Vacuum grippers are very simple astrictive devices that can hold very large loads provided the prehension surface is smooth enough to ensure suction.

Pick and place robots for electronic components and for large objects like car windscreens, often use very simple vacuum grippers.

General purpose effectors:

Some advanced robots are beginning to use fully humanoid hands, like the Shadow Hand, MANUS, and the Schunk hand. These are highly dexterous manipulators, with as many as 20 degrees of freedom and hundreds of tactile sensors.

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