Robotics, viewed as one of the drivers of the industrial revolution 4.0, faces some challenges connected with growing accuracy and speed required by industries where robots are applied. In this article, we go over some advancements that help to overcome these barriers and be successfully applied in various environments.
A robotic system is the result of the interconnection of 4 sub-systems: the mechanical system, the actuation system, the measurement system and finally the control system.
The task of the actuation system is to produce the joint motion set by the control system and is generally composed of a power source, a power amplifier, a servomotor, and a transmission component.
Depending on the type of input power the motors can be divided into three groups:
- pneumatic – they transform the pneumatic energy supplied by a compressor into mechanical energy through pistons and turbines;
- hydraulic – they transform the hydraulic energy into mechanical energy thanks to pressure;
- electric – use the electricity supplied by the distribution system and transform it into mechanical energy.
The main requirements for engines in robotics are:
- the low inertia and high value of the power/weight ratio
- possibility of overload
- ability to develop high accelerations
- wide range of speed variations
- high positioning accuracy
- lower weight
Among the three types of motors presented, electric is the one that optimizes the fulfillment of these requirements. Other advantages of electric motors are the availability of power, the wide range of models, good performance, and ease of maintenance. However, these motors tend to overheat and need a specific environment to work effectively.
In last decades, new types of servomotors and so-called frameless motors were invented to meet the growing requirements of robotics. Smaller and lighter models of actuators changed the game rules, and robots applied first in industries can be found nowadays almost in every sphere of our lives.
Applications of robots
The most significant development in modern robotics might be collaborative robots. The collaborative robots, or CoBots, are robots designed to work side-by-side with the human operators in a safe manner. One of the most widely recognized uses of CoBotscan be found in the production lines in car businesses.
Here a few reasons why companies need to upgrade their automation and control systems using collaborative robots:
- Easy to use
- Small footprint
Cobots’ integration in the business allows assigning more safe and interesting parts of tasks to human staff, creating a full new human-cobots company culture.
Surgical robots ensure more precise and less invasive interventions for patients. There are many applications: from robotic prostatectomy to heart and kidney operations. These robots are not autonomous but are used as assistants of the surgeon in the operating room. A surgeon-robot is like an extension of human “hands”, a sophisticated tool, but still, just a tool and as such it does not have 100% autonomy. The surgeon decides what to do and the robot executes, ensuring in return greater precision compared to human hands and less invasiveness.
Robotics in agriculture
Robots for agriculture are an incredible step forward for our planet because they can improve numerous processes, plant growth, and even their harvest. These are ingenious inventions that constantly require solidly improving life on the Earth, which for years has been suffering a worrying overpopulation.
For example, drones are used to pollinate flowers instead of bees. The number of these extremely important insects in the last few decades has drastically decreased, and it is necessary to think of alternatives to guarantee pollination. Robo-bees? It seems to be funny?But agriculture without pollination will lose billions of dollars. Bees work as free pollinators and ensure the survival of many crops.
Alongside the project related to pollination, researchers are also focusing on the development of intelligent pesticide sprayers capable of calculating the amount of substance use for preventing plant diseases.
Educational robotics promotes attitudes and skills, enriches knowledge and curiosity by stimulating group work and cooperation in a study method based on the concepts of problem-solving and learning by doing. It also develops computational thinking.
The selection of a suitable and powerful actuator can turn into a challenge, if you have an innovative project that requires customized robotic motors. But don’t get upset, as the overall market growth in last years initialized numerous start-ups that offer customized servo drive options.