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robotics, science and technology of general purpose, programmable machine systems. Contrary to the popular fiction image of robots as ambulatory machines of human appearance capable of performing almost any task, most robotic systems are anchored to fixed positions in factories where they perform a flexible, but restricted, number of operations in computer-aided manufacturing. Such a system minimally contains a computer to control operations and effecters, devices that perform the desired work. Additionally, it might have sensors and auxiliary equipment or tools under its control. Some robots are relatively simple mechanical machines that perform a dedicated task such as welding or spray painting. Other more complex, multitask systems use sensory systems to gather information needed to control its work. A robot's sensors might provide tactile feedback, so that it can pick up objects and place them properly, without damaging them. Another robot sensory system might include a form of machine vision that can detect flaws in manufactured goods. Some robots used to assemble electronic circuit boards can place odd-sized components in the proper location after visually locating positioning marks on the board. The simplest form of mobile robots, used to deliver mail in office buildings or to gather and deliver parts in manufacturing, follow the path of a buried cable or a painted line, stopping whenever their sensors detect an object or person in their path. More complex mobile robots are used in more unstructured environments such as mining.


See H. Moravec, Mind Children (1988); R. C. Dorf, Concise International Encyclopedia of Robotics (1990); J. T. Black, The Design of the Factory with a Future (1991).

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(industrial engineering)
The study of problems associated with the design, application, and control and sensory systems of self-controlled devices.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A field of engineering concerned with the development and application of robots, and computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. There are many types of robotic systems, including robotic manipulators, robotic hands, mobile robots, walking robots, aids for disabled persons, telerobots, and microelectromechanical systems.

The term “robotics” has been broadly interpreted. It includes research and engineering activities involving the design and development of robotic systems. Planning for the use of industrial robots in manufacturing or evaluation of the economic impact of robotic automation can also be viewed as robotics. This breadth of usage arises from the interdisciplinary nature of robotics, a field involving mechanisms, computers, control systems, actuators, and software. See Biomechanics, Computer, Control systems, Cybernetics, Electrical engineering, Industrial engineering, Mechanical engineering, Software engineering

Robots produce mechanical motion that, in most cases, results in manipulation or locomotion. Mechanical characteristics for robotic mechanisms include degrees of freedom of movement, size and shape of the operating space, stiffness and strength of the structure, lifting capacity, velocity, and acceleration under load. Performance measures include repeatability and accuracy of positioning, speed, and freedom from vibration.

A robot control system directs the motion and sensory processing of a robot or system of cooperating robots. The controller may consist of only a sequencing device for simple robots, although most multiaxis industrial robots today employ servo-controlled positioning of their joints by a microprocessor-based system.

The robot sensory system gathers specific information needed by the control system and, in more advanced systems, maintains an internal model of the environment to enable prediction and decision making. The joint position transducers on industrial robots provide a minimal sensory system for many industrial applications, but other sensors are needed to gather data about the external environment. Sensors may detect position, velocity, acceleration, visual, proximity, acoustic, force-torque, tactile, thermal, and radiation data.

As information moves up from the sensory device, the amount of information increases and the speed of data acquisition decreases. These control architectures form the basis for computer integrated manufacturing (CIM), a hierarchical approach to organizing automated factories. A new paradigm has emerged, based on the interconnection of intelligent system elements that can learn, reason, and modify their configuration to satisfy overall system requirements. One of the most important of these approaches is based on holonic systems. See Automation, Computer-integrated manufacturing, Intelligent machine

A telerobotic system augments humans by allowing them to extend their ability to perform complex tasks in remote locations. It is a technology that couples the human operator's visual, tactile, and other sensory perception functions with a remote manipulator or mobile robot. These systems are useful for performing tasks in environments that are dangerous or not easily accessible for humans. Telerobotic systems are used in nuclear handling, maintenance in space, undersea exploration, and servicing electric transmission lines. Perhaps the most important sensory data needed for telepresence are feedback of visual information, robot position, body motion and forces, as well as tactile information. Master-slave systems have been developed in which, for example, a hand controller provides control inputs to an articulated robotic manipulator. These systems are capable of feeding back forces felt by the robot to actuators on the exoskeletal master controller so that the operator can “feel” the remote environment. See Human-machine systems, Remote manipulators

Graphical simulation is used to design and evaluate a workcell layout before it is built. The robot motion can be programmed on the simulation and downloaded to the robot controller. Companies market software systems that include libraries of commercially available robots and postprocessors for off-line robot programming. See Simulation

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Engineering. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


the science or technology of designing, building, and using robots
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


The art and science of the creation and use of robots and robotic devices. See robot, collaborative robotics, AI, CRO, artificial life, autoloader, automation, autonomous weapon and brain-machine interface.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
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