When we speak about robots and robotics, we usually associate these terms with AI, smart technologies, etc. However, have you ever thought about what makes the actual work? For example, what is the use of a robot if it can analyse tasks but cannot do anything?
Well, robots are usually applied not just to sit and relax. They perform different tasks:
- They can pull and push the objects;
- They can lift weights, which is sometimes impossible for a human to do;
- They can catch and release objects.
Yes, all those functions are managed by some algorithms, but would be algorithms alone able to do anything? Now, you understand what we mean: those small parts that enable these movements matter. What makes a robotic arm move? What makes a robot catch or release an object?
Yes, right, those parts are called actuators. They can be of different types and sizes. For example, a big size actuator can be used in applications that lift big weights. While a tiny actuator might be responsible for moving a robot`s finger. They are all crucial.
Types of Actuators Applied in Robotics
Many actuator types are applied in robotics. However, most frequently the following actuators are used:
- Pneumatic: to replicate muscles in robots;
- Hydraulic (less frequently are applied): to cover the need in linear motion;
- Electric: they are increasingly used instead of hydraulic actuators in cases where no excessive power is required.
Why Electric Actuators?
We have observed recently that electric actuators are used more frequently while hydraulic actuators are applied in those cases only where there is no other solution. What are the benefits of electric actuators compared to hydraulic actuators? Some of the most evident of them are as follows:
- They are ecologically friendly. Hydraulic actuators contain dangerous liquids. Thus, there is a potential danger that those liquids can leak and contaminate the environment. Also, because of this, the utilization of hydraulic actuators is more complicated. Electric actuators use electricity, no liquids, thus, they allow to eliminate all the above-mentioned drawbacks that hydraulic actuators have.
- Electric actuators don’t require maintenance. It means no downtime and no additional costs;
- They are absolutely easy-to-program. This is one of the main benefits of their applications in robotics.
- The accuracy level of movement and positioning is superior. It is also a crucial feature in the industrial and other applications of robots.
While other actuator types are still used in robotics, but electric actuators are prevalent. Now, you see the reasons.
Possible Developments of Robots
Right now, we can observe amazing advances in robotics. Robots are used widely in the industry. They have already replaced people in many factories in places where monotonous operations shall be performed.
Robotic systems are applied in complex quality assurance procedures. We can say that robots manage these processes better than humans do. Robotic systems work instead of people in environments that can pose a danger to human health and life.
Can we though speak about the replacement of people by robots? And if yes, to what extent does it happen, and when can we expect that robots will replace people completely?
For now, robots are able to perform functions based on specific algorithms. Even AI (artificial intelligence) can handle within specific limits. Though nowadays, we are observing the immense development of robotics. There are some trends that are still starting now, but we can already see to what changes they are going to lead.
AI (artificial intelligence) now can handle not only standard tasks and situations. Huge volumes of data are collected and analysed. Specific patterns are built based on the analysis results. Those patterns are used for building potential situations and based on the results, AI might even make decisions in some non-standard cases. But still, it is far from the moment when machines will think creatively and make complex decisions on their own.
Now, robots are learning to distinguish objects and adapt to the conditions. That’s why robots still cannot work along with people. But as soon as the learning abilities of robots develop, they will not need any adaptations but instead, they will adapt themselves to the environment. This step will make them able to work along with people and even replace humans in many more positions.
HMI or Human-Machine Interface allows machines to communicate with humans in a way understandable to both parties. It, in turn, boosts the performance.
We can say that 2020 might be a turning point in the development of robotics. A lot of improvements are made. Completely new approaches and technologies are developed. People and businesses benefit immensely from robots. However, this is not a limit yet. We believe that in the future, people will be able to do creative jobs and develop their talents while robots will contribute to the industry and manufacturing.