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Robotics Engineering

A new version of the Atlas robot, specialized for mobile manipulation. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. It uses sensors in its body and legs to balance.

ROBOT DESIGN

Robotics engineers design robots, maintain them, develop new applications for them, and conduct research to expand the potential of robotics. Robots have become a popular educational tool in some middle and high schools, as well as in numerous youth summer camps, raising interest in programming, artificial intelligence and robotics among students. First-year computer science courses at some universities now include programming of a robot in addition to traditional software engineering-based coursework.

Robots all have some kind of mechanical construction, a frame, form or shape designed to achieve a particular task. For example, a robot designed to travel across heavy dirt or mud, might use caterpillar tracks. There must also be electrical components which power and control the machinery. For example, the robot with caterpillar tracks would need some kind of power to move the tracker treads. The electrical aspect of robots is used for movement via motors, with built-in sensors delivering electrical signals in order to measure things like sound, position, and even basic vision.

The control of a robot involves three distinct tasks, perception, processing, and motion (actuation). Sensors give information about the environment or the robot itself. This information is then processed or transmitted, and used to calculate the appropriate signals to the actuators (motors, ie muscles) which move the mechanical robot. Therefore, robots must be programmed much like any other computing device.

EDUCATION

Robotics engineers typically need a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or factory automation technology. Mechanical engineering programs include courses in mathematics and life and physical sciences, as well as engineering and design. Mechanical engineering technology programs focus less on theory and more on the practical application of engineering principles. They may emphasize internships and co-ops to prepare students for work in the robotics industry.

A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one's career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public.

The EIT certification is an important entry-level certification for engineers in a wide variety of fields. It's often the first step in earning a Professional Engineer (PE) certification. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying administers EIT testing in all states during four periods each year. After passing the EIT exam, the candidate's state engineering board issues them the certification, which allows them to work as an entry-level engineer in their area.

The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam can be taken after earning a bachelor's degree. Engineers who pass this exam commonly are called engineers in training (EIT) or engineer interns (EI). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Each state issues its own licenses, although states recognize licensure from other states. Electrical and electronic engineers may advance to supervisory positions in which they lead a team of engineers and technicians.

HUMANOID ROBOTS

Humanoid robots are constructed in such a way that they mimic the human body, so they use actuators that perform like muscles and joints, though with a different structure. To achieve the same effect as human motion, humanoid robots use mainly rotary actuators. They can be either electric, pneumatic, hydraulic, piezoelectric or ultrasonic.

While electric coreless motor actuators are better suited for high speed and low load applications, hydraulic ones operate well at low speed and high load applications. Piezoelectric actuators generate a small movement with a high force capability when voltage is applied. They can be used for ultra-precise positioning and for generating and handling high forces or pressures in static or dynamic situations.

Sensors can be classified according to the physical process with which they work or according to the type of measurement information that they give as output. Vision refers to processing data from any modality which uses the electromagnetic spectrum to produce an image. In humanoid robots it is used to recognize objects and determine their properties. Sound sensors allow humanoid robots to hear speech and environmental sounds, and perform as the ears of the human being. Microphones are usually used for this task.

ROBOT SPECIALIZATION

Autonomous robots are well-suited to perform tasks that are dangerous and often repetitive, as well as to function in extreme environments such as space, under the oceans, or at high altitudes. NASA tests robots for exploration in areas called analogs. Analogs are places where the environment is similar to locations like Mars or the moon, where a robot may be used.

Another field in which robots are finding a niche is in medical applications. Although still in its infancy, robotic surgery has already proven itself to be of great value, particularly in areas inaccessible to conventional laparoscopic procedures. Robotic technology is set to revolutionize surgery by improving and expanding laparoscopic procedures, minimizing invasiveness, and allowing remote operation.

As robots increasingly must co-exist with human workers areas, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) studies warn that most robot accidents occur during non-routine operating conditions, such as programming, maintenance, testing, setup, or adjustment. During many of these operations the worker may temporarily be within the robot's working envelope, where unintended operations could result in injuries.

Cleaning Robots


Cleaning robots are becoming one of the most popular new home appliances, a trusted little cleaning partner in many households. Unlike the traditional vacuum cleaner, this robot is able to clean your room by navigating across the floor and avoiding obstacles.

Spot, an Autonomous Robot


Motion of the hand, arm and body are automatically coordinated to simplify manipulation tasks and expand the arm's workspace, making its reach essentially unbounded. The behavior shown here was programmed using a new API for mobile manipulation that supports autonomy and user applications, as well as a tablet that lets users do remote operations.

FANUC Industrial Robots


AUDI Hungary is one of the companies with the largest turnover and export in Hungary, producing 2 million engines and 135 thousand cars in 2014, assisted by FANUC industrial robots at its production facility.

Work Envelopes of Robots


For many processes, just because the target is within the end effector work envelope, that doesn't mean that the process can be completed. Take processes like painting for example, where the angle at which the sprayer faces the target makes a huge difference to the final product.

JOB OUTLOOK

Manufacturing facilities around the world are increasing adoption of industrial robots to increase productivity and maintain competitiveness. In both the US and China particularly, application of industrial robots is on the rise. Industrial robots are used in factories and warehouses for material handling and heavy manufacturing operations such as welding, cutting, and assembly.

US sales of industrial robots grew by 66 percent in the past 5 years alone, according to the International Federation of Robots. During this period, US sales increased at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 14 percent, despite a decline during the recent recession. The Robotic Industries Association (RIA) reported that the world market for industrial robots is driven primarily by demand from motor vehicle manufacturing, followed by the electronics industry.

The major foreign-owned industrial robot producers with US factories are from Japan (Fanuc, Kawasaki, Yaskawa-Motoman), Germany (Kuka), and Switzerland (ABB and Staubli). US manufacturers that design and produce industrial robots include Adept Technology, Genmark Automation, Rethink Robotics, and SAGE Automation. In addition to automotive robots, these companies produce robots for the electronics, medical, and logistics industries.

Engineering Organizations

Whether you’re a civil, environmental, manufacturing, mechanical or other type of engineer, there’s an industry trade group ready to offer training, networking opportunities and other specialized resources that can help you stay current in your field and manage your career.

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