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App. B—Commissioned Background Papers

5

decisions.

creasing

There can be little doubt, however, that the future will

realization

of

such

potentials

with

profound

effects

on

the

see in- requirements

(1) for remaining competitive.

2.

On the Role of Robotics Within Programmable Automation

Most robots are used

manual

operations.

Major

in manufacturing as mechanical categories of such assignments

replacements for formerly include “pick and place”,

“manipulate” and “process”.

Essentially,

the first involves transferring

dividual

parts

from

one

location

to

another,

the

second

usually

involves

in- bringing

parts together, as in assembly, and the operations, such as welding or painting efforts may be enhanced if the robot is

third involves carrying out actual

or testing. required to

The complexity of these select among several objects

through identifying key characteristics,

or if it has to sense proximity to its

target location,

or if it has to adapt its manipulative or processing efforts

to variable conditions.

have

accordingly

involved

Efforts to extend the range

shifting

increasingly

from

of applications of robots mechanically guided and

controlled models to those which are programmable,

controls, and more

capable of some degree of “learning” and

sensitive

manipulative

potentials.

Thus,

equipped with feedback possessed of a wider array in the perspective of labor-

replacement objectives, developmental programs have sought to supplement the greater strength, speed, fatigue resistance and imperviousness to boredom of

robots with of location

Robots are readily vantages of

increasing such capabilities as visual discrimination, precision and movement, and sensitivity to touch, pressure and torque. have commonly taken the form of separate pieces of equipment which

movable from one location to another. mobility comparable to the relocation

This obviously yields ad-

of

operators

to

adjust

to

changes in production needs.

But the performance of what have come to be

considered as

“robot-like”

mobile units.

Indeed, the

or

programmable

automation

functions need not be restricted to such separate development of flexible manufacturing systems (FMS), systems, may well involve new combinations of

“built-in” instead of

robot-like functions. using a separate robot

In to

the case of machining centers, for example, select needed tools from a rack and then

(1)

For further discussion, see B. Gold, An ation and Utilization of Computer-Aided

Improved Model Manufacturing:

for Managerial Evalu- A Report to the

National Research Council Committee on Computer-Aided Manufacturing, Washington, D. C., March 1981.

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