Robots and Robotics

Define Robots and Robotics

Robots and Robotics Systems

One of the mistakes often made when we attempt to describe a robot is that we don’t easily remember that robots or robotics systems, irrespective of their design and complexity, are an offshoot of a genealogy of mechanical systems.

So, Where do Robots Belong?

The mechanical systems were much later, in human innovation, considered necessary to be programmed in order to make them perform more dreary and repetitive tasks with little or no human intervention. According to Angeles (2007 p 1), one of the subsets of a system is a dynamic system which further constitutes a subclass known as mechanical system and this, in turn, has a subcategory called robotic mechanical system.

What are the Subsystems of a Robot?

From the foregoing nexus, it is logical to trace the functioning of a robotic mechanical system (simply put as a robot) to the understanding of the principle of mechanisms and machine elements such as gears and gearing, bearings, linkages, levers, cam mechanisms, pulley system, pulleys and belts, sprockets and chains, inclined plane, screw-type jack, pneumatic actuators, hydraulic actuators, couplings, friction, torque, etc. Thus, a robot is a system with subdivisions comprising mechanical, electronic and software systems.

In case you are still wondering about the connection between robots and mechanical systems, it is our humble suggestion that you compare a conventional robot manipulator with a crane attached to a towing vehicle. When this comparison is done objectively, it is not difficult to notice that the robot manipulator is very similar to the crane (Niku, 2015 p 2).

Take a Quiz on Robots and Robotics

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1. The specific component of the robot that includes the drive-train, control system, and the manipulators is a/an —


2. A device that converts motion into a sequence of digital pulses is called a/an —.


3. LED stands for —


4. — is a device that sends pulses of sound out and reports the time at which the echo returns back to the sensor.


5. What does SCARA stand for?


Question 1 of 5

What are Robots?

An attempt to describe a robot with one universally accepted definition is a herculean task because the term robot means different things to different people. The concept “robot” and its appurtenances were originally used to connote servitude or slave worker and the name appeared much later than the actual systems that are entitled to answer to it (Sandler, 1999 p 1).

Historically, from the conception and practical demonstration by Karel Capek (1890 – 1938), a robot should be an automated substitute created to perform similar tasks as human workers (Niku, 2015 p 4; Sandler, 1998 p 1).

However, a more recent definition is the one proposed in “A Glossary of Terms for Robotics” and it states that “A robot is an electromechanical device which can be programmed to perform some tasks of manipulation or locomotion under automatic control” (The US National Bureau of Standards).

Thus, robots are generally designed and meant to be controlled by a computer or similar device (Niku, 2015 p 3). It is important to note here that a motion controller today can be a standalone programmable controller, a programmable logic controller (PLC) or a personal computer containing a motion control card (Sandin, 2003 p 3). The standalone programmable controllers (simply called robot microcontrollers) are most commonly used by robot hobbyists while PLCs are preferred options in industrial applications.

Some common examples of microcontrollers in robotics are the suite of Arduino boards, Raspberry Pi, etc.

References on Robots and Robotics

Jorge Angeles (2007). Fundamentals of Robotic Mechanical Systems: Theory, Methods, and Algorithms, 3rd Edition, Springer

Ben-Zion Sandler (1999). Robotics: designing the mechanisms for automated machinery, 2nd Edition, Academic Press

Paul E. Sandin (2003). Robot Mechanisms and Mechanical Devices, McGraw-Hill

Saheed B. Niku (2005). Introduction to robotics, Willy

The US National Bureau of Standards

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