Robotics And Automation Essay, Research Paper
Robotics and Automation A good way to define Robotics is a field in which robots, orautomated machines, are devised and created to perform a varietyof tasks. These tasks can range from industrial-strength cleaningservices, to patrolling a nuclear power plant. There are manyaspects involved in creating a robot. A great deal of physics,engineering, electronics, as well as general construction techniquesmust be known before attempting to build a robot. Robots cancome in two different types: there is the drone type which iscontrolled by humans, and there is the artificially intelligent type,which runs from its own programming. There is a great amount of physics involved in robotics. Forexample, physics is heavily involved when trying to create a robotto walk on the moon. A robot has to be specially designed to beable to function in that kind of environment. Physics helps peoplefigure out what allowances need to be made for such things as thedifference in gravity, the fact that space is a vacuum, the fact thatthe robot might fall over without any humans around to pick itback up, how the robot is going to generate power, as well as howthe robot is going to be constructed so it can maneuver freely inthat environment. Also, little things such as where the legs andarms should go, and how the weight should be distributed alsoneed to be figured out, with physics. Another field which goes hand in hand with robotics is thefield of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence (or AI) dealswith making computers think, and make decisions on their own. When coupled with robotics, an artificially intelligent robot put onthe moon would be able to walk around, and collect informationwhich it feels is important for us humans to have. Another example would be an artificially intelligent enforcer robot , which could roam about, detect intruders, make adecision as to how dangerous they are, and take care of thesituation. However, most of this is a long way off, asdemonstrated by what is known as the Turning Test. In 1950, Alan Turning made up a test to determine machineintelligence. The Turning Test goes like this: a humaninterrogator is in one room, and a computer and another human arein another. Each room has a terminal in it, through which theinterrogator will converse with both the computer and the otherhuman, one at a time. If the interrogator cannot tell which one heis talking to, then the computer is considered intelligent. In 1991,Hugh Loebner created the Loebner Prize. This contest allowedpeople to enter their intelligent programs, which woulddemonstrate their intelligence through conversations. The Loebnerprize would give $100,000 to the winner, however to this day noone has won it. As mentioned before, moon-walking nuclear power plantroaming, and the enforcer robot are all practical applications ofrobotics. However, there really are no boundaries to what robotswill be able to do. One example of a robot which exists now is theDante II, a tethered walking robot, which explored the Mt. Spurrvolcano in July 1994. Dante II is able to descend down sheercrater walls in a rappelling-like manner, and his purpose is togather and analyze high temperature gasses from the crater floor. In general, the purpose of the Dante II program is to demonstrateRobotic exploration of extreme terrains and environments. Another project whose goal is to explore terrain is theAutonomous Helicopter Project. However, unlike the walkingDante II, this robot is a vision-guided robot helicopter which canautonomously carry out (certain) missions in any weatherconditions and using only on-board intelligence and computerpower. These missions include automatically taking off, flying toa designated area while avoiding obstacles, searching and locatingobjects of interest, visually lock on to objects and pursue them,sending back images to a ground station, and safely returninghome and landing. This robot is in the conceptual stage however,but the projects implications are tremendous. The creator of thisproject, the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon, have veryinteresting ideas as to how this robot can be used: search andrescue, surveillance, law enforcement, inspection, aerial mapping,and even cinematography. Today, we have robots which do a variety of things for us. This includes space exploration, nuclear plant patrolling and wastedetection, as well as cleaning, and mining robots. The future ofrobotics looks very bright, with self-navigating vehicles(autonomous cars), replacement limbs, as well as artificial visionand hearing systems. As it was seen in the movies Six MillionDollar Man and the Bionic Woman these bionic replacementsmight actually become reality. You may wonder why the general direction of robotics hasalways been known to an extent, when there are so manyindependent research projects going on, each focusing on differentthings. The answer to this question can be found easily bywatching movies. For about 70 years, movie directors havepredicted where the field of robotics was headed. The generalthing that happens is that in the movies, robots are shown doing acertain tasks, and then later one someone actually develops a robotto do that task. In the 1927 movie, Metropolis , a robot was designed to domanual labor. Today, we have industrial robots, building our cars,painting our chairs, and cutting our fabrics. In the movie Forbidden Planet (1956), Robbie the Robot is used as a personalworkman and servant. We don t have these yet, but as mentionedbefore, we have the robots in the nuclear power plants, as well ascleaning robots, which acts as the same thing. In the third movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Hal was a robot in charge of aspaceship. Today, we have those space exploration robots. In thefourth movie, Logan s Run (1976) , there is a computercontrolling an entire city and all of its functions. As mentionednumerous times before, we have nuclear power plant robotsrunning the plants during off hours. In the fifth movie, TheEmpire Strikes Back (1980), shows the two robots R2D2 andC3PO doing a variety of tasks not suited for humans. Once again,this can be related to the nuclear power plant robots and miningrobots, some of which actually do resemble R2D2. In the finalexample, Aliens (1986), there was a perfect clone done of ahuman. This hasn t been done yet, however somewhere down theline (probably within 100 years) this may be a possibility. What will happen in the upcoming years for robotics? Noone really knows, however it has been noted that Bill Gates has nointention of conquering this industry. If he does, the future ofrobotics is very grim, with very little innovation, long delaysbetween new models , and ultimately, he may assemble apersonal army of robots to take over the world, which woulddefinitely not be good. However, since he is not going to do that,the future of robotics is very promising. Numerous thing havebeen mentioned of what I envision happening in the future buthere is a summary: self-driving cars, personal robots, enforcerrobots, soldier robots to fight our wars, helicopter robots, toyrobots (similar to what we have now), replacement limbs, eyes,ears, which get more into the mechanical side of robotics. Whatever the case it will be interesting to watch this evolutioncontinue to grow. Automation can be defined as a system of manufacturedesigned to extend the capacity of machines to perform certaintasks formerly done by humans, and to control sequences ofoperations without human intervention . Automation has alsobeen used to describe nonmanufacturing systems in whichprogrammed or automatic devices can operate independently ornearly independently of human control. In the fields ofcommunications, aviation, astronautics, for example, such devicesas automatic telephone switching equipment, automatic pilots, andautomated guidance and control systems are used to performvarious operations much faster or better than humans couldaccomplish. Elements of Automation Automated manufacture arose out of the close relationship ofsuch economic forces and technical innovations as the division oflabor, power transfer and mechanization of the factory, and thedevelopment of transfer machines and feedback systems. The division of labor was formed in the latter half of the 18thcentury. The simplification of work that was made from theformation made it possible to design and build machines thatduplicated the motions of the worker. As the technology of powertransfer evolved, these specialized machines were motorized andtheir production efficiency was improved. The development ofpower technology also gave rise to the factory system ofproduction, because all workers and machines had to be locatednear the power source. The transfer machine is a device used to move a workpiecefrom one specialized machine tool to another, in such a manner asto properly position the workpiece for the next machine operation. Industrial robots originally designed only to perform simple tasksin environments dangerous to human workers, are now extremelyskillful and are being used to transfer, handle, and position bothlight and heavy workpieces, thus performing all the functions of atransfer machine. In actual practice, a number of separatemachines are integrated into what may be thought of as one largemachine. In the 1920s the auto industry combined these concepts intoan integrated system of production. The goal of this assembly-linesystem was to make automobiles available to people whopreviously could not afford them. This method of production wasadopted by most automobile manufacturers and rapidly became
known as Detroit automation. Despite recent advances, it is thissystem of production that most people think of as automation.The Feedback Principle The feedback principle is essential to all automatic-controlmechanisms, which enables a designer to endow a machine withthe capacity for self-correction. A feedback loop is a mechanical,pneumatic, or electronic device that senses or measures a physicalquantity such as position, temperature, size, or speed, compares itwith a preestablished standard, and takes whateverpreprogrammed action is necessary to maintain the measuredquantity within the limits of the acceptable standard. In manufacturing and production, feedback loops require thatacceptable limits or tolerances be established for the process to beperformed; that these physical characteristics be measured andcompared with the set of limits; and, finally, that the feedbacksystem be capable of correcting the process so that the measureditems comply with the standard. Through feedback devices,machines can start, stop, speed up, slow down, count, inspect, test,compare, and measure. These operations are commonly applied toa wide variety of production operations that can include milling,boring, bottling, and refining. Computer Use The invention of the computer has simplified the use offeedback loops in manufacturing processes. Computers andfeedback loops have promoted the development of numericallycontrolled machines and machining centers. More recently, the introduction of microprocessors andcomputer combinations have made possible the development ofcomputer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturetechnology. When using these systems a designer draws a part andindicates its dimensions with the aid of a special light pen on atelevisionlike cathode-ray tube computer display screen. After thesketch has been completed to the satisfaction of the designer, thecomputer automatically generates a magnetic or punched tape thatdirects a machining center in machining the part. Another development that has further increase the use ofautomation is that of flexible manufacturing systems. FMSextends automation to companies in which small production runsdo not make full automation economically possible. A computeris used to monitor and govern the entire operation of the factory,from scheduling each step of production to keeping track of partsinventories and tool use. Automation has also had an influence on areas of theeconomy other than manufacturing. Small computers are used insystems called word processors, which are rapidly becoming astandard part of the modern office. This technology combines asmall computer with a cathode-ray display screen, a typewriterkeyboard, and a printer. It is used to edit texts, to type form letterstailored to the recipient and to manipulate mailing lists and otherdata. The system is capable of performing many other tasks thatincrease office productivity.Automation in Industry Many industries are highly automated or use automationtechnology in some part of their operation. In communicationsand especially in the telephone industry, dialing, transmission, andbilling are all done automatically. Railroads too are controlled byautomatic signaling devices, which have sensors that detect carspassing a particular point. In this way the movement and locationof trains can be monitored. Not all industries require the same degree of automation. Agriculture, sales, and some service industries are difficult toautomate. The agriculture industry may become more mechanized,especially in the processing and packaging of foods; however, inmany service industries such as supermarkets, for example, acheckout counter may be automated and the shelves or supply binsmust still be stocked by hand. Similarly, doctors may consult acomputer to assist in diagnosis, but they must make the final decision and prescribe therapy. The concept of automation is evolving rapidly, partlybecause the applications of automation techniques vary bothwithin a plant or industry and also between industries. The oil andchemical industries, for example, have developed thecontinuous-flow method of production, owing to the nature of theraw materials used. In a refinery, crude oil enters at one point andflows continuously through pipes in cracking, distillation, andreaction devices as it is being processed into such products asgasoline and fuel oil. An array of automatic-control devicesgoverned by microprocessors and coordinated by a centralcomputer is used to control valves, heaters, and other equipment,thereby regulating both the flow and reaction rates. In the steel, beverage, and canned food industries, on theother hand, some of the products are produced in batches. Forexample, a steel furnace is charged (loaded with the ingredients),brought up to heat, and a batch of steel ingots produced. In thisphase very little automation is evident. These ingots, however,may then be processed automatically into sheet or structuralshapes by being squeezed through a series of rollers until thedesired shape is achieved. The automobile and other consumer product industries usethe mass production techniques of step-by-step manufacture andassembly. This technique approximates the continuous-flowconcept but involves transfer machines; thus, from the point ofview of the auto industry, transfer machines are essential to thedefinition of automation. Each of these industries uses automated machines in all orpart of its manufacturing processes. As a result, each industry hasa concept of automation that fits its particular production needs.More examples can be found in almost every phase of commerce.The widespread use of automation and its influence on daily lifeprovides the basis for the concern expressed by many about theinfluence of automation on society and the individual. Automation and Society Automation has made a major contribution toward increasesin both free time and real wages enjoyed by most workers inindustrialized nations. Automation has greatly increased production and lowered costs, thereby making automobiles,refrigerators, televisions, telephones, and other goods available tomore people. It has allowed production and wages to increase, andat the same time the work week has decreased in most Westerncountries from 60 to 40 hours.Employment Not all the results of automation have been positive,however. Some commentators argue that automation has causedoverproduction and waste, that it has created alienation amongworkers, and that it generates unemployment. Of these issues, therelationship between automation and unemployment has receivedthe most attention. Employers and some economists argue thatautomation has little if any effect on unemployment-that workersare displaced rather than dismissed and are usually employed inanother position within the same company or in the same positionat another company that has not automated. Some claim that automation generates more jobs than itdisplaces. They point out that although some laborers may becomeunemployed, the industry producing the automated machinerygenerates more jobs than were eliminated. The computer industryis often cited to illustrate this claim. Business executives wouldagree that although the computer has replaced many workers, theindustry itself has generated more jobs in the manufacturing,sales, and maintenance of computers than the device haseliminated. On the other hand, some labor leaders and economists arguethat automation causes unemployment and, if left unchecked, willbreed a vast army of unemployed that could disrupt the entireeconomy. They contend that growth in government-generated jobsand in service industries has absorbed those who becameunemployed due to automation, and that as soon as these areasbecome saturated or the programs reduced, the true relationshipbetween automation and unemployment will become known.Automation and the Individual The effect of automation on the individual has been moredrastic. The worker is either displaced or unemployed. Workerswho remain must operate or maintain technologically advancedmachines, and they may also be required to monitor more of theplant operation and to make on-the-spot decisions. Thus, theeducation and experience levels of these workers are considerablyabove those of the workers who were displaced. Many researchers have described the effect that Detroitautomation has on the individual worker as one of alienation.Excessive absenteeism, poor workmanship, and problems ofalcoholism, drug addiction, and sabotage of the production linesare well-documented symptoms of this alienation. Many studieshave been made since the 1930s, and all conclude that much of thealienation is due to the workers’ feelings of being controlled bythe machine (because workers must keep pace with the assemblyline), boredom caused by repetitious work, and the unchallengingnature of work that requires only a minimum of skill. The number of workers in more automated industries,especially those using continuous flow processes, tends to besmall, and the capital investment in equipment per worker is high.The most dramatic difference between these industries and thoseusing Detroit automation is the reduction in the number ofsemiskilled workers. It would appear then that automation haslittle use for unskilled or semiskilled workers, their skills being themost easily replaced by automated devices. The labor force neededin an automated plant consists primarily of such skilled workers asmaintenance engineers, electricians, and toolmakers, all of whomare necessary to keep the automated machinery in good operatingorder. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Angeles, Jorge. Fundamentals of Robotic Mechanical Systems: Theory, Methods, and Algorithms (Mechanical Engineering Series). New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company. 2. Leonard, Andrew (1998). Bots: The Origin Of New Species. Chicago: Salem Press Inc. 3. Grover, M. and Grover, M. (1987). Automation, Production Systems, and Computer Integrated Manufacturing. New Jersey: Summit Books, Inc. 4. Kortenkamp, David (1998). Artificial Intelligence and Mobile Robots: Case Studies of Successful Robot Systems. Rhode Island: Savanti Inc.