Robots entered the world of manufacturing in 1961 with the Unimate, a 4,000-pound arm. The Unimate robots were amazingly versatile for its time, such as pouring liquid metal into die casts and welding automobile bodies together. Unimate began the robotics revolution as humans found it to have the ability to complete dangerous or tedious tasks with the speed, dependability, and precision no human could.
Since 1961, the field of industrial robotics has expanded and advanced, increasing the robot’s abilities to take on human characteristics, such as dexterity, trainability, memory, and sensing. These changes have increased their usefulness in the manufacturing world, and with each change, robots take on more jobs that humans once completed. Robotics has changed how production is completed because robots are able to perform a task repetitively with precision tirelessly. Technology advancements have expanded the world of industrial robotic by creating robots that can do more than repetitive tasks.
The new generation "collaborative" robots are partially responsible for the explosion in robotics. These robots work together with human workers. The human worker trains the robot with physical demonstrations and then the robot performs the task. However, robots do continue to need a human for programming and maintenance. There is a global push for manufacturing companies to move to green, ecologically friendly manufacturing and industrial robotics are at the forefront helping businesses to adopt green techniques. The new manufacturing robots are more productive and use less energy to work, making them more efficient, effective, and minimizing waste.
Robotics in manufacturing continues to grow. The Internal Federation of Robotics (IFR) reported in 2010 a global expansion of industrial robots. In 2013, the number of robots in manufacturing exceeded 8.6 million. 2015 had the highest volume of robot sales in history, up 15% from 2014. The numbers continue to grow by leaps with advancements made to industrial robots, and they can perform more tasks that once required a human.