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10 January 2023

VISION SYSTEMS FOR ROBOTICS: FUTURE TRENDS IN INDUSTRIAL ROBOTICS

Robotics is an interdisciplinary field, which originated as a branch of mechanical engineering, dealing with the design and development of robots.

Today, more and more subjects such as computer science, automation, linguistics, psychology, biology and mechanics converge within the discipline. The origin of the name comes from literature: it was in fact Isaac Asimov who first introduced robotics in a science fiction novel in 1942. Therefore, Asimov is considered the father of robotics, as well as the inventor of the laws of robotics.

Industrial robotics

Industrial robotics produces machines used in industrial production, which have the power to make the manufacturing process easier and faster. Industrial robots are automatically controlled manipulators that can be reprogrammed and are now widely used for industrial automation applications.

In the industrial context, there are serial robots and parallel robots. I primi si suddividono in robot SCARA, PUMA e cartesiani, mentre i secondi si suddividono in robot Delta e doppio SCARA.

Serial robots are industrial devices designed as a series of links joined by joints and driven by a motor. They often have an anthropomorphic arm-like structure with a shoulder, an elbow and a wrist.

Serial robots generally have six joints, except for robots designed for automatic assembly called SCARA, which have only four degrees of freedom.

Parallel robots are mechanical systems that employ a series of mechanical arms remotely controlled by a computer and used to support a platform, or 'end-effector'. The most common parallel robot consists of six pistons that support a moving platform, known as the 'Gough-Stewart platform', a name borrowed from the two engineers who devised it.

These devices, also known as Stewart's Platforms, are multi-articulated robots and are defined as parallel because the end-effector is placed at the apex of a number of mutually independent mechanical arms that work in a coordinated manner.

Their most common uses include flight simulators, driving simulators and the construction of precision milling machines. These parallel robots are also used for optical fibre alignment.

The development of robotics over time

The introduction of the very first industrial robots took place around the 1970s. These were steel structures equipped with hydraulic motors that were still rather imprecise and above all slow, made in the USA.

The movement possibilities dictated by the degrees of freedom, as well as the load capacities of these robots, were rather limited, although their introduction reaped immediate success, especially in the automotive sector.

These early robots were generally equipped with welding pliers for the purpose of assembling and welding car frames. The first Italian company to equip its factories with robots of this kind was Fiat, which also had the merit of introducing the so-called 'Robogate', a completely Italian invention used to weld cars and later adopted by all the major automobile manufacturers on the planet.

The robots used in automobile companies perform the work of tacking the chassis: as soon as the body leaves the system, it is welded by other robots, which complete the welding. The painting of vehicles is also done by means of special automated arms.

The first robots that were simpler and less capable of performing complex tasks have gradually been replaced by more and more advanced and anthropomorphic robots, capable of moving more freely, of performing the tasks for which they were designed with greater precision, and of increasing their speed of execution and load capacity.

Visione artificiale e Robotica | Vision Device

Vision systems for robotics

Nowadays, robots used in industry perform delicate tasks such as milling, grinding, drilling, laser cutting and body enamelling. The vision systems with which these modern robots are equipped are particularly accurate.

Currently, such anthropomorphic robots are used in the automotive industry for high-precision welding using laser systems, a technology that reduces the time and space required and, at the same time, increases the quality of modern car bodies.

Industrial robots are used in many areas and especially in the most difficult working areas to safeguard the integrity and health of workers

Future trends

In the near future and with the realisation of more accurate technologies, robotics will invade many fields currently only partially explored. Humanoid robotics is one of the research fields that fascinates scholars and scientists the most.

The main goal of this branch of robotics is to create special robots with human-like appearances, equipped with artificial intelligence and capable of acting entirely autonomously. Humanoid robots have been developed primarily for domestic use, although there are some with educational, rescue, elderly care, and all-purpose purposes.

For some years now, two types of robots have been revolutionizing the field of surgery. One of these is the "Da Vinci" robot, capable of performing minimally invasive surgeries on the lungs, heart, prostate, and uterus using its incredibly precise remote-controlled arms. These machines represent a groundbreaking achievement in the field of robotic surgery.

One of the most useful applications of robotics in a domestic setting is home automation (domotics), which offers unexpected technological solutions to improve the quality of life within the home.

By connecting numerous electronic devices in a residence to a central server, the home becomes much more comfortable: the thermostat adjusts the temperature based on external conditions; lights, gates, and blinds can be remotely controlled with a simple smartphone; alarm systems activate automatically in the event of a gas leak or fire.

These will be the main skills of the home of the near future, a home that is always connected to the network, in which older appliances will be replaced by augmented reality.

Indutria 4.0. e robotica | Vision Device

Even in the military sector, robotics is taking giant steps to support human action. In recent years, American soldiers have been able to benefit from special exoskeletons and even some robotic animals capable of monitoring the area and alerting soldiers to potential dangers. But it is mainly through drones that robotics is changing the military sector: aircraft capable of flying at altitudes of over 15,000 meters are used for intelligence and surveillance missions, as well as for offensive purposes.

The evolution achieved by robotics in the industrial sector is truly remarkable, and remote connectivity is a crucial factor for robot management, programming, and program modification operations.

Some recently developed software allows the remote connection to robots and the observation of any data, as well as simulation before being sent to the production.

One of the most significant innovations in Industry 4.0 is the ability to collect production and statistical data, with the aim of having the ability to modify production in real-time and minimize losses and downtime.

Ultimately, robotics will enable a real reduction in production costs

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