Factory Automation

Basic robot facts you need to know.

Where did the word “robot” come from?

The origin of the term robot can be traced back to the Czech play “Rossum’s Universal Robots” from 1920. Robot is the English version of the Czech word robota which means forced labour.

Who invented robots?

Joseph Engelberger is known as the Father of Robotics. Engelberger worked with inventor George Devol in the 1950s to create the Unimate, the first industrial robot. The Unimate robotic arm was used by the automotive industry to automate die casting.

What is a robotic arm?

Some robots are designed to be shaped like a person with a body, head, arms and legs. However, industrial robots are usually robotic arms attached to a base that may be fixed in place or mobile.
A robotic arm has joints that allow it to move and twist. These joints are comparable to a human shoulder, elbow, and wrist. But, robots aren’t limited to three joints per arm; they have more flexibility in how the joints are designed. The number and placement of joints determine the degrees of freedom that the robotic arm has, and how it can move its end effector or hand.
Some robot hands are shaped like human hands with fingers, but a robot doesn’t necessarily need a hand to hold a tool. It’s more useful to think of the robot hand or end effector as a tool or device. The end effector can be a drill, a gripping device, a cutting device, etc.

Which countries use the most robots?

Robot density is the number of robots installed per 10,000 employees. According to the International Federation of Robots, the following markets ranked as the top 5 for robot density in the manufacturing industry in 2018:

  1. Singapore
  2. Republic of Korea
  3. Germany
  4. Japan
  5. Sweden

The United States ranked #8 and Canada #14

What are robots used for?

Most robots are used to make cars. According to the International Federation of Robots, the automotive industry had close to one third of the worldwide supply of robots in 2018. The second-highest use of robots is to make electrical and electronic devices.
Robots are used for specific tasks in an assembly process:
Picking – robots pick up a part from a conveyor belt or from a bin. 
Parts used to have to be presented in a uniform manner to accommodate the robots. However, advancements in grippers and vision systems now allow robots more flexibility and capability to pick randomly presented objects.
Placing –a robot places a part onto a sub-assembly or into a package
Inspecting – a robot is equipped to read barcodes or detect defects on individual parts, sub-assembles or final products

Are there laws about robots and robot safety?

When people refer to the three laws of robotics, they’re talking about fictional laws created by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov:
First Law – A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Second Law – A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
Third Law – A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

In the non-fiction world, the International Standards Organization (ISO) does have standards for robots and robotic devices:
Industrial robots – ISO 10218-1:2011 specifies requirements and guidelines for the inherent safe design, protective measures and information for use of industrial robots.
Collaborative robots – ISO/TS 15066:2016 specifies safety requirements for collaborative industrial robot systems and the work environment.

How is the robotics industry changing?

Since the Unimate was first introduced, robots now cost less and can do more.
Collaborative robots are making robots affordable and accessible beyond traditional large-scale automotive assembly factories. Collaborative robots or cobots are designed to be used next to humans, so they have built-in safety features. Although cobots are a type of industrial robot, they aren’t a replacement for large industrial robots. Cobots are lighter and slower; they aren’t designed to handle heavy materials or move as fast as traditional robots. However, collaborative robots can perform common assembly tasks such as picking and placing.
Vision systems are a significant advancement in robotics. Compared to robots with no vision capabilities, robots with embedded vision systems can identify objects with greater accuracy, and increase productivity of assembly operations.
In October 2019, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation predicted that “With integration of artificial intelligence and other improvements in robotics (e.g., better machine vision, better sensors, etc.), robotics promises to see significantly improved pricing and performance over the next decade.”
These robot basics give you a foundation to learn more about the present and future of robotics.

At Ehrhardt Engineered Systems we have been manufacturing technology for companies for over 80 years. If you need assembly automation, please contact us at 877-386-7856 or email us at