A brief history of industrial robots

Origins and developments in automation

Robots are with us! And they have been for quite some time now. From ancient times to the present day, these innovative tools help us every day to improve our lifestyle and working conditions by optimising industrial production processes. Despite their remote origins, their name is fairly recent. The term “robot” was first used in 1920 by the writer Karel Čapek, in his short story “Rossum's Universal Robots”. Before then, however, automaton was already widely known, at least in a theoretical sense.

The concept of artificial life was strongly present in Greek mythology and Jewish popular culture, but it was not until around 60 B.C. with Heron of Alexandria that the first mechanical automaton was developed. It was a three-wheeled chariot capable of following a predetermined path. The research was then taken up and developed by Leonardo da Vinci in 1478, when the famous scientist designed what is still considered to be the first self-propelled cart, driven by spring mechanisms, and also the mechanical knight, a humanoid designed to perform various movements. In addition to these, countless other historical figures have distinguished themselves in this field, including the philosopher Aristotle, the Chinese inventor Su Song, the Frenchman Jacques de Vaucanson, and the more contemporary W. Grey Walter and Ichiro Kato.

Modern robotics

Thanks to continuous mechanical and technological innovations, robots have become increasingly autonomous and efficient, transforming the old imagery of interaction with humans into reality. Just think of Baxter's humanoid robot, equipped with two arms and a “face” on an LCD screen, or the Spot range by Boston Dynamics, a four-legged robot that can climb stairs by itself and travel across rough terrain with ease. These tools are designed to work alongside people, helping them and paving the way for new developments.

The introduction of robots in industries

It was George Devol and Joe Engelberger, two US engineers, who developed the first programmable robotic arm in the 1950s, leading shortly afterwards to the creation of UNIMATE, the first industrial robot. In 1961 General Motors introduced it into its assembly line. Its task was to perform repetitive and dangerous actions on the car production line. Then in 1978 came the SCARA (Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm), considered revolutionary at the time for its 4-axis movement ideal for pick & place applications.

Since then, countless advancements have been made, with increasingly powerful and multifunctional tools coming onto the market, ushering in the era of the smart factory and Industry 4.0. Today robots are widely used in various industries, from fashion to automotive, and aerospace, establishing themselves as a leading automation solution and continuing to evolve to ensure the best possible performances.

Industrial robotics according to Assistec

At Assistec, we provide customers with all our expertise and know-how acquired over more than 25 years working as a technical support service and system integrator, to design and build automation systems for CNC machine tools. Thanks to our Robofeed line, which includes state-of-the-art robotic islands with unique technical features, such as Robofeed A20 and Robofeed C10, we guarantee a 360-degree servicing of the machine.

Contact us for more information or call us on +39 0522 989436.

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