Robotics and Automation


James Adrian
       Well designed and well managed robotic automation improves production speed, product quality and consistency. In some setting, safety is improved and health care costs are reduced. Non-stop work is performed with precision and repeatability. The waste of the materials of construction is usually reduced substantially.

       Currently, the initial investment is high and the cost of maintenance , though moderate, needs to be taken into account.

       The need to employ computer programmers and mechanics in place of traditional production workers has been a consideration of sizable political dimensions. The resultant improvement in productivity is being weighed against a greatly-feared threat to existing jobs.

       We need to finally work on preparing the next generation of factory workers for the much-delayed robotic manufacturing revolution. We need to teach children to expect a world filled with automation. A person growing up today cannot expect to find a job as a laborer. Many types of jobs are disappearing.

       The cost of robots will continue to fall, and this reduction in cost will be accelerated by the use of robots to make newer robots. The cost of robots will be reduced further by a style of robotics called Soft Robotics. This design method achieves high precision in the behavior of a robot despite low precision in the manufacturing of parts used to make that robot. A machine made of crude mechanical parts can perform with great precision by utilizing closed-loop control. Inexpensive mechanics together with ever less expansive electronics and computing will drive the cost of production downward dramatically. Education in math and programming will be essential to obtaining a good manufacturing job in the near future.

       There are, however, two ways that robotic development can proceed. The first of these is the current state of the industry, which keeps the cost of robotic automation very high and stresses custom consulting and engineering services. The second way, while preferable and inevitable, has been delayed since 1970 and may be delayed for several more decades. This development would stress low cost, wide distribution of ease of implementation. Such a development would spur entrepreneurship and innovation on a massive scale. When a robotic device can be purchased for a few hundred dollars (in today's money) and be used to earn additional income, the economic benefits to the nation will multiply and the liberty enjoyed by individuals will be markedly enhanced.

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