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Types of robots

There are many ways how you could possibly define different types of robots. As I have seen the possible divisions vary widely. The main reason of these differences is that different tutors often tend to have different views on what should be taught under "robotics". For example - some tutors that teach robotics usually focus mainly on industrial robotics, neglecting service robots completely. Therefore when talking about types of robots they usually talk about types of industrial robots. There is a strong reason for this though - the vast majority of robotics engineers will have to deal mostly with industrial robots in their careers. Nevertheless, industrial robots are not the only ones. Therefore, as I see it when dividing robots into types this division should be broad enough to include everything that can be understood as a robot. There are two possible ways how this could be done. First, you could divide robots into types by their application and second - by the way they move (or don't). I acknowledge that there are other possible ways how to divide robots into types but in my opinion these two are the best. Also, I prefer to use both these classifications together. This way two questions about a robot would already be answered - "What it does?" and "How it does it?"

Types of robots by application


Nowadays, robots do a lot of different tasks in many fields and the number of jobs entrusted to robots is growing steadily. That's why in my opinion one of the best ways how to divide robots into types is a division by their application.

There are:

Industrial robots Industrial robots are robots used in an industrial manufacturing environment. Usually these are articulated arms specifically developed for such applications as welding, material handling, painting and others. If we judge purely by application this type could also include some automated guided vehicles and other robots. Domestic or household robots Robots used at home. This type of robots includes many quite different devices such as robotic vacuum cleaners, robotic pool cleaners, sweepers, gutter cleaners and other robots that can do different chores. Also, some surveillance and telepresence robots could be regarded as household robots if used in that environment. Medical robots Robots used in medicine and medical institutions. First and foremost - surgery robots. Also, some automated guided vehicles and maybe lifting aides. Service robots Robots that dont fall into other types by usage. These could be different data gathering robots, robots made to show off technologies, robots used for research, etc. Military robots

Robots used in military. This type of robots includes bomb disposal robots, different transportation robots, reconnaissance drones. Often robots initially created for military purposes can be used in law enforcement, search and rescue and other related fields.

Entertainment robots These are robots used for entertainment. This is a very broad category. It starts with toy robots such as robosapien or the running alarm clock and ends with real heavyweights such as articulated robot arms used as motion simulators. Space robots Id like to single out robots used in space as a separate type. This type would include robots used on the International Space Station, Canadarm that was used in Shuttles, as well as Mars rovers and other robots used in space. Hobby and competition robots Robots that you create. Line followers, sumo-bots, robots made just for fun and robots made for competition. Now, as you can see there are examples that fit into more than one of these types. For example, there can be a deep sea exploration robot that can gather some valuable information that can be used for military purposes.

Also, I have seen that a division into two types is used, accordingly - industrial and service robots. However, I can not see how a Mars exploration rover fits into one of these general types. Therefore I have used "service robots" in a narrower manner. In my version a term "service robots" serves as "others". This is basically a type where robots that don't fit into other types should fall in.

Types of robots by locomotion and kinematics


As you can understand, robot's application alone does not provide enough information when talking about a specific robot. For example an industrial robot - usually, when talking about industrial robots we think of stationary robots in a work cell that do a specific task. That's alright, but if there is an AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle) in a factory? Its also a robotic device working in an industrial environment. So, I propose to use both these classifications together. So there are: 1. Stationary robots (including robotic arms with a global axis of movement) 1.1 Cartesian/Gantry robots 1.2 Cylindrical robots

1.3 Spherical robots 1.4 SCARA robots 1.5 Articulated robots (robotic arms) 1.6 Parallel robots 2. Wheeled robots 2.1 Single wheel (ball) robots 2.2 Two-wheel robots 2.3 Three and more wheel robots

3. Legged robots 3.1 Bipedal robots (humanoid robots) 3.2 Tripedal robots 3.3 quadrupedal robots 3.4 hexapod robots 3.5 other number of legs 4. Swimming robots 5. Flying robots 6. Mobile spherical robots (robotic balls)

7. Swarm robots 8. Others Wondering about others? Yes, there are others. For example snake-like robots. There are many fields of research that deal with different innovative types of robots. Someday they will be very useful. However, by now I'll put them under the "others" type. Of course, nothing of this is carved in stone, especially in robotics where everything changes almost monthly nowadays. Still, in my opinion these types of classification do their job well enough. As you may have noticed, I use the classification by application as the main outline of this site. So if a certain type of robots interests you its possible to find more info about it on the left hand navigation menu if its there.

Robot Applications
At global robots we have many years of robot experience. We have seen many different uses for robots in a vast range of industries. They are in principle a simple piece of equipment and therefore highly adaptable. The 6-axis industrial robot is certainly the most flexible type and can be used in many different ways. In addition there are more specialist robots such as the ABB IRB 340 pick and place robot that are used in quite specific applications. Some applications are very simple and have been done thousands of times before, but we are finding more and more industries that are turning to automation and more specifically robots, to increase

production and quality while lowering costs and waste. With the prices of used robots so low and the pressures on manufacturing companies so great robots are no longer the preserve of the motor industry. For every application listed below there are hundreds of derivative and related possibilities. With hundreds of thousands of robots installed worldwide in industries as diverse as sawmills to pharmaceuticals robots have time and again provide huge gains in .productivity, safety, economy and quality

1-- Assembly:
One of the most varied applications for robots and we are finding new customers with new applications in new industries every day. Our customers use robots for assembling various products, from mobile phones to wooden pallets to gas meters. Obviously accuracy is key in many assembly applications and most robots are accurate to 0.1mm which is as good if not better than a human. Dexterity is also important, here clever gripper design is important. Good examples of where robots can offer a great advantages are those where the tool is heavy, noisy or dangerous. Nail guns, rivet guns, large drills or grinders can all be over 20kg, be unwieldy and dangerous, yet a 120kg payload robot will handle them with ease. This is a video of an assembly application where a robot is making wooden pallets using a nail gun

2-- Cutting Applications:


Robots are the perfect tool for many cutting jobs. Laser, plasma and water jet cutters are often used with robots. Due to the dangerous nature of these technologies robots are the obvious choice. Usually the cutting tool is placed on the robot and the part is presented to the robot by conveyor, turntable or manipulator. A second option is to have the robot hold the part and move it while the cutting tool is fixed. A robot can have hundreds of cutting paths programmed into it and on later models cad data can be fed directly to the controller. The excellent accuracy and path following capabilities give precise results time after time, in three dimensions and with greater flexibility than many dedicated cutting machines. As with many applications the ability of the robot to communicate with the tools with which it is interfacing is all important- the use of I/O or bus communications allow the robot, for example, to control the power of the cutter or change its own speed as required. Typical robots for cutting applications have payloads of between 7 to 40 kg, or sometimes more if the part is being moved by the robot. In general terms we would advise the use of newer - 1994 and later - robots as this is when accurate path following became the norm. Robots can be mounted over the workpiece on a gantry if needed to increase the effective working area.

In this picture three ABB IRB 1400's are simultaneously arc welding and plasma cutting a part. Both processes will use similar types of robots as they must be fast, accurate and controllable. That is the speed of the robot will need to be varied depending on the cutting variables

3-- De-burring, Grinding, Polishing, Linishing and Finishing:


By using the flexibility of 6-axis robots it is possible to grind, trim, fettle, polish and even clean almost any part, in any material and achieve an consistent excellent finish. Robot technology

allows a large number of different programs and hence parts to be adapted to by one installation. As with Cutting there are two main approaches, either the robot holds the part or the robot holds the tool. Also it is possible to have two robots working together for ultimate flexibility: one holding the part, one holding the tool. The starting point of designing a cell of this type is often the manual process it is to replace, although often using a robot will allow the use of new or different technologies. It is easy to use a multipurpose tool to the end of the robot, for example in a mobile phone case finishing application an ABB IRB 2400 was fitted with an end effector with two sorts of router, a circular sander and a rotating wire brush, all air powered. If the part is picked up by the robot precise 3D positioning allows the part to be presented to a grinding wheel for example, with repeatability that ensures that the product is identical time after time. With the heath and safety regulations governing the use of finishing equipment ever tightening and claims for RSI a constant concern a robotic cell can offer a fast ROI (Return On Investment) while guaranteeing a consistent quality finish. The picture shows a casting being held by an ABB IRB 6400 robot (2.8m reach version). Note the reaming tool in the foreground, this is fixed and the robot is moving the part to it

4-- Handling:
Due to the huge array of technologies available and through years of experience, we are able to offer solutions to most handling applications. By using both proved systems from specialist manufacturers and bespoke products we can meet your requirements. Robots have not only power and speed but also accuracy dexterity and sensitivity. They are regularly used in a variety of industries for the manipulation of a plethora of of items from car doors to eggs, from springs to champagne. A typical large robot will be able to handle a load of 120kg at speeds of 2500 mm/s. Sensor systems including vision systems can allow for variables in part position and type. Grippers are available in a huge array of types, payloads and many applications will require the fabrication of a bespoke gripper. The actuator units themselves - usually pneumatic but also electromechanical - are available from many manufacturers as are suction cups. There are also other gripping devices such as electromagnetic grippers. Handling covers a very large range of applications, dedicated pick and place such as the ABB IRB 340 are designed specifically for very fast and accurate work often coupled to a vision system. They are often used in the food industry for jobs such as picking chocolates from a moving conveyor and placing them into boxes in given positions at speeds of over 150 picks per minute. Handling can also include machine tending. Robots are excellent for working with injection moulding machines, blow moulders, CNC mills and lathes, spark eroders, presses etc. By automating with robots machines can be worked much more efficiently and even through the night and weekends to give the best return on what is invariably very expensive hardware.

This is an ABB IRB 340 "flexpicker", as described it is a very fast machine for picking small parts. Almost any robot is capable of pick and place work - 6 axis machines being the most flexible and widely used

5-- Palletising:
Palletising is a type of handling application but owing to the huge number of installations that directly involve the use of pallets this has become a subset of its own. ABB and other manufacturers have even designed specialist palletising software packages and even palletising robot arms although in practise these are not often needed. The principle is simple, the robot picks part or parts from one or more positions and the places them in sequence. This is usually on a pallet, stacking for example bags of cement, in such a

way that will stop the stack from easily falling over. This could also mean placing parts into a stillage or other rack but the most important part is that the robot keeps count of the position to which it has gone and must go to next. Count functions were one of the first logic functions included in robot controllers and are probably one of the most used. In a palletising job the robot will often pick the part, box or bag from a conveyor either using conveyor tracking or more simply at a fixed point and then put the parts in order until the pallet is full. The pallet can either be changed by hand (with the robot stopped or working in another area) or the full pallet can be carried away on a second conveyor for wrapping etc. If needed the robot itself can pick an empty pallet from a stack and start palletising again saving operator time and effort. Dedicated palletising robots such as ABB's "Flexpalletizer" and Fanuc M420iA are usually simpler than a full 6 axis robot, often only having 4 or 5 axis and are designed to be simpler and cheaper. However because 6 axis machines are made and installed in such large numbers (largely in the car industry) they are actually often cheaper than a dedicated palletiser. In addition parts are not as widespread and therefore we would often suggest the use of a standard 6 axis robot such as the ABB IRB 6400. We have sold robots for a multitude of palletising work, including palletising potatoes, frozen fish, furniture, pipes, masonry, even live worms for the long-line fishing industry. This is a picture of the ABB IRB 640 - a dedicated handling robot. It has less flexibility than a full 6 axis machine but is very robust and simpler and cheaper new than an IRB 6400 for example. However due to the availability of 6400's they are usually cheaper .on the used market than robots like the 640

6-- Sealing and Gluing:


From an installation point of view sealing applications are very closely related to arc welding. The most important ability for the robot is to follow a path accurately with good control over speed. Automated sealing has been very difficult to get right in the past, a process that works very well at one speed may run into problems if it is accelerated. Over many years the problems have been ironed out and now sealing systems are not only very advanced but also have a great deal of connectivity with the robot so a good even bead of sealant will be applied. Robots are frequently used for sealing applications in the car industry using RTV to seal in windows, keep out water etc. There are two basic setups, either the sealant head is fixed and the robot moves the part or the part is fixed and the robot moves the sealant head. There are a few robots that are designed more or less specifically for sealing like

the ABB IRB 3400L which has a very low payload but a very long reach and a slender arm that could access a complete car body. However any standard robot can be used for sealing it is just a matter of selecting the right reach and payload for the job. Pictured is an ABB IRB 140 robot. Affectionately known as the monkey robot due to its high speed, great range of movement and the fact it can be mounted on a wall or overhead. The 140 is the the perfect robot for sealing or gluing when only a small reach is needed as it has excellent path following and its controller allows fantastic control over analogue signals

7-- Spraying, Painting, Coating:


Paint spraying was one of the first uses for industrial robots. The volatile and hazardous nature of solvent based paint means that it is best to minimise human contact and robots give an excellent and consistent finish. Painting robots have been developed that are impervious to paint shop conditions and present no hazard when in proximity to flammable compounds or explosive atmospheres. There are two types of painting robots explosion proof and nonexplosion proof. The former are sealed units and the arm is pressurised with air to prevent the ingress of explosive solvents. Pressure sensor are used to monitor integrity. Non explosion proof robots do not have the pressurised system but the do have the other features specifically for painting. Paint robots typically have quite thin arms as they do not have to carry much weight and access is important. They are also capable of very fluid movements as they have to mimic a skilled human painter. Painting robots often have a controller that has been designed specifically for the job. Not only are paint related controls needed but also the way in which the robot moves may be different from a standard type robot. Some painting robots can even be programmed by actually moving the arm directly, by hand, rather than using a joystick or buttons. In this way the robot can be taught very "organic" movements that may otherwise be difficult to achieve. Pictured is ABB's latest painting robot the IRB 580 which is usually supplied as a sealed EX type and has a specialist painting .control cabinet

8-- Welding:
Welding can be split into two areas; seam welding (including MIG, TIG, arc and laser) and spot welding. Both applications have been robotised for many years and the interface between the robot and welding units are highly evolved. Welding robots can be very highly specialised: For example "poke welding" robots are spot welding robots that use the arm itself to generate the mechanical force needed. CO2 laser welding robots are fittedwith a complex system of mirrors to take the laser to the end of the arm. Having said this MIG, YAG, TIG, ARC and normal spot welding use standardised machines that are widely available. Seam welding will require a robot with excellent path following and precision. MIG and TIG systems are very frequently fitted to small robots of around 5 to 10kg payload and with a reach of less that 1.8m although it is possible to use bigger robots such as the

2.4m reach ABB IRB 6400. Robots often have weave functions to give a fantastic quality of weld - probably better than that of a skilled human welder. They can also control many of the welding parameters such as power, wire feed, gas flow etc. By using "service stations" that combine torch cleaners and "bullseye" or a centring device it is possible to maintain production 24-7 without the need for intervention. As arc welding is hazardous with fumes as well as the blinding light from the arc itself a robot is a sensible choice from a heath and safety standpoint. Arc welding cells obviously have screens around the work area and manipulators are often used to present parts to the robot to prevent anyone getting too close and to keep production rates high. Pictured are four ABB IRB 1400 robots equiped with ESAB MIG welding gear. The wire feed units are the black boxes mounted on the top of the arms. In this case the robots are welding a car chassis. The robots will be connected so that they are aware of each others location to prevent collisions. The orange Y shaped stands between the robots are the bullseyes used to calibrate the robots. Spot welding robots will generally carry a complete spot weld gun and power pack on the end of the arm. As these frequently weigh in excess of 100kg it is not surprising that this a task to which robots have been applied since the early days. In fact Kuka were spot welding specialists for many years before they started making robots. Using spot welders by hand is a very difficult job indeed and trying to manoeuvre such a heavy-weight piece of kit accurately is near impossible. A spot welding robot will on the other hand position a spot gun with remarkable dexterity and speed. J -guns, G - guns and some truly monstrous scissor guns are often equipped to robots. The robot will also require a substantial loom to carry services to the welder (air, water and power as well as sensor information) so the robot is designed to bear a substantial supplementary load to do this. The weld timer is closely linked to the robot and this allows a robot to respot a point if the welding process has not occured as it should. Tip dressing

stations are usually fitted in a spot welding cell so that quality of weld can be consistent. The ABB IRB 6600 pictured is a very heavy weight spot welder and it is carrying a scissor gun which could easly reach most of the way across a car body. Other robots frequently used for spot welding include the ABB IRB 6000 and 6400 models, Fanuc 420, 430 and R2000 models and Kuka KR125, and KR150's. Most major robot manufacturers have at least one robot designed for spot welding.

Robotic Automation: Plasma Cutting Plasma cutting is a process which uses a high velocity of ionized gas delivered from a constricted orifice. This high velocity ionized gas, the plasma, conducts electricity from the torch of the plasma cutter to the work piece. The material is heated and melted by the plasma. The high velocity stream of ionized gas mechanically blows the molten metal away, severing the material.

Plasma cutting is used to cut steel or a non-ferrous material less than one inch thick. Robotic plasma cutting is easy to use and offers higher quality cuts at faster travel speeds