Robotics is the interdisciplinary study and development of mechanical servants known as robots. Robots can be programmed to perform tasks for humans or to act in humanlike ways. Originally designed for menial tasks like car assembly lines, robots are now also used in the fire service, in house cleaning, and in assisting with complex surgical procedures. There is a continuum between fully autonomous robots and those that must be programmed to perform specific tasks, with the former requiring human supervision at all times.
The definition of “robotics” continues to broaden alongside technological developments. In 2005, 90% of the world’s robots were employed in the automobile manufacturing industry. To put it simply, these robots are just mechanical arms programmed to weld or screw on specific car parts. The term “robotics” now encompasses a much broader and more complex range of activities.
Designing a robot or robotic system entails developing a blueprint or set of guidelines for building the device. These can take the form of anything from detailed floor plans to intricate schematics of complex machinery. The word “design” can refer to a variety of different concepts depending on the context. For example, in engineering and graphic design, the act of building something from the ground up is considered part of the design process. This article discusses what makes robots unique, what goes into making a robot, and how those factors should be accounted for in the design process.
Despite the expanding robot industry, all robots share certain traits. The mechanical construction and mechanisms shared by all robots is one example. A robot’s mechanical parts allow it to function in its designated environment and carry out the tasks for which it was built.
To operate, robots require a number of electronic parts. Most robots need a source of electric current, like a battery, to function.
Most modern robots are programmed with some sort of computer logic. A robot is just a complicated piece of machinery if it doesn’t have instructions. The ability to know when and how to complete a task is provided by the robot’s code.
Designing the mechanisms that allow robots to move, also known as the mechanical engineering aspect, is essential. Unlike mechanical engineering, which encompasses machine design in its entirety, robot design is narrowed down to the motors and gears that will enable the robot to perform the tasks at hand.
When it comes to the robot’s mechanics, it’s common practice to first prototype its individual moving parts. The complexity rises or falls with the design of the robot and its means of locomotion.
Circuit design, or the ability to work with the robot’s electronics, is another necessary skill for robot builders. In order to select the most efficient motors, components, and power sources for the robot being designed, knowledge of electronics and microcontrollers is required. It is also important to think about the parts’ practicality and physicality.
Engineers with only a basic knowledge of circuits can use the resources provided by the robot maker community to put together a working robot.
If the design already has a functional electrical circuit and actuating mechanisms, then the microcontrollers can be written. The robot’s “brain,” or microcontroller, requires programming in order to function. The programming language and method of microcontroller program upload are determined by the microcontroller selected.
Fabrication occurs at the end of the construction process. During this phase, the robot’s components are assembled into the chassis or housing. Now that professional-looking digital fabrication tools like laser cutters, CNC mills, and 3D printers are within the reach of hobbyists, amateur robot designers can create sleek housings for their creations that give the impression of being manufactured by a large company.
The type of robot and its intended function will inform the design of the robot’s enclosure and the materials used to construct it. While it is practical to enclose a robot’s mechanisms and sensitive electronics, designers can also use the robot’s body to convey emotions, demonstrate how it is meant to interact with humans, and provide useful feedback.
Robot Design Considerations
There are many factors to think about when designing a robot, including the terrain it will be traversing, the energy it will require to move, the senses it will need to complete tasks, the materials used to construct the chassis, and the aesthetic goals of the creator.
In the event that the robot will be moving, it is crucial to think about the environment it will be operating in. It could be subjected to dirt, water, and other environmental hazards. The materials used, the plans for the robot’s mechanisms, and the outline of the housing are all affected by the possibilities.
The function of the robot can influence how it is powered. For instance, a power cord may be more efficient than batteries if the robot doesn’t need to move far, but batteries allow for greater mobility. When designing a robot, it is important to consider the power needs of all of its moving parts (motors, sensors, processors, etc.) and how long the robot needs to be operational for. If there isn’t enough power, the parts won’t work, but if there’s too much, the delicate ones could be fried.
How heavy will the robot be are examples of material concerns. Where could sensors be easily attached? Can you get to the battery easily, and how safe is it? While the robot’s physical form can be as simple or complex as required, the most effective designs likely allow for some degree of adaptability.
A robot needs a proximity sensor if it’s going to be able to avoid crashes. Other sensors, such as photocells that follow the sun or motion detectors that activate it when someone is in the area, may be necessary for some applications. A robot can communicate with an array of sensors. Everything the robot needs to know about its surroundings, and how it plans to use that knowledge to move, must be taken into account.
After the practical concerns are resolved, the aesthetic ones can be thought about. Personal touches are often included in the designs of many robots. It’s possible that a more humanoid or cute robot would do better with potential users or customers. That is a question that can only be answered by discovering the robot’s intended function.