In 1970 only two manufacturers existed in the United States, namely the American Machine and Foundry (AMF) Versatran and the Unimation, Inc. Unimate. These robots, still in the forefront today, were just emerging and gaining acceptance in 1970, with approximately 200 industrial robots at work in the U.S., and an amassed 600,000 hours on the job, a negligible amount considering that the total U.S.blue collar work force puts in 200 million hours each day. However more than seventeen types of robots are now available in the U.S. at least twelve of which are manufactured in this country. They range from minirobots with payloads of only a few ounces and reaches of less than a foot to the larger universal robots which can handle payloads of up to 150 lbs., reach 3 ½ ft., and move at speeds up to 3 ft./sec. Recent additions to the U.S. arsenal are the Burch Control robot with a payload capacity of 6000 lbs. Industrial robots are easily reprogrammable, operatorless handling devices that can perform simple, repetitive jobs that require few alternative actions and minimum communications with the work environment. They are well suited to handling parts that are red hot or feezing cold, and they can function in corrosive, noxious or extremely dusty atmospheres that would be injurious to human beings. Passage in the United States of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 has provided strong impetus for the use of industrial robots. As discussed in a recent article in Assembly Engineering Magazine (Ref.1), the Act currently states that a human being cannot place his hands within punch press dies to load or remove parts, and it is imminent that OSHA standards will be extended to cover other fabricating and assembly machines, such as staking presses, spot welding machines, riveting machines, holding and clamping equipment, electron component Inserting equipment, and automatic screwdriving machines. In many cases the cost and time to retool an existing operation to conform to the standards will be prohibitive compared to the cost and time required to purchase and program an industrial robot to perform the potentially dangerous operations.
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