What are the parts of an industrial robot?

May 8, 2024
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Industrial robots explained

An industrial robot is an automated machine designed to handle tasks with incredible speed, precision, and strength. Unlike us humans, they don't get tired or make mistakes. 

There's no one-size-fits-all in the world of industrial robots. Here are some of the most common types you'll find on factory floors:

  • Articulated robots: These are the ones that look like giant mechanical arms, with joints that let them twist and turn in all sorts of ways. They're masters of welding, painting, and assembly.

  • Cartesian robots: Imagine these as boxy machines that move along three axes (X, Y, Z). Think of them as the ultimate pick-and-place specialists, great for packaging and palletizing.

  • SCARA robots: Short for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm, these are quick and precise. They excel in tasks like putting tiny components onto circuit boards.

  • Delta robots: These speedy robots look a bit like upside-down spiders, with a unique parallel arm structure. They're perfect for high-speed sorting and packing lightweight items.

  • Collaborative robots (Cobots): Unlike traditional industrial robots that usually work behind fences, cobots are designed to work safely alongside humans. They're often used for lighter tasks or assisting workers with heavy lifting.

The mechanical system: Structure and movement

Here are the robotic components that make up an industrial robot: 

  • The frame provides the structure and mobility for an industrial robot. It contains joints that allow movement in all directions — up and down, side to side, and rotation. These multiple joints, typically 3 to 6, give the robot dexterity and range of motion.
  • Powered by electric motors, the joints move the manipulator arm into position. The robot is pre-programmed with the exact positions and sequences to complete its task. Precision is key, as even minor errors could lead to damaged parts or inefficient operation.
  • While stationary robots are fixed in one place, mobile robots have wheels or tracks that allow them to navigate the factory floor. Mobile robots can transport materials between workstations or provide automated guided vehicles to move components and finished goods.

The control system: The brains behind the operation

The control system is the mastermind that coordinates the robot's activities based on programmed instructions. Its components include controllers, software interfaces, and actuators. 

The main controller executes the robot's instructions, whether from pre-programmed code or input from an operator. It sends signals to the actuators, which convert the electronic signals into mechanical movement.

Various programming interfaces allow users to control the robot. These include coding languages like C++, as well as visual interfaces that let you manipulate the robot with a mouse.

The most advanced robots offer no-code interfaces that require little to no programming experience.  

Power supply: Energizing the robot

The power supply gives the necessary electricity to energize the robot and allow it to function.

Here are the parts that make it up: 

Motors and actuators

Motors and actuators move the robot, so they need strong, consistent power. Industrial robots typically use AC or DC power supplies, which convert high-voltage AC power into lower DC voltage the robot can use.

Control systems

The robot's control systems also need power to operate. They need lower voltage DC power to energize the logic circuits and microprocessors that act as the robot's "brain."

Sensors and feedback devices

Various sensors and feedback devices on the robot provide information about its environment and motion. These components require power tailored to their specific needs. The power supply provides multiple outputs at different voltages to suit the needs of the various electronic components.

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End-effectors: The tools and grippers for specific tasks

End-effectors, or robot tools, are attached to the robot arm and allow it to perform various tasks. The end-effector could be a gripper for grasping and manipulating objects, a welding torch for fusing metals, or a spray paint gun.

The end-effector is designed based on the robot's application. Welding robots have a welding torch, while painting robots have a spray gun. Assembly robots are equipped with grippers to pick up components. 

The end-effector is powered and controlled by the robot arm.

Some end-effectors have built-in sensors to provide feedback on the task being performed. A gripper may have touch sensors to detect the grasp force applied to an object. A welding end-effector may monitor arc current and voltage. 

This feedback helps achieve higher overall safety levels. 

Sensors and feedback devices: The robotic components for perception

Sensors are high-tech industrial robot parts, the eyes and ears of any robot, allowing it to sense the surrounding environment. 

The most common types of sensors used in industrial robots include:

  • Vision sensors like cameras provide visual perception and allow the robot to see. These are useful for object recognition, positioning, and navigation.
  • Proximity sensors that detect the presence of nearby objects without physical contact. They help the robot avoid collisions.
  • Force and torque sensors that measure the forces and twisting movements applied by the robot. These provide feedback for precise control and safety.
  • Position sensors like encoders that track the robot’s joint angles and end-effector location. They are necessary for accurate and controlled movement.

Drive systems: Robotic muscles

The drive systems are the “muscles” of an industrial robot, providing the power and motion for its mechanical limbs. Electric motors and hydraulic or pneumatic actuators are commonly used to drive the joints and end effectors.

Let’s take a closer look at both: 

  • For precise, high-speed movements, electric servo motors are ideal. They run on electricity and use feedback from sensors to ensure accurate positioning. Many joints and axes of motion in a robot are powered this way.
  • Hydraulic and pneumatic actuators provide more power but less precision. They use pressurized fluids (oil or air) to generate force and movement. Robots that handle heavy loads or perform force-intensive tasks like welding, grinding, or assembly often utilize hydraulic actuators.

Safety features: Protecting the machine and human workers

Industrial robots are powerful machines, so safety features are very important to prevent injuries. 

Here are some of those features and best practices keeping us squishy humans safe: 

  • Sensors detect when humans enter the robot’s workspace, triggering an immediate shutdown. This emergency stop function cuts power to the robot to avoid collisions. Physical barriers like cages or light curtains also shield people from moving parts.
  • Some robots have speed and force-limiting features for extra precaution. If the robot encounters an unexpected obstacle, force control reduces its strength to prevent damage. Speed control slows operation when the robot nears the end of its range of motion. These controls minimize risks in case of errors or unforeseen circumstances.
  • Proper maintenance and operator training further guarantee safe interaction with industrial robots. Regular inspections check that all sensors and stops are functioning properly. Only authorized personnel who understand the robot’s movements and capabilities should program and operate the equipment.

Summing up 

You've just learned all there is to know about industrial robot parts. 

From their mechanical structure to the sensors, end effectors, and safety features, each component has an important role to play. 

In the end, understanding how these intelligent machines function helps demystify the technology powering modern manufacturing — and keeps your shop floor safer

Next steps 

Ready to transform your shop floor with cutting-edge automation? Look no further than RO1 from Standard Bots, the smart choice for businesses seeking powerful, adaptable solutions.

  • Automation that won't break the bank: Gain the benefits of advanced robotics with RO1, offering exceptional performance at a remarkably competitive price point.
  • Best-in-class strength and agility: RO1 excels in its class, smoothly handling impressive payloads (up to 18 kg) with speed and precision that leaves competitors behind.
  • Evolve your operations with intelligent automation: Backed by powerful AI on par with GPT-4, RO1 learns continuously, allowing it to adapt effortlessly alongside your changing production requirements.
  • Collaboration as a core principle: RO1 prioritizes workplace safety with its collaborative design, state-of-the-art vision capabilities, and intelligent sensors for secure human interaction.

Reach out to our team for a complimentary 30-day onsite trial. Benefit from personalized support to ensure your robot implementation is a resounding success.

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