Top 12 industrial applications of robotics

June 25, 2024
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1) Auto assembly

Automobile assembly lines were early adopters of industrial robotics. Since the 1960s, robots have been used in car factories like General Motors. 

Their functions included: 

  • Spot welding: Precisely joining metal parts with controlled heat and pressure
  • Painting: Spraying layers of primer and paint for a flawless finish
  • Material handling: Lifting and maneuvering heavy components like doors, hoods, and dashboards

Today, a typical assembly line uses hundreds of robots working in perfect sync. They build vehicles with tremendous speed, precision, and efficiency while optimizing quality and safety. As automakers push for more customized options and streamlined production, collaborative robots (or "cobots") are joining human workers on the line. 

2) Electronics manufacturing

Robots dominate electronics assembly lines to handle things humans struggle with:

  • Precision soldering: With robotic arms and magnifying lenses, robots can precisely place and solder minuscule electronic components onto printed circuit boards. Their super-steady “hands” get the job done faster and more accurately than humans ever could.
  • Microchip fabrication: In chip foundries, robots handle the hazardous chemicals and gases used to etch integrated circuits onto silicon wafers. They transport wafers between processing stations in sterile environments free of contaminants.
  • Product testing: Robots put new electronic devices through their paces to ensure quality. They can repeatedly test functions like wireless connectivity, battery life, and software performance in a consistent, efficient manner. Any units that fail are flagged for diagnosis and repair before shipping.

3) Packaging and palletizing

You’ll find robots hard at work moving products from A to B and boxing them up neatly, too. 

Some of the packing and palletizing tasks that robots can do are: 

  • Industrial robots are ideal for quickly and efficiently boxing up products on assembly lines. Their mechanical arms can grab items off conveyor belts and place them in boxes at super-speed. Plus, robots don’t get bored or tired, so production keeps humming along.
  • Once boxes are filled, robots organize them onto pallets for shipping. They calculate the optimal configuration to build stable, space-efficient pallets. Their strong arms can lift and move heavy boxes with ease, stacking each pallet high — with zero risk of injury to humans. 

4) Metal fabrication and welding

Welding metal parts together is a crucial step in manufacturing. Industrial bots can do these tasks 24/7 with excellent consistency levels.

Let’s take a look: 

  • Spot welding robots can join metal sheets together super-fast. They use concentrated heat to fuse overlapping metal pieces at specific spots.
  • Arc welding robots pass an electric current between an electrode and the metal pieces to generate intense heat for joining metals with an arc. They require a shielding gas to protect the weld pool.
  • Laser welding robots use a focused laser beam to precisely melt and join metals with high-density energy. Lasers allow for narrow, deep welds and less distortion. They’re often used for welding small, intricate parts. Lasers can also be used for larger welds in industries like automotive and aerospace.
  • Resistance welding robots pass an electric current through metal pieces to generate heat through resistance, melting the metals at the point of contact. They’re good for high-volume production.

5) Pharmaceutical production

Think big pharma doesn’t love robots? They do, and here’s why: 

  • Robotic arms are super-precise and consistent. Robotic arms carefully measure, mix, and dispense ingredients with extreme consistency and accuracy.
  • They’ve got your back. Robots can also handle hazardous materials and work in controlled environments. They’re unaffected by the chemicals and sterile conditions necessary for making medicines.
  • Robotic arms automate parts of the drug production process to increase output and lower costs. Robots don’t get tired or distracted, so they can work 24 hours a day churning out medicines and medical products.

6) Food and drink processing

The food industry relies heavily on robots as well.

Here’s what they excel at: 

  • Packing: Once packaged goods come off the production line, robots efficiently load them into boxes and seal the boxes for shipping. Their speed and accuracy ensure maximum productivity and food safety.
  • Withstanding health hazards: Robots can work in harsh, dangerous environments where the temperature, humidity, or the presence of chemicals make it hard or plain unsafe for humans. They can lift and transport goods in extreme heat or cold. Robots are also common in areas where biohazards may be a big no-no for human workers. 
  • Preventing repetitive strain injuries: Performing the same motions over and over leads to fatigue, errors and injuries in humans. These jobs are excellent for robots, like placing cookies onto a conveyor belt, capping bottles, or arranging products into neat rows.
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7) Plastics and polymers production

The plastics industry relies heavily on industrial robots. Plastic injection molding machines produce parts at superhuman rates. 

Here’s how:

  • Robotic arms keep things flowing. Robotic arms load raw plastic pellets into the molding machines, maintaining a steady supply of material. Once the molding process is complete, robotic grippers extract the newly formed plastic pieces from the molds with precision.
  • Robots also play a key role in polymer production. Polymers like nylon and polyethylene are made from petroleum products in a chemical reaction process. Robotic mechanisms carefully monitor and adjust factors like temperature, pressure, and mixing during polymer synthesis. 

8) Aerospace component assembly

Robots are ideally suited for the precision assembly of aircraft components. 

Here’s where they help: 

  • Wing and fuselage assembly: Robots assist in fitting wing sections onto fuselages and joining them together. This requires aligning massive components and making permanent bonds.
  • Engine installation: Robots lift and guide aircraft engines into place for attachment to wings and fuselages. 
  • Riveting: Many aircraft parts are held together with rivets. Robots are adept at drilling holes and inserting rivets, especially in hard-to-reach areas. They can rivet at a fast, consistent pace.
  • Welding: Robots handle the welding of aircraft frames and skins with their programmed precision and guidance systems. Their arms can reach tight spaces and weld in awkward positions as needed.
  • Coating application: Robots spray specialized coatings like paint, primer, and sealants onto aircraft parts. They give an even, flawless coat and minimize overspray and waste.

9) Woodworking and carpentry

Industrial robots have also made their way into woodworking shops and carpentry businesses. 

Here are some tasks where they shine (or make things shine, as in sanding):

  • Cutting: Robots wield circular saws, band saws, and jigsaws to make quick, accurate cuts in wood. They can cut wood to precise measurements for carpentry and woodworking projects.
  • Sanding: Robotic sanders can smooth and finish wood surfaces using programmed motions and grits. They produce an even, polished finish and reduce the health hazards of airborne wood dust for human workers.
  • Routing: Robotic routers cut intricate designs, joinery, and edges in wood. Their precision results in flawless, artistic details that would be difficult to achieve manually.
  • Assembly: Robotic arms are also adept at assembling wood pieces into furniture, cabinets, and other finished products. They can handle and join materials of various sizes and weights with super-human speed and accuracy.

10) Chemical manufacturing

Chemical plants rely heavily on industrial robots to handle hazardous materials and repetitive tasks. 

Robots are very good at:

  • Material transport: Moving raw ingredients, waste, and finished chemicals between processing areas
  • Mixing and blending: Precisely combining chemicals according to strict recipes
  • Packaging: Filling, capping, labeling, and palletizing chemicals for distribution
  • Inspection: Monitoring equipment and processes for quality control and safety

Without robotics, many chemical production jobs would be just too dangerous or flat-out repetitive for humans.

11) Laboratory research and analysis

Robots have become invaluable assistants in laboratories and research facilities. Their precise movements and data analysis abilities let scientists perform experiments that would be out of the question with humans alone. 

These include: 

  • Automated sample testing: Robots can systematically test hundreds of samples in a short amount of time with extreme accuracy levels. Things like running chemical assays, analyzing DNA or RNA, or testing new drug compounds are a perfect match for robotics applications.
  • Dangerous materials: Robotic arms can manipulate dangerous substances like toxic chemicals, radioactive materials, or biohazards without risk to human researchers. They can transport, mix, separate, and analyze these materials while scientists operate them remotely.
  • Microscope operation: High-powered microscopes often need very precise controls and adjustments to view samples. Robots can make subtle calibrations to focus on tiny details that would be difficult to do manually. They can also automatically scan samples to create high-res maps.
  • Data recording and analysis: Robots don’t get bored or tired doing repetitive tasks like monitoring equipment readouts, tracking experiment progression, or compiling results. They can flag minute changes or anomalies in the data that humans may miss. Robots are also useful for crunching huge datasets to spot trends and patterns.

12) Construction and heavy machinery

Construction and mining are notoriously dangerous fields, so industrial robots are increasingly handling the most hazardous tasks.

Some examples are: 

  • Demolition bots: These specialized robots, often equipped with powerful hydraulic arms and attachments, safely dismantle buildings and structures, minimizing risk to human workers and allowing for more efficient demolition.
  • Robotic excavators: These autonomous machines utilize robotic precision to dig, excavate, and move earth, improving the accuracy and speed of earthworks in construction projects.
  • Autonomous loaders and haulers: These robots efficiently transport heavy materials like dirt, gravel, and debris across construction sites, reducing the need for manual labor and increasing overall productivity.

Summing up all these robotics applications

That was our rundown of 12 of the most common and impactful industrial robot applications out there today. 

From building cars to exploring other planets, these bots are making a difference in practically every conceivable industry. Sure, they may not be able to small talk or crack jokes like us humans (that’s coming soon), but they're pretty good at what they do. 

Next steps

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