The Industrial Robot Book

This page contains the electronic material of the Industrial Robot Book, published by the Robotics Society in Finland.

Suomenkielinen materiaali löytyy osoitteesta

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1. History and state-of-the art of industrial robotics

What kinds of machines are industrial robots? Why are they used? Will robots displace human labour? What is the state of robotics in Finland? What is the short-term future of robotics? 

Videos of the first industrial robot Unimate

2. Applications of Industrial Robotics

Industrial robotics can be applied in a variety of industries. The requirements and challenges of robotisation vary greatly depending on the application and process to be robotised. Robots may be just a small part of a larger manufacturing system or the primary machine in a simple production cell. Regardless of the application, the aim of robotisation is usually to improve productivity or the working conditions of people. 

Videos are subtitled in English and Finnish. If not visible, you can turn on the subtitles by clicking the CC button. Language you can select from the video settings, under the gear icon.

Robotized machine tending

Robotized process pump test bed

Robotized manufacturing line for corrugated cardboard pallets.

Typical spot welding robot cell in a car factory

Robotised adaptive heavy arc welding cell

Robotised quality control using Barkhausen noise method

Robotised deburiing cell with several tool options

In Valmet Automotive plant all robot cells are designed using simulation

Industrial robots have been helping at AGCO Power plant since 1985.

Two arm cobot in confectionary packing line.

John Deere Joensuun plant, Image Janne Tervola
Valmet Automotive Uusikaupunki plant, Image Janne Tervola

3. Robotisation project and life cycle

A robotic system purchase can be motivated by a desire to do something more intelligently. Once the system has fulfilled its purpose and after all the upgrades, the materials that are freed up can be recycled. Several professionals will work on the robotic system along the way.  

Robotisation starts with the identification and initial planning of the need and the goal. The robotic system itself is produced in a robotisation project, where the robot cell is designed in detail, assembled and first tested by the supplier, and then installed and finally commissioned by the end client. The life cycle of a robot starts at the design table, continues in production, progresses to easier tasks as the joints loosen, and finally ends in recycling. Of all the life cycle phases, production use is the longest. A robot can be in production for more than ten years, and from time to time modernised and customised to new tasks, even for decades.

4. Industrial robot safety

In Europe, the basic safety requirements for industrial robots are determined by the Machinery Directive, according to which all industrial robot cells are machines. All robot cells implemented in the European Economic Area (EEA) must meet certain safety requirements. Conformity is indicated by the CE marking. The safety requirements of the Machinery Directive are specified with equipment-specific safety standards. Industrial robots and cells, for example, are governed by different standards. Risks in the applications are primarily eliminated through design. If that is not enough, safety can be improved with safety devices, instructions and training.  The Machinery Directive will be replaced by Machinery Regulation in January 2027.

5. Industrial robots

The main task of an industrial robot is to move a tool attached to its tool flange to the positions specified by the programming. In this section, we go through the structure and operating principle of the most common type of robot, the articulated robot. The same principles apply to almost all robots, regardless of their manufacturer or design. 

6. Mobile robots

The movement of robots beyond the factory floor has already begun. The Industry 4.0 program creates a need for more intelligent and more interconnected robots. An important feature of many of these is that they are no longer confined to one place. Mobile robots are already operating today on land, sea and in the air. 

Videos of mobile robot in industrial applications

7. Sensory systems and communication

A single robot is a fairly pointless gadget. It can, according to its main task, place its tool flange at the desired point in the desired position and recognise its own position, but is otherwise completely devoid of senses – deaf, dumb and blind. To do its job, it needs information about the world around it. This is produced by various sensory systems.  By far the most important of the sensory systems is machine vision, which gives the robot its eyes. Machine vision is such a broad and important topic that a whole chapter of this book is dedicated to it.  

However, there are also sensory systems that are much simpler than machine vision. At its simplest, a sensory system can be a single on/off indication from a limit switch that indicates whether a new item has arrived at the picking point.

Different ways of communicating information from sensory systems and other peripheral devices are needed. The robot needs to be able to communicate with other devices to get information about such factors as work phases and the position of items to be handled. In addition, it must be able to tell other devices about its own status: when is a good time to start a tool or open a clamp?  Robots of the 2020s are themselves multi-computer systems with multiple internal communication solutions. In addition, a robot is often connected to the surrounding data network, allowing the information it generates to be widely utilised and controlled remotely.

8. Machine vision

The technology that makes robots “see” their environment is called machine vision. Machine vision can be used to increase the adaptability of robots for applications such as part recognition and positioning, and quality assurance applications such as measurement and defect detection. 3D imaging and machine learning in particular are technologies that will become more and more common in future production cells.

9. Peripheral devices

A robot always needs other devices to help it perform the required tasks. A robotic system involves machines and various equipment for handling and processing workpieces. Conveyors and processing devices are needed to manoeuvre the workpieces so that they can be accessed by the robot. This section discusses typical peripheral devices and their requirements in terms of functionality, connectivity and reliability.

10. End-of-arm tools

To be useful, a robot needs a tool. For clarity these are usually called end-of-arm tools or end effectors. Earlier in the book, it has already been stated that the main task of a robot is controlled movement; when a tool is fitted to the robot, this motion can be harnessed for productive activities.  The robot then moves the tool to the desired location in a controlled way and the tool does the actual work. There are so many different tools that an exhaustive list is impossible to make. However, because robots have been made to replace human labour, it can be assumed that there will be a robot version of all the tried and tested tools used by humans. In addition, a whole new set of tools has been developed for robots, since the precision, repeatability and stable payload of robotic motion opens new possibilities.

11. Robot programming

While kinematics and frames help to get a robot to the right position, the task of programming is to get the robot there at the right time and with the right type of motion. When it comes to programming, robotics offers the most challenges and opportunities of all industrial applications. The range of commands available to robots has grown very comprehensive over the years. The latest developments in industrial robotics have mainly taken place in the field of programming and related peripheral software and hardware. This chapter discusses the differences between teaching and programming, the most common commands, and matters related to getting started and good practice.

12. Simulation and offline programming

Simulation and model-based offline programming are digital tools for modelling, verification and programming of the functionality of industrial robots in virtual environments. Together, they enable the design and programming of automated robotic systems without real physical systems, as well as verifying the functionality of the designed systems before commissioning. This section covers the basics of simulation and model-based offline programming from an industrial robotics perspective and discusses the potential of digital twins and virtual reality in industrial robotics.

Industrial VR and AR solutions

Industrial VR and AR solutions

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