The ICT Lounge
Section 7.10:
Applications in Manufacturing
In this section we will discuss how ICT is used within manufacturing and production lines.

We will focus on robots and the benefits and drawbacks that they bring to manufacturing.

Key Concepts of this section:
Understand how computerised robots have changed how products (such as cars) are manufactured.
Know the different types of manufacturing jobs that robots are used for.
Be able to discuss advantages and disadvantages of using computerised robots within manufacturing.

ICT in Manufacturing (Industrial Robots)
Key Words:
Automation , Microprocessor, Efficient, Repetitive

Here we are going to look at how robots can be used within manufacturing:

Overview of Industrial Robots:
A factory from the past with lots of people working
together to manufacture cars.
A modern (automated) car factory where most
of the work is carried out by robots
Robots welding car bodies
Robots can handle boring jobs like packing
without making mistakes.
Robots can also carry out delicate jobs like manufacturing microchips .
Robots carry out tasks that can be dangerous
for humans - E.g. spraying with toxic paint
Robots are also being used for dangerous jobs in the military - Bomb Disposal for example:
Robots are being used within manufacturing more and more. They are very good at carrying out tasks that are too dangerous or boring for humans to tackle.

Before robots, manufacturing in factories was carried out by people. People are not very fast at making stuff and they also sometimes make mistakes.

Modern factories use automated robots to manufacture products more efficiently. Robots manufacture products much quicker than humans and never make mistakes. Some humans are required to keep the robots running smoothly but not many!

Automation is where devices (like robots) carry out their tasks without human input. There may be a few humans needed to program the robots or to keep them oiled and running smoothly, but the actually manufacturing is carried out automatically.

A typical robot used in manufacturing:
An industrial robot used in manufacturing looks a lot like a human arm. In fact, industrial robots are often called 'Robotic Arms'.

Industrial robots share the following characteristics:
  • They are very strong
  • They have joints powered by strong motors
  • They can have various tool attachments at the end of the arm (like grippers, welding / spraying equipment)
  • They are controlled by microprocessors.
These microprocessors can be programmed with instructions which tell the robots how to carry out tasks. The robots will then accurately carry out these tasks for as long as needed.

Robotic arm showing joints and a gripper tool
Robotic arm with a welding tool attachment

Some jobs that robots are used for:
Robots can be used to carry out many tasks, from lifting heavy objects to very delicate operations. Some of the tasks that we use robots to carry out include:
  • Welding cars in car factories
  • Paint spraying cars in car factories
  • Manufacturing microchips
  • Lifting heavy car parts
  • Packing goods into boxes (boring)
  • etc.....

Why use robots in manufacturing?
Robots can carry out repetitive and boring tasks accurately for long periods of time. Humans tend to get bored and make mistakes when carrying out repetitive tasks.

Robots can carry out dangerous tasks that could be physically harmful to humans.

For example -
Pouring very hot liquid metal into casts could be a dangerous task for humans to carry out. Robots will not be harmed if any of the liquid metal is spilled.

Advantages / Disadvantages of using robots in manufacturing:
Robots can work non-stop for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Very expensive to set up at first. They can cost 100's of thousands of dollars.
Robots can work in environments that would be too dangerous for humans.
They can take jobs off people. This leads to unemployment.
They handle repetitive tasks which frees people to do more skilled work.
Robots cannot make decisions. E.g. if a car arrived at a welding station in the wrong position, the robot would not not adjust its own position to compensate.
Robots work faster than humans and can produce more.
Robots can break down.
Robots are more accurate than humans. E.g. each car produced is exactly the same.
Can save money over time as they do not have to be paid wages.

Some videos.....
Above video shows you the range of manufacturing jobs
that robots can be used for
This video shows a robot with nail gun attachment accurately
and quickly manufacturing wooden pallets
Video showing a robot carrying out delicate soldering work
A team of robots working together to assemble cars