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Humanoid Robots

Before Sophia enslaves humankind, mechanical robots will revolutionize manufacturing, and humanoid robots will replace workers in the service industry.

The Robotics Field

Manufacturing facilities around the world are increasing adoption of industrial robots to increase automation and maintain competitiveness. In both the US and China particularly, application of industrial robots is on the rise. Sales of industrial robots grew by 66 percent in the past 5 years alone in the USA, according to the International Federation of Robots.

Robots all have some kind of mechanical construction, a frame, form or shape designed to achieve a particular task. For example, a robot designed to travel across heavy dirt or mud, might use caterpillar tracks. There must also be electrical components which power and control the machinery. For example, the robot with caterpillar tracks would need some kind of power to move the tracker treads. The electrical aspect of robots is used for movement via motors, with built-in sensors delivering electrical signals in order to measure things like sound, position, and even basic vision.

Autonomous robots are well-suited to perform tasks that are dangerous and often repetitive, as well as to function in extreme environments such as space, under the oceans, or at high altitudes. NASA tests robots for exploration in areas called analogs. Analogs are places where the environment is similar to locations like Mars or the moon, where a robot may be used.

Although medical applications are still developing, robotic surgery has already proven itself to be of great value, particularly in areas inaccessible to conventional laparoscopic procedures. Robotic technology is set to revolutionize surgery by improving and expanding laparoscopic procedures, minimizing invasiveness, and allowing remote operation.

Humanoid Robots

Humanoid robots are constructed in such a way that they mimic the human body, so they use actuators that perform like muscles and joints, though with a different structure. To achieve the same effect as human motion, humanoid robots use mainly rotary actuators. They can be either electric, pneumatic, hydraulic, piezoelectric or ultrasonic. While electric coreless motor actuators are better suited for high speed and low load applications, hydraulic ones operate well at low speed and high load applications. Piezoelectric actuators generate a small movement with a high force capability when voltage is applied. They can be used for ultra-precise positioning and for generating and handling high forces or pressures in static or dynamic situations.

Sensors can be classified according to the physical process with which they work or according to the type of measurement information that they give as output. Vision refers to processing data from any modality which uses the electromagnetic spectrum to produce an image. In humanoid robots it is used to recognize objects and determine their properties. Sound sensors allow humanoid robots to hear speech and environmental sounds, and perform as the ears of the human being. Microphones are usually used for this task.

Required Education

Mechanical engineers typically need a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology. Mechanical engineering programs usually include courses in mathematics and life and physical sciences, as well as engineering and design. Mechanical engineering technology programs focus less on theory and more on the practical application of engineering principles. They may emphasize internships and co-ops to prepare students for work in the robotics industry.

A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one's career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. The initial PE exam can be taken after earning a bachelor's degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns. After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering. Each state issues its own licenses, although most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the licensing state's requirements meet or exceed their own.

Robotics & Computer Science Jobs

Mechanical engineers held about 307,800 jobs in 2019. The median annual wage for mechanical engineers was $89,190 in May 2019. Most mechanical engineers work full time, and about a third worked more than 40 hours a week. Employment of mechanical engineers is projected to grow 10 percent over the coming deacde. In the automotive industry in particular, mechanical engineers will play key roles in improving the range and performance of factory robots on the production line.

The Robotic Industries Association (RIA) reported that the world market for industrial robots is driven primarily by demand from motor vehicle manufacturing, followed by the electronics industry. US manufacturers that design and produce industrial robots include Adept Technology, Genmark Automation, Rethink Robotics, and SAGE Automation. In addition to automotive robots, these companies produce robots for the electronics, medical, and logistics industries.


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