Radwell E Magazine Issue 01 - Page 12



ROBOTICS AND Al
In the Manufacturing
Environment
It was in the sphere of manufacturing that robots first
made the leap from flights of science fiction fantasy
and early experimental designs, to fully realised,
practical tools. Unimate, an industrial robot developed
by Joe Engelberger and George Devol, began its
career at the General Motors plant in Ewing, New
Jersey way back in 1961, carrying out step-by-step
pre-programmed tasks on an automotive assembly
line. This was the beginning of a revolution in
manufacturing.
Over half a century later, similar robots are still an
important fixture on assembly lines and in
manufacturing plants across the world, saving time,
money, and effort during the process of assembly, and
increasing accuracy and safety in the process.
However, from a conceptual point of view, these robots
are drastically different from their predecessors on the
production line.
Today's robots are
far more
sophisticated and
capable of
performing more
complex tasks than
was ever previously
thought possible.
12
Radwell.co.uk
What's more, there has
been a fundamental
shift in focus for
robotics developers,
away from programmed
systems towards
something more
intelligent - something
capable of learning and
developing
autonomously.
This is where artificial intelligence is going to play a
major part in the next phase of robotic manufacturing.
If we can craft systems that are genuinely intelligent displaying understanding of role and purpose within a
broader operation - then the robotic machinery that
these systems support will become far more active,
far more versatile, participants in industry. Rather than
having to be painstakingly programmed to handle
each and every task, the robot will develop skills on its
own, or through training, which can then be
transferred to other areas of operation. The age of
smart manufacturing will begin in earnest.
However, there is a problem here. Artificial
intelligence, both as a concept and as a practical
technology, is still in its relative infancy. The machines
and systems which exhibit what we consider artificial
intelligence are in fact only operating at AI Tier II - the
Limited Memory phase of AI development.

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