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Man and Machine. Intro to Robotics and Becoming Robot Technicians

Most people imagine a humanoid when they hear the word “robot”. A terminator-esque cyborg might be too far-fetched to become a part of our reality in the future. However, robots are set to play a very vital role in a lot of different fields. In fact, they already have a prominent space in our society in areas such as manufacturing, healthcare, engineering, automation etc. But why do we need them? And how do we develop and maintain them?

Here’s more about robots and how one can become a robot technician

A quick brief

  • Robotics and automation are not the same but intersect at certain points.
  • Robotics is used in a wide variety of applications across sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, scientific research and others.
  • The robotics market is expected to grow upto USD 176 billion by 2026.
  • Robot technicians are those that design, develop, deploy and maintain robots.
  • The average salary of a robot technician is anywhere between USD 35000 to USD 75000 a year.
  • To become a robot technician, one must have skills that include analytical, logical, communication, programming and problem solving skills among others.

Robotics - an introduction

Many resort to using the terms robotics and automation interchangeably. But do they both really mean the same? The short answer is – it depends on the use case scenario. In order to understand the difference between the two, one needs to know what they both represent.

Robotics is a combinatorial field that brings together the best of engineering and computer science. The field of robotics refers to the design and development of robots and their components including hardware, software, and sensors among others. Robots are generally categorized into cartesian, cylindrical, SCARA, 6-axis and delta. These robots all have different uses and based on applications, specific robots are chosen. They mostly vary in terms of speed, workspace and size but other factors could come into play as well.

Automation, on the other hand, is the use of technology to reduce human interaction or to automate processes in such a way that the human effort required to make things work can be minimized. Automation can include different types – software, hardware or a hybrid version of both.

Although robots can be used for automation, not all of them are capable of automating things. Moreover, not all automation requires robots!

For example, when you chat with a bot online, you aren’t talking to a physical robot but a software trained to provide answers to specific questions. This is an example of automation without robots. A robot that has been built so that a human can control it via remote controllers is an example of a robot without automation.

Cobots, or collaborative robots, are one of the latest additions to the field of robotics. They are interactive robots that are designed to work together with humans. They are safe, flexible and easy to program for use in environments that require both robots and humans.

Now that we have understood the fundamentals of robotics and the difference between robotics and automation, let us take a look at some of the applications of robotics in real life.

What are the applications of robotics

Robots have been around for quite a while in various shapes and sizes and have been used in various applications over the years. A few of them are discussed here.

Space Research

NASA has been designing and developing robots for many operations. They have been developing robotic arms, rovers, drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and robonauts for use in space research.

Healthcare

Robotic surgeries are being touted as the most effective way to perform medical procedures. Robots do not perform surgeries – they assist surgeons by providing more effective ways to view the human body from inside out. They help in improving precision during surgeries and in accelerating post intervention recovery.

Agriculture

Robots can be deployed for sustainable agriculture where they can intervene to remove pests without the need for chemicals and keep the ecosystem balanced. Robots have also been helping in removing weeds from agricultural lands.

Hospitality

We can even see restaurants making use of wheeled robots for food delivery. These robots can also be eco-friendly if they happen to be electric or run on renewable resources. Imagine the amount of pollution and traffic congestion that can be reduced if we switch from delivering food with motor vehicles to delivering food using these eco-friendly robots.

Prosthetics

Neuroprosthetics is a field which develops bionic limbs for amputees. Robotics, in combination with mechatronics and machine intelligence, has helped to develop bionic limbs that can provide tactile control.

Manufacturing

Industries have been using robots for almost half a century now. Robots used for industrial purposes can improve the quality of products by automating and controlling the production process. They also ensure that the products are manufactured on time and without the need for human inputs. Robots that are used in industries can move heavy objects, work in assembly lines, test products, and package products.

Let us now try to understand what a robot technician’s job entails and how one can make money from it.

What Does a Robot Technician’s Job Entail?

A robot technician’s job is to design and develop robots using their knowledge of computer programming and engineering. Generally, they

  • build robots according to specifications
  • test robots that are to be deployed for military, industrial and medical purposes
  • test the software used by robots and update them from time to time
  • robots that are built for entertainment, and
  • design, develop, deploy and maintain industrial robots that are built for heavy-duty work.

The robot technicians support various teams that work on the development of robots including

  • design
  • development and training
  • manufacturing, testing
  • configuration
  • operations and maintenance

In case the robots are deployed, the technicians are also responsible for continuous support and carrying out routine quality checks to ensure that the robot is kept online for longer.

A robot technician’s job is certain to be secure, well-paying and to have minimal working hours. However, the responsibilities that come with developing robots are huge and therefore cannot be handled by inexperienced technicians. Robot technicians may even be required to work on site to deploy their machines in areas such as military, healthcare, manufacturing units and even dairy farms.

Some of the other roles related to the field of robotics other than a

  • Robot technician include
  • Robotics engineer,
  • Robotics research engineer,
  • Robotics program developer
  • Automation engineer
  • Robot welder
  • Machine learning engineer
  • Algorithm development engineer
  • Robotics testing engineer

The average salary of an entry-level robot technician ranges from USD 35000 a year to over USD 40000 a year. However, more experienced technicians will get paid anywhere between USD 50000 to USD 75000 a year

Skills to Possess and Degrees to Pursue

To become a robot technician, one must have a relevant degree in the field and also possess enough experience. One must also have skills such as

  • Knowledge in computer programming
  • Knowledge of physics and mathematics
  • Knowledge of artificial intelligence
  • Communication skills
  • Analytical and logical skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Ability to design training algorithms
  • Microprocessor knowledge
  • Circuit analysis
  • Yearning to learn new things
  • Robot anatomy knowledge
  • Understanding of mechanics
  • Understanding the working of sensors and developing them.

In order to qualify for the job of a robot technician, one can either complete a technical course that is offered by universities and colleges around the world. Those interested can also complete a bachelor’s and possess a background in robotics.

Generally, most robotics industries prefer someone with an engineering degree from branches such as electrical, electronics, mechatronics, computer and mechanical engineering. Taking up a bachelor’s after a technical course can significantly increase your chances of being elevated to a robot engineer who can develop advanced robots instead of someone who maintains them.

The Future

With more and more robots being developed for newer ventures, the need for technicians will also increase proportionally. The fear of losing jobs to robots is not substantiated. If anything, robots could lead to more job openings for those interested to be at the helm of newer technologies of tomorrow.

Keep checking this space for more information on robotics

Date added
20.08.2021

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