The vast majority of robots cnc machining are used by the manufacturing industry, for repetitive tasks such as painting autobodies and simple assembly. Some 100,000 new robots were installed worldwide in 2000, nearly half of them in Japan, the biggest user. There were nearly 800,000 industrial robots in existence at the end of 2002 and this is likely to rise to almost 1 million by the end of 2004.
In the last decade the performance of robots has increased radically while at the same time prices have been plummeting. Today, manufacturing robots have a payback period as short as 1-2 years. In N. America, the price of robots relative to labor costs have fallen to 26, and as low as 12 if quality improvements are taken into consideration.
Sales of industrial robots have risen to record levels and there is huge, untapped potential for domestic chores like mowing lawns and vacuuming carpets.
New robot applications abound
As robot intelligence increases, and as sensors, actuators and operating mechanisms become more sophisticated, other applications are now multiplying. There are now thousands of underwater robots, demolition robots and even robots used in long-distance surgery.
Dozens of experimental search-and-rescue robots scoured the wreckage of the World Trade Center's collapsed twin towers. Teams of robotics experts were at Ground Zero operating experimental robots to probe the rubble and locate bodies. During the war in Afghanistan, robots were being used by the US military as tools for combat. They were sent into caves, buildings or other dark areas ahead of troops to help prevent casualties.
After the recent anthrax scares, work has been ongoing to replace postal workers with robots. Indeed, there is huge potential to mechanize the U.S. postal service and some 1,000 robots were installed last year to sort parcels. The U.S. postal service has estimated that it has the potential to use up to 80,000 robots for sorting work, although existing models are not suitable for sorting letters.
A giant walking robot is used to harvests forests, moving on six articulated legs, advancing forward and backward, sideways and diagonally. It can also turn in place and step over obstacles.
At UC Berkeley, a tiny robot called Micromechanical cnc machining Flying Insect has wings that flap with a rhythm and precision matched only by natural equivalents. The goal is to develop tiny, nimble devices that can, for example, surreptitiously spy on enemy troops, explore the surface of Mars or safely monitor dangerous chemical spills.
A big increase is predicted for domestic robots for vacuum cleaning and lawn mowing. Robots to do these chores are practical today. An inexpensive house-cleaning robot was recently introduced a little battery-powered vacuum cleaner that scurries around the floor, sweeping up dust and dirt as it travels. cnc machining Called Roomba, it costs just $199 and, by all accounts, is selling very well.