THE ROBOTICS INDUSTRY
The first industrial robot was developed in the mid-1950s by Joseph Engelberger (1925), who has been referred to as the father of industrial robots. Engelberger also founded Unimation, Inc., Cnc machining which became the largest producer of industrial robots in the United States.
His early research involved touring Ford, Chrysler Corp., General Motors, and 20 other production plants. Engelberger observed that men performed the higher-paying jobs in which they lifted heavy objects with two hands simultaneously, while women performed tasks in which they used their hands asynchronously. Economic and technical considerations thus led Engelberger to focus on the development of a one-armed robot. Engelberger developed his first prototype in 1956, the design of which is very similar to Unimation robots produced decades later.
General Motors purchased a test model in 1959, though by 1964, Unimation had sold only 30 robots. It was not until the late 1960s that sales increased strongly and not until 1975 that the firm turned a profit. Cnc machining Together with number-two producer Cincinnati Milacron, Unimation accounted for 75 percent of the U.S. robotics market in 1980. Unimation Inc. became a wholly owned subsidiary of Westinghouse in 1982. By 1983, the firm had sales of $43 million.
TEPID DEMAND AND CYCLICAL SALES.
Generally, there was much greater reluctance to adopt the use of robots in the United States than in places like Japan, which led the world in robot production and use. Among other apprehensions, U.S. companies balked at the heavy investments required and were sensitive to opposition from organized labor. Other times, when robots were ordered, they failed to deliver what manufacturers anticipated, due to unrealistic expectations of flawless operations and dramatic labor savings—ignoring the heavy maintenance robots required—and to the limitations of the machines themselves.
While the early 1980s saw promising growth, yielding some predictions that robotics would be a multibillion-dollar business by 1990, the U.S. robotics industry suffered a severe setback in the mid-1980s, largely the result of declining orders from the automobile industry. At the time, the auto industry still supplied over 70 percent of all U.S. robot orders.Cnc machining This resulted in a number of firms leaving the industry, including deep pocketed players such as General Electric and Westinghouse, and left many of the remaining firms to merge or be acquired. The value of new orders fell from their 1984 high of $480 million for 5,800 units to a 1987 low of just 3,800 units worth $300 million.