Will Robots Ever Replace Humans?

June 1, 2011
It was 1985 when I took my first robot programming class. Wound up taking two. At the time, IBM had a “SCARA” robot that we integrated and the 6-axis robot we used was then known as GMFanuc.

These were sophisticated pick-and-place machines that could be programmed to palletize products or find locations in three-dimensional space. But they were also expensive and slow.

Robots became the workhorses of automobile assembly, doing jobs that were either dangerous or monotonous for humans—welding and painting. The palletizing algorithms were perfect for end-of-line packaging applications, as well. The development of the “Delta” robot and its derivatives integrated with vision brought a high-speed sorting capability that was ideal for many food manufacturing lines.

ON THE WEB: Check out this podcast interview on packaging machinery trends from the last Pack Expo.

Robot technology has picked up speed and sophistication. Engineers continue to find new applications. Step out of your comfort zone for a little while and check out how robots are revolutionizing drug discovery. Moira Gunn hosts a program called BiotechNation on many public TV stations that is also available by podcast.

In a recent episode (http://bit.ly/1106_005), Gunn discusses how robots remove the tediousness and potential for human error from the drug discovery process—having the ability to accurately take test tubes from one place, add a specific amount of chemical to another test tube, replace the first one and remember the process. Is there something you’re doing in food manufacturing and packaging that would benefit from this idea? Check it out.

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