The ‘WHYs’ and ‘HOWs’ of robotics

Robots, as we know, are soon going to be an integral part of our lives, just as accessible to every person as electricity! Robots, artificial intelligence and machine learning are the future of mankind. These are the changes we MUST be a part of! So, if you still aren’t its proactive part, let me take you through the journey.

As a well known story goes, on asking Feynman about why spin one-half particles obey Fermi-Dirac statistics, he decided to prepare a freshman lecture on it. A few days later said, “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t reduce it to freshman level. That means we don’t really understand it.”

That’show important basics are!

So before I take you to the latest news and developments in the next chapters, take a look at the basic idea of a robot and fundamental components to build one.

Robot is defined as a device (at times human-like) that is capable of carrying out complex or monotonous tasks, on being programmed by a computer. This being said, a robot is actually quite similar to us. The fundamental parts of a robot include:

  • Controller
  • Actuators
  • End Effector
  • Sensor

Controller – The brain of a robot

Controllers or microcontrollers are like a compact computer which is loaded with a computer code known as a program. This program stored in the memory of the controller, then decides the further actions of a robot.

The latest Arduino controller, Arduino Uno R3, is the most simple controller to use. Arduino, being an open-source electronic platform, package libraries and immense help and support are available online.

If you do not wish to make a use of libraries and do complete coding yourself, microcontrollers such as AVR development boards with Atmega controllers, Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone Black, etc can used.

End Effectors – the one to act

End effectors are that part of a robot which carry out the task for which the robot has been designed. Gripper, magnets, vaccum pumps, etc. are a few examples of the end effectors.

Actuator – To position the end effector

To place the the end effector at a particular position, a body that has freedom of motion is required. This motor which moves links to place the end effector in a desired position is called an actuator.

Three types of actuators are used.

  • Hydraulic
  • Electric
  • PneumaticHydraulic actuators are used where greater strength and speed is required, while pneumatic actuators are used for the smaller robots.

Sensors – to give feedback to the robot

To have a controlled mechanism in a robot, feedback needs to be noted by the controller. This feedback is provided by the sensor. Different kind of sensors help to add different senses into a robot. This feedback is provided in the form of electronic signal to the controller.

Temperature sensors, visual sensors or cameras, microphones, etc. are easily available.

Miscellaneous:

Power supply, in the form of electricity, or batteries like Lithium ion batteries, LiPo batteries etc. are used.

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