Robots are automatically functioning machines that can adapt to environmental changes.
The word, “robot” was first used in 1921 in a Karl Capek play, but humans have been toying with machines that are automated for much longer than that. Quite apart from being the subject of many movies and books, robots are fast becoming an important part of our lives simply because they can do jobs that are too dangerous for humans.
The one question asked by many people is, what is a robot made of?
The answer is that while every robot is different but they all share the same basic components:
The Control System
At a basic level, all humans and animals survive using one principle — feedback. We sense what is happening around us, and we react accordingly.
We can date the use of feedback to control the way machines function back to 1745, when the principle was used by Edmund Lee, an English lumber mill owner who wanted to improve how his wind-powered mill functioned. Whenever the wind turned direction, his windmill needed to be moved to compensate for this. To improve it, he added two more small windmills to the big one, both powering one axle that turned the large windmill to face the wind automatically.
The control system in a robot also uses feedback in the same way that human brains do.
However, where the human brain is a mass of neurons, a robot brain is a silicon chip called a CPU, or central processing unit, very much like the chip your home computer runs on. Where our brains make a decision on what to do, on what reaction to make, based on the feedback we get from our five senses, the robot CPU uses data collected by sensors to make the same decisions.
These sensors mimic the human senses, but are actually video cameras or light-dependent resistors acting as eyes. They work alongside microphones that act as ears. Some robots have even begun to be developed with taste, touch, and smell, where the CPU take the signals from these sensors and make decisions accordingly.
In order for a robot to be considered a robot, it must have a body that can be moved as a reaction to feedback it gets from sensors. A robot body is made of plastic, metal, and other materials. And inside them are actuators, small motors. These mimic actions like human muscles so that the robot can move its body parts. The simplest robots are nothing more than an arm that has a tool attached and is built for a specific task. Robots that are more advanced can move on treads or wheels, and humanoid robots even have legs and arms like humans.
For a robot to function it requires power. Human power comes from the energy provided by food. That food is broken down and our cells turn it into energy. A robot’s energy comes from electricity. The stationery arms that are often seen in automotive factories can be connected to a power supply in the same way as any appliance while robots that can move use batteries for their power. More advanced robots, such as satellites and space probes are generally designed to collect and use solar power.
For a robot to interact with its environment and to carry out the tasks it is programmed to do, they are equipped with end effectors. These will differ, depending on what tasks the robot is programmed to carry out. For example, robots designed to work in factories are given interchangeable tools, such as welding torches or paint sprayers. While mobile robots, like the probes we send to space, or robots used for detecting and disposing of bombs, tend to have universal grippers used to act as a human hand.
While each individually designed robot will be different to the next, regardless of what it has been designed for, it will have these abovementioned components as standard.