When you think of robots, you probably conjure up images of R2D2 and C3P0
trekking across the desert, or of cyborgs stomping about their spacecraft.
These robots seem high-tech and fanciful -- not something that you'd meet
in everyday life. But the future is already here: robots are working away
in many industries, homes and companies at this very moment.
Robots are used in place of people in a variety of industries. Automated
welding, painting, sorting, cutting, loading, pressing and crushing are all
Astronauts often use robotics aeronautic technology to do their work. Robots
are also used in research and development. "In general, robots are custom
designed and built by the scientists that will be using them," says Skip Carter,
a robotics technologist in California.
Robots also venture into areas that are dangerous to humans. They work
in areas with hazardous materials, in outer space and in toxic or inhospitable
The people who design and create these hardy machines are called robotics
technologists, sometimes referred to as robotics and automation technologists.
Robotics technology is the integration of mechanical, electrical and computer
technology; it is a hands-on job. Technologists write specifications for new
equipment and then program the machine, often adjusting and redesigning the
initial robotics components.
Once the design is completed, the technologists oversee the assembly of
the robot. They keep records and write reports on the progress and success
of the new equipment. "I always log results into a logbook for each robot,"
says Carter. "It's very important, so that I know what to do and not to do
in the future."
Technologists help integrate the robotics and automated equipment into
existing manufacturing systems, and fine-tune it according to the old system's
requirements. During the process of creating a robot, they have to troubleshoot
for malfunctions, maintain equipment, read and interpret technical manuals
and carry out and supervise research projects.
Robotics technologists work in labs, offices, manufacturing plants or on
construction sites. Some may be exposed to hazards from equipment, chemicals
or toxic materials.
Robotics technologists are sometimes required to work with and test materials.
This requires nimble fingers and an ability to work with fine instrumentation.
A workweek of 35 to 40 hours is typical. In jobs where there is responsibility
for maintenance, shift work may be necessary. Overtime is sometimes required
on special projects or for maintenance on vital production equipment.
Technologists spend most of their time at a computer terminal while designing
a robot, but they also must stand for long hours when they are assembling
the equipment. This work may require bending, stretching and some lifting.
It can be noisy if done on an assembly line.
Working in robotics can take you to a wide range of industries. Some techs
design and build lab equipment at research centers and universities. Others
troubleshoot and maintain production line equipment in industries, do sales
and product demonstration of technical equipment to industry, design and build
electronic control systems for marine vessels, or design and build automated
equipment for use in surgery and nuclear medicine.