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Quick glossary: Robotics

Originally Published:
Feb 2017

Don’t know the difference between an end-effector and a manipulator? How about servos, PLCs, and work envelopes? This concise list of terms will help you stay on top of developments in the world of robotics.

From the glossary:

For many industries and enterprises, efficient manufacturing requires at least some form of robotic automation. In fact, in some instances, companies could not compete or survive without it. Along with this growing reliance on robotics in modern manufacturing comes the need to have a working knowledge of robotics terminology. Here are 22 key concepts to help you brush up.

Actuator
Responding to a signal received from the control system, an actuator will move or maintain the position of the robot or its manipulator.

Articulation
A jointed device that allows the robot to rotate, elevate, and otherwise move within a confined space.

Cartesian manipulator
A robot arm with prismatic joints that allows movement along the axes represented by x, y, z coordinates.

Closed-loop
A system where a robot uses continuous input from sensors to guide the manipulator while performing a given task. The sensors may signal information about the manipulator's position, speed, torque, applied force, and relative relationship to another object.

Degrees of freedom
The number of independent directions a robot or its manipulator may move. When positioning in three-dimensional space, six degrees are needed: left-right, forward-backward, up-down, yaw, pitch, and roll.

End-effector
A tool or device attached to a robot that is designed to perform the actual given task. Examples include a gripper, welder, laser, and paint sprayer.

Feedback control
A control system that uses information obtained from a sensor to determine the next action for the robot or its manipulator.

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