Robot Applications 215

Robot Applications provides an overview of the manufacturing capabilities of modern robots and the industries that use them. Industrial robots decrease cost and production time by autonomously performing programmed operations in production industries, such as automotive, aerospace, and electronics. With continuous advancements in materials, software, and other technologies, the impact of robots continues to grow in complexity and diversity.

While welding is one of the largest robot applications, industrial robots often carry out material handling tasks, machine tending, and assembly operations. Robots can directly process, fabricate, cut, and finish parts during production, while also assisting inspection. After taking this class, users will have a basic understanding of both conventional and advanced industrial robot applications.

  • Difficulty Beginner

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 14

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Robots in Industry
  • Welding
  • Laser and Plasma Welding
  • Material Handling
  • Mobile Robot Applications
  • Review
  • Machine Tending
  • Dispensing and Spraying
  • Assembly
  • Machining and Processing
  • Finishing
  • Inspection
  • Advanced Applications
  • Final Review
  • Describe robot integration in manufacturing.
  • Describe different welding applications for robots.
  • Describe laser and plasma robotic welding.
  • Describe material handling applications for robots.
  • Describe mobile robot applications.
  • Describe machine tending applications for robots.
  • Describe industrial dispensing and spraying applications for robots.
  • Describe assembly applications for robots.
  • Describe machining and processing applications for robots.
  • Describe robotic finishing applications.
  • Describe inspection applications for robots.
  • Describe various advanced applications for robots.
Vocabulary Term

3D printing

The process of producing a 3D object using a specialized tool that creates successive layers of material. 3D printing must technically involve the use of a print head or nozzle, but the term is often used interchangeably with additive manufacturing (AM).


A material made of hard, sharp particles used for removing material from a workpiece surface. Abrasives  are often used in operations that clean, polish, cut or otherwise prepare the surface of a part.

additive manufacturing

AM. The process of joining or solidifying materials to make an object based on a three-dimensional computer model. Additive manufacturing methods typically build up layers of material to create an object.

aerial robots

A robot that is able to fly. Aerial robots are types of mobile robots.

arc welding

A fusion welding process that uses electricity to generate the heat needed to melt base and filler metals. Arc welding is the most commonly used welding process.


A colorless, odorless type of inert gas. Argon is commonly used as shielding gas.

articulated robots

A type of robot with two or more segments connected by flexible joints that closely resembles a human arm. Articulated robots often perform welding operations.


A manufacturing process in which two or more components are joined together to create a finished part. Assembly processes using robots assisted by vision systems are efficient, consistent, and more accurate than human assembly.


Using mechanical systems that operate with limited human interaction. Robots can be used to automate a manufacturing process.

automated fiber placement

AFP. An advanced method for manufacturing composites in which fibrous tape is heated and layered. Automated fiber placement is mostly used to make parts for aerospace.


The use of self-regulated equipment, processes, or systems that meet manufacturing requirements with limited human intervention. Automation is an efficient means of performing manufacturing processes.

autonomous guided vehicle

AGV. A programmable and highly sophisticated autonomous vehicle, often integrated with sensor technology, that moves throughout a space. Automated guided vehicles are often used in warehouses and agricultural environments.


A specific number of the same part that moves through the production cycle. Small batch manufacturers produce a variety of different products but in low volume.


A finishing process that uses pads to apply abrasive compounds to a workpiece and create a smooth, lustrous surface finish. Buffing is a secondary operation often performed by robots.

build plates

A removable flat surface on which an additively manufactured part is constructed. Build plates are removable build platforms and must be carefully centered and leveled to ensure a successful build.


A device used to capture still images, such as photographs, or moving images, such as videos. Cameras capture surface data when 3D scanning a part.

carbon fiber

A material made from slender, thread-like strands of carbon, a strong nonmetallic element. Carbon fiber is a rigid material with good tensile strength, chemical resistance, and temperature tolerance.


An inorganic material that consists of both metallic and nonmetallic atoms held together by strong bonds. Ceramics are used in manufacturing due to their corrosion resistance and durability, and can be applied using robots.


A room in which temperature, humidity, and air pressure are controlled and maintained. Robots are ideal for use in clean rooms because they do not contaminate the environment.

collaborative robotics

A subset of robotics that focuses on enabling robots to work closely with human operators. Collaborative robotics is often a cost-effective alternative to traditional automation.

collaborative robots

A robot that can be programmed to learn a specific task in order to assist humans. A collaborative robot, or cobot, is designed to interact with humans in a shared workspace.


A material composed of two or more unlike materials that are bonded together without losing their individual properties or characteristics. Composites consist of a matrix material and a reinforcement material.

computer numerical control

CNC. A machine tool controlled by a computer running programs driven by numerical data. Computer numerical control machine operations can be assisted by a robotic arm.

contact probes

A type of probe consisting of a synthetic ruby-tipped stylus that makes physical contact with a workpiece. A contact probe records one single point each time it touches a part's surface.

continuous fiber tape

A sheet of material without a break or interruption. Continuous fiber tape is often thermoplastic or thermoset and used in automated fiber placement.

cutting tool

A device made of hard, tough material that is used to remove metal by creating chips. A cutting tool can be attached to an end effector for robots machining parts.


Removing sharp projections left on a workpiece after a machining or grinding operation. Deburring is often done by hand or by robot using coated abrasives.

delta robots

A special type of robot that has three sets of connected arms that work in conjunction to move one end effector. Delta robots are most commonly used in packaging or assembly processes.

die casting

A thermal, high-pressure metal casting process that involves injecting molten metal into a mold at high velocity and pressure. Die casting is a metal shaping process used in traditional manufacturing.


Distributing or applying materials into containers or onto surfaces. Dispensing also includes blasting materials at a surface for cleaning purposes.

double grippers

A mechanical gripper that has two separate grasping mechanisms attached to the robot arm. Double grippers allow a robot to perform multiple tasks at once or prepare for their next task simultaneously.


A holemaking process in which a rotating cutter makes a round hole into the workpiece to a certain depth. Drilling is often performed by a robot or other automated device.

dry coating

A fast-drying coating that uses little, if any, water. Dry coating usually takes the form of a powder.

electrical arc

The area in which electricity jumps from an electrode to a conductor to produce extreme heat and light. Electric arcs are used in welding applications.


A device in an electrical circuit that conducts electricity. A welding electrode can also act as filler metal.

end effectors

The component of the robot that interacts with a part or object. End effectors perform the actual task the robot is designed to perform, such as welding, moving parts, assembling, or sensing.


A molding process that forces raw material through a die opening. Extrusion is a continuous process that can create parts with a uniform cross-section.


The process of creating or building parts from raw materials. Fabrication methods include forming, molding, and joining processes like welding and assembly.


A process that joins two materials using a clamping force. Examples of mechanical fasteners include screws, bolts, and nails.


A general category of metalworking processes that involves compressing bulk metal at elevated temperatures. Forging creates very strong parts but can also leave raised sections that must be smoothed out.


A subtractive manufacturing process used to improve surface finish and bring parts into close tolerance. Grinding is used as a post-processing procedure for metals and other materials.


A dexterous material-handling component that resembles and performs similarly to a human hand. Robotic grippers allow robots to perform tasks such as handling small parts or assembling components.

high velocity oxygen fuel

HVOF. A thermal spraying process, which is used to improve or restore a component's surface and protect against wear. High velocity oxygen fuel thermal spraying can be performed by spraying robots.

industrial robots

A reprogrammable machine sometimes used in place of a person in a manufacturing setting. Industrial robots perform dangerous or repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy.

injection molding

A molding process in which liquid resin is heated in a barrel and deposited into a mold by a reciprocating screw. Injection molding is a polymer shaping process used in traditional manufacturing.


The process of combining manufacturing processes and equipment, such as industrial robots, into a single production system. Integration allows for robots to be effectively incorporated into manufacturing strategies.

laser beam

An intense beam of coherent, collimated, monochromatic light that can be precisely aimed and controlled. Laser beams can be used to cut and weld materials or for other thermal processes.

laser cutting

A thermal cutting process that uses a focused beam of coherent, collimated, monochromatic light to sever a workpiece. Laser beam cutting is usually an automated process that produces intricate and repeatable cuts.

laser welding

A welding process which uses a laser to create a weld. Laser welding makes deep, strong, clean welds, but it is expensive and requires either automation or a highly trained welder.

legged robots

A robot that uses appendages to move. Legged robots are types of mobile robots.

light source

A device that emits a beam or beams of light. Light sources are an important part of vision systems.

lights-out manufacturing

Production operations that are fully automated and can operate without any employees on site. Lights-out manufacturing allows for processes to operate overnight and during the weekend.

machine tending

Loading and unloading of materials into machinery for processing. Machine-tending uses robots that are precise and often interact with the processes using sensors to monitor the process and part quality.


An arm-shaped robot that is typically mounted on a base or placed on or suspended from a track. Manipulators, or robotic arms, typically have all revolute joints.

material deposition head

A nozzle that melts and dispenses material. Deposition heads are used with robots in additive manufacturing.

material handling

The process of loading, unloading, placing, or manipulating material. Material handling operations often require highly repetitive tasks that are ideal for robotic work.

metal inert gas welding

MIG welding. An arc welding process that uses electricity to strike an arc between a continuous feed of wire and the workpiece. In metal inert gas welding, which is one of the most common forms of robotic welding, the nozzle supplies a shield of inert gas to prevent oxidation of the weld.


The science of measurement. Metrology strives for accuracy, precision, and repeatability.

mobile robots

A robot that is able to move through space. Mobile robots often use tracks or a set of independent wheels to move.

motion control

Controlling the movement of machine elements. Motion control is produced by using a mechanical source of power like an actuator.

noncontact probes

A type of probe that consists of a laser or scanning system that does not physically contact the part surface. Noncontact probes are used to streamline surface inspection.

nondestructive testing

NDT. A category of inspection processes that evaluate a part's properties and performance using methods that do not damage or permanently alter the part. Nondestructive testing methods include visual testing, liquid penetrant testing, magnetic particle testing, eddy current testing, ultrasonic testing, and radiographic testing.


A spout at the end of piping or tubing through which substances are funneled. A nozzle is used to distribute material through a robot's end effector.


A process in which a substance combines and chemically reacts with oxygen. Oxidization can be prevented with a shielding gas.


The process of placing and securing containers or objects on pallets. Palletizing robots are especially useful for moving objects that would be too difficult or too heavy for humans to move.

pick and place

A robot or robotic device that moves parts from one location to another. Pick-and-place robots, sometimes called part-transfer robots, improve the precision, quality, and speed of manufacturing operations.

plasma spraying

A process in which powdered material is melted and sprayed by a plasma jet to coat a surface. Plasma spraying can be performed by robots.

plasma welding

A welding process that emits a plasma arc and an external shielding gas. Plasma welding is commonly used for deep, narrow welds.


A lightweight polymer material that has high corrosion resistance, a high strength-to-weight ratio, and a low melting point. Plastics are usually easy to shape and form.


An abrasive finishing process used to improve the surface of a part and give it a smooth, shiny appearance. Polishing tasks can be automated using robots equipped with abrasive finishing tools.

press operation

A process involving a machine with a stationary base and an upper ram that moves along a vertical axis to shear, bend, or form sheet metal. Press operation can often be performed or assisted by industrial robots.


A device that gathers measurement data from the workpiece. A probe can be attached to a robot's wrist and uses either contact or noncontact methods to measure a part.

robotic work cell

The area composed of a robot and any external devices or equipment that interacts with the robot. Robotic work cells include the maximum volume of space that the robot can reach.


A type of machining process that cuts and shapes soft materials. Routing is often used on woods and soft metals for furniture.

secondary operations

An additional manufacturing process required to bring a workpiece into tolerance and create a final part. Secondary processes, such as finishing, can be performed by robots working with traditional machines.

Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm robots

SCARA robots. A type of serial robot that has four axes of movement. Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm robots are often used for material handling applications.


A device that detects a change in a physical stimulus and turns it into a signal that can be measured or recorded. Sensors allow robots and other devices to interact with their environment and operate with little human intervention.

shot peening

A finishing method that uses a propelled stream of round shot beads to cold work metal surfaces. Shot peening corrects minor surface defects and strengthens the material.

smart factories

A manufacturing facility with a flexible system that can autonomously run an entire production process. Smart factories integrate automation, data, and analysis into manufacturing processes.

smart manufacturing

Production operations that use connected devices and digital technologies. Smart manufacturing uses automation and data exchange to achieve advancements in a variety of industries.

snap-fit joints

A type of joint used in assembly to push mating components together. Snap-fit joints are a common type of fastening.


The coded instructions or programs that control robot hardware functions and operations. Software allows robots to perform complex tasks with autonomy.

spot welding

A type of welding in which parts are squeezed together between two electrodes and subjected to a large amount of electric current to form a joint. Spot welding is largely used in the automotive industry.


A device with an external source from which paint or other liquid is sprayed through a nozzle by air pressure from a pump. Paint sprayers spray fluid in a fine mist created by atomizing the fluid in an air jet.


A coating application method that involves separating a liquid into fine particles to form a mist that is directed at the surface. Spraying is usually done using a spray gun and can be done by a robot.


A metalworking operation that uses dies and punches to form or separate sheet metal into parts. Stamping can be performed using a punch press.


A part that consists of smaller parts or sub-components and is used in the assembly of larger parts. Subassemblies are joined with other components to create larger assemblies.

thermal spraying

A process in which heated materials are sprayed, at or above their melting point, onto a surface to protect it from wear, heat, and corrosion. Thermal spraying can mechanically bond metal coatings to an existing surface.


3D. Having a length, depth, and width. Three-dimensional parts can be cut by industrial robots.


An acceptable deviation from a desired dimension that meets specifications. Parts outside of a required tolerance must be discarded or reworked.


A device used in an electrical circuit to reduce the voltage of incoming electrical power. Transformers lower the voltage to suitable levels to achieve a specific weld.


A shearing operation that removes uneven sections or degraded sections from a previously worked part. Trimming operations are sometimes required after thermal cutting processes.


A gray metal that is very strong at elevated temperatures. Tungsten is heated and applied during thermal spraying processes.

tungsten inert gas welding

TIG welding. A precise arc welding process that uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode and inert shielding gas. Tungsten inert gas welding is properly known as gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW).

ultrasonic additive manufacturing

UAM. A sheet lamination process that uses high-frequency vibrations to bond successive layers of material together to build a final part. Ultrasonic additive manufacturing most frequently uses sheets of metal foil or tape as build material.

ultrasonic testing

A nondestructive testing method that uses high-frequency ultrasonic waves to detect internal part discontinuities and defects. During ultrasonic testing, reflected sound waves are converted into electrical signals, which technicians then evaluate for any indications.

vacuum grippers

A device that uses flexible suction cups and vacuum-controlled airflow to pick up parts. Vacuum grippers allow robots to perform tasks such as handling and moving parts.

vision sensors

A type of sensor that uses a camera to detect the presence, orientation, and features of an object. Vision sensors provide guidance to robots.

vision systems

A collection of advanced optical components that collects data and forms an image, which is interpreted by a computer. Vision systems can be used to measure and inspect manufactured parts using the collected image data.

water jet cutting

A cutting method that uses a powerful, high velocity stream of water to cut through materials. An abrasive can be added to the water to facilitate the water jet cutting process.

weld torch

A type of end effector that guides the electrode and may release shielding gas. A weld torch, also called a welding gun, is used in some automatic and semi-automatic welding processes.


A joining process that uses either pressure or heat generated by friction, electricity, or the combustion of gases to permanently fuse two materials together. Production welding is often performed by robots.

welding gun

A type of end effector that guides the electrode and may release shielding gas. A welding gun, also called a weld torch, is used in some automatic and semi-automatic welding processes.

wheeled robots

A type of mobile robot that utilizes a set of wheels to move freely throughout a space. Wheeled robots are the most common mobile robots in manufacturing.

work cells

The area composed of a robot and any external devices or equipment that interacts with the robot, including additional robots. Robotic work cells can include multiple robots controlled by a single interface.


A specific area designated for an employee to perform a specific task or work duty. A workstation may be assigned to one employee, or employees may rotate through workstations.