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Automation or automatic control, is the use of various control systems for operating equipment

such as machinery, processes in factories, boilers and heat treating ovens, switching on telephone
networks, steering and stabilization of ships, aircraft and other applications with minimal or reduced
human intervention. Some processes have been completely automated.

Types of automation
Discrete control (on/off)
One of the simplest types of control is on-off control. An example is the thermostats used on
household appliances. Electromechanical thermostats used in HVAC may only have provision for
on/off control of heating or cooling systems. Electronic controllers may add multiple stages of
heating and variable fan speed control.
Sequence control, in which a programmed sequence of discrete operations is performed, often
based on system logic that involves system states. An elevator control system is an example of
sequence control.

Continuous control
The advanced type of automation that revolutionized manufacturing, aircraft, communications and
other industries, is feedback control, which is usually continuous and involves taking measurements
using a sensor and making calculated adjustments to keep the measured variable within a set range.
Moreover, it can be understood as the relation of two variables, one for the "x" axis and a second for
the "y" axis. If the value of "y" increases, then the value on the "x" axis will also increase, and vice

Open and closed loop

All the elements constituting the measurement and control of a single variable are called a control
loop. Control that uses a measured signal, feeds the signal back and compares it to a set point,
calculates and sends a return signal to make a correction, is called closed loop control. If the
controller does not incorporate feedback to make a correction then it is open loop.
Loop control is normally accomplished with a controller. The theoretical basis of open and closed
loop automation is control theory.

Sequential control and logical sequence or system state control

Sequential control may be either to a fixed sequence or to a logical one that will perform different
actions depending on various system states. An example of an adjustable but otherwise fixed
sequence is a timer on a lawn sprinkler.

States refer to the various conditions that can occur in a use or sequence scenario of the system. An
example is an elevator, which uses logic based on the system state to perform certain actions in
response to its state and operator input. For example, if the operator presses the floor n button, the
system will respond depending on whether the elevator is stopped or moving, going up or down, or if
the door is open or closed, and other conditions.[4]
An early development of sequential control was relay logic, by which electrical relays engage
electrical contacts which either start or interrupt power to a device. Relays were first used in
telegraph networks before being developed for controlling other devices, such as when starting and
stopping industrial-sized electric motors or opening and closing solenoid valves. Using relays for
control purposes allowed event-driven control, where actions could be triggered out of sequence, in
response to external events. These were more flexible in their response than the rigid singlesequence cam timers. More complicated examples involved maintaining safe sequences for devices
such as swing bridge controls, where a lock bolt needed to be disengaged before the bridge could
be moved, and the lock bolt could not be released until the safety gates had already been closed.
The total number of relays, cam timers and drum sequencers can number into the hundreds or even
thousands in some factories. Earlyprogramming techniques and languages were needed to make
such systems manageable, one of the first being ladder logic, where diagrams of the interconnected
relays resembled the rungs of a ladder. Special computers called programmable logic
controllers were later designed to replace these collections of hardware with a single, more easily reprogrammed unit.
In a typical hard wired motor start and stop circuit (called a control circuit) a motor is started by
pushing a "Start" or "Run" button that activates a pair of electrical relays. The "lock-in" relay locks in
contacts that keep the control circuit energized when the push button is released. (The start button is
a normally open contact and the stop button is normally closed contact.) Another relay energizes a
switch that powers the device that throws the motor starter switch (three sets of contacts for three
phase industrial power) in the main power circuit. Large motors use high voltage and experience
high in-rush current, making speed important in making and breaking contact. This can be
dangerous for personnel and property with manual switches. The "lock in" contacts in the start circuit
and the main power contacts for the motor are held engaged by their respective electromagnets until
a "stop" or "off" button is pressed, which de-energizes the lock in relay.[5]
Commonly interlocks are added to a control circuit. Suppose that the motor in the example is
powering machinery that has a critical need for lubrication. In this case an interlock could be added
to insure that the oil pump is running before the motor starts. Timers, limit switches and electric eyes
are other common elements in control circuits.

Solenoid valves are widely used on compressed air or hydraulic fluid for powering actuators on
mechanical components. While motors are used to supply continuous rotary motion, actuators are
typically a better choice for intermittently creating a limited range of movement for a mechanical
component, such as moving various mechanical arms, opening or closing valves, raising heavy
press rolls, applying pressure to presses.

Computer control
Computers can perform both sequential control and feedback control, and typically a single
computer will do both in an industrial application. Programmable logic controllers(PLCs) are a type of
special purpose microprocessor that replaced many hardware components such as timers and drum
sequencers used in relay logic type systems. General purpose process control computers have
increasingly replaced stand alone controllers, with a single computer able to perform the operations
of hundreds of controllers. Process control computers can process data from a network of PLCs,
instruments and controllers in order to implement typical (such as PID) control of many individual
variables or, in some cases, to implement complex control algorithms using multiple inputs and
mathematical manipulations. They can also analyze data and create real time graphical displays for
operators and run reports for operators, engineers and management.
Control of an automated teller machine (ATM) is an example of an interactive process in which a
computer will perform a logic derived response to a user selection based on information retrieved
from a networked database. The ATM process has similarities with other online transaction
processes. The different logical responses are called scenarios. Such processes are typically
designed with the aid of use cases and flowcharts, which guide the writing of the software code.

The earliest feedback control mechanism was used to tent the sails of windmills. It was patented by
Edmund Lee in 1745.[6]
The centrifugal governor, which dates to the last quarter of the 18th century, was used to adjust the
gap between millstones.[7] The centrifugal governor was also used in the automatic flour mill
developed by Oliver Evans in 1785, making it the first completely automated industrial process. The
governor was adopted by James Watt for use on a steam engine in 1788 after Watts partner Boulton
saw one at a flour mill Boulton & Watt were building.[6]
The governor could not actually hold a set speed; the engine would assume a new constant speed in
response to load changes. The governor was able to handle smaller variations such as those
caused by fluctuating heat load to the boiler. Also, there was a tendency for oscillation whenever

there was a speed change. As a consequence, engines equipped with this governor were not
suitable for operations requiring constant speed, such as cotton spinning. [6]
Several improvements to the governor, plus improvements to valve cut-off timing on the steam
engine, made the engine suitable for most industrial uses before the end of the 19th century.
Advances in the steam engine stayed well ahead of science, both thermodynamics and control
The governor received relatively little scientific attention until James Clerk Maxwell published a
paper that established the beginning of a theoretical basis for understanding control theory.
Development of the electronic amplifier during the 1920s, which was important for long distance
telephony, required a higher signal to noise ratio, which was solved by negative feedback noise
cancellation. This and other telephony applications contributed to control theory. Military applications
during the Second World War that contributed to and benefited from control theory were fire-control
systems and aircraft controls. The word "automation" itself was coined in the 1940s by General
Electric.[8] The so-called classical theoretical treatment of control theory dates to the 1940s and
Relay logic was introduced with factory electrification, which underwent rapid adaption from 1900
though the 1920s. Central electric power stations were also undergoing rapid growth and operation
of new high pressure boilers, steam turbines and electrical substations created a large demand for
instruments and controls.
Central control rooms became common in the 1920s, but as late as the early 1930s, most process
control was on-off. Operators typically monitored charts drawn by recorders that plotted data from
instruments. To make corrections, operators manually opened or closed valves or turned switches
on or off. Control rooms also used color coded lights to send signals to workers in the plant to
manually make certain changes.[9]
Controllers, which were able to make calculated changes in response to deviations from a set point
rather than on-off control, began being introduced the 1930s. Controllers allowed manufacturing to
continue showing productivity gains to offset the declining influence of factory electrification. [10]
Factory productivity was greatly increased by electrification in the 1920s. Manufacturing productivity
growth fell from 5.2%/yr 1919-29 to 2.76%/yr 1929-41. Field notes that spending on non-medical
instruments increased significantly from 192933 and remained strong thereafter.

In 1959 Texacos Port Arthur refinery became the first chemical plant to use digital control.

Conversion of factories to digital control began to spread rapidly in the 1970s as the price of

computer hardware fell.

Advantages and disadvantages

The main advantages of automation are:

Increased throughput or productivity.

Improved quality or increased predictability of quality.

Improved robustness (consistency), of processes or product.

Increased consistency of output.

Reduced direct human labor costs and expenses.

The following methods are often employed to improve productivity, quality, or robustness.

Install automation in operations to reduce cycle time.

Install automation where a high degree of accuracy is required.

Replacing human operators in tasks that involve hard physical or monotonous work. [19]

Replacing humans in tasks done in dangerous environments (i.e. fire, space, volcanoes,
nuclear facilities, underwater, etc.)

Performing tasks that are beyond human capabilities of size, weight, speed, endurance, etc.

Economic improvement: Automation may improve in economy of enterprises, society or most

of humanity. For example, when an enterprise invests in automation, technology recovers its
investment; or when a state or country increases its income due to automation
like Germany or Japan in the 20th Century.

Reduces operation time and work handling time significantly.

Frees up workers to take on other roles.

Provides higher level jobs in the development, deployment, maintenance and running of the
automated processes.

The main disadvantages of automation are:

Security Threats/Vulnerability: An automated system may have a limited level of intelligence,

and is therefore more susceptible to committing errors outside of its immediate scope of
knowledge (e.g., it is typically unable to apply the rules of simple logic to general propositions).

Unpredictable/excessive development costs: The research and development cost of

automating a process may exceed the cost saved by the automation itself.

High initial cost: The automation of a new product or plant typically requires a very large
initial investment in comparison with the unit cost of the product, although the cost of automation
may be spread among many products and over time.

In manufacturing, the purpose of automation has shifted to issues broader than productivity, cost,
and time.
Classification of Robotic Systems

The robotic systems are classified mainly into three main types on the basis of application.
They are:

Manipulation Robotic system

Mobile robotic system
Data acquisition and control robotic system

Manipulation Robotic system

The Manipulation Robotic system is the most extensively used robotic system that is found mainly in
manufacturing industries. Manipulation robotic system comes in several forms, depending mainly on
its application.

Mobile robotic system

A Mobile robotic system is usually an automated platform that carries goods from one place to another.
The motion of the system can also be controlled autonomously and might have a pre-programmed
destination from where the system might load or unload automatically.
Mobile robotic systems are also used mainly in industrial purposes for carrying tools and spare parts to
the storage. One more application where mobile robotic systems are used is in farms, wherein they can
be used for pulling equipments to plough the fields or for transporting agricultural products. Mobile
robots are also used by petroleum and gas production companies for offshore oil and gas exploration

and by salvage companies for searching for sunken ships. Mobility of these robots can be in the form of
flying, swimming, or running on land.

acquisition and Control Robotic System

The Data acquisition and control robotic system is used for acquiring, processing, and transmitting important data
used for generating various signals. Generally meant for activities that require less human participation, a control
robotic system generates signals that can be used for controlling other robots. Data acquisition and control robotic
system are also used for CAD systems used in engineering and business processes. Many mobile robotic systems,
especially the unmanned craft used for the exploration of the sea bed are equipped with Data acquisition and control
robotic system for procuring important information and sending it back to the shore in the form of signals.

Anatomy of Industrial Robots

September 2nd, 2011


The RIA (Robotics Industries Association) has officially given the definition for Industrial
Robots. According to RIA, An Industrial Robot is a reprogrammable, multifunctional
manipulator designed to move materials, parts, tools, or special devices through
variable programmed motions for the performance of a variety of tasks.
The Anatomy of Industrial Robots deals with the assembling of outer components of a
robot such as wrist, arm, and body. Before jumping into Robot Configurations, here are
some of the key facts about robot anatomy.
End Effectors: A hand of a robot is considered as end effectors. The grippers
and tools are the two significant types of end effectors. The grippers are used
to pick and place an object, while the tools are used to carry out operations
like spray painting, spot welding, etc. on a work piece.
Robot Joints: The joints in an industrial robot are helpful to perform sliding and
rotating movements of a component.
Manipulator: The manipulators in a robot are developed by the integration of
links and joints. In the body and arm, it is applied for moving the tools in the
work volume. It is also used in the wrist to adjust the tools.
Kinematics: It concerns with the assembling of robot links and joints. It is also
used to illustrate the robot motions.
The Robots are mostly divided into four major configurations based on their
appearances, sizes, etc. such as:

Cylindrical Configuration,
Polar Configuration,
Jointed Arm Configuration, and
Cartesian Co-ordinate Configuration.

Cylindrical Configuration:
This kind of robots incorporates a slide in the horizontal position and a column in the vertical
position. It also includes a robot arm at the end of the slide. Here, the slide is capable of moving in
up & down motion with the help of the column. In addition, it can reach the work space in a rotary
movement as like a cylinder.
Example: GMF Model M1A Robot.


Increased rigidity, and

Capacity of carrying high payloads.


Floor space required is more, and

Less work volume.

Polar Configuration:
The polar configuration robots will possess an arm, which can move up and down. It comprises of
a rotational base along with a pivot. It has one linear & two rotary joints that allows the robot to
operate in a spherical work volume. It is also stated as Spherical Coordinate Robots.
Example: Unimate 2000 Series Robot.


Long reach capability in the horizontal position.


Vertical reach is low.

Jointed Arm Configuration:

The arm in these configuration robots looks almost like a human arm. It gets three rotary joints and
three wrist axes, which form into six degrees of freedoms. As a result, it has the capability to be
controlled at any adjustments in the work space. These types of robots are used for performing
several operations like spray painting, spot welding, arc welding, and more.
Example: Cincinnati Milacron T3 776 Robot


Increased flexibility,
Huge work volume, and
Quick operation.


Very expensive,
Difficult operating procedures, and
Plenty of components.

Cartesian Co-ordinate configuration:

These robots are also called as XYZ robots, because it is equipped with three rotary joints for
assembling XYZ axes. The robots will process in a rectangular work space by means of this three
joints movement. It is capable of carrying high payloads with the help of its rigid structure. It is mainly
integrated in some functions like pick and place, material handling, loading and unloading, and so
on. Additionally, this configuration adds a name of Gantry Robot.
Example: IBM 7565 Robot.


Highly accurate & speed,

Fewer cost,
Simple operating procedures, and
High payloads.


Less work envelope, and

Reduced flexibility.

All robots have brains of some sort. These can run the gamut from workstation-level computers to analog
electronic circuits designed to give the robot basic bug-brained instincts. Here's a quick rundown of the
types of controllers you're likely to find on a robot:

Many medium-to-large size robots often use the guts of a standard desktop
computer for their controller. This is especially the case when weight is not a
primary concern and computing power is. Robot programmers often grumble
when they only have the limited memory space of an itty-bitty microcontroller
to load programs into. A PC lets them stretch out a bit. Since PCs have been
covered in...ah...a few other books, we won't detail this type of robot control

One of the most common forms of robot control is the microcontroller. A microcontroller is basically a
computer on a chip that's been designed for embedded computing applications (like robot brains!). It
typically has a CPU (a central processing unit), an erasable memory space (called an EEPROM) for
storing control programs, some Random-Access Memory (RAM) for storing temporary data, a clock for
controlling the speed at which the CPU barks its orders, and input/output (I/O) pins for getting data into
and out of the chip.

Microcontroller chips usually come mounted on microcontroller boards, often calledmodules. The boards
contain support electronics and sockets for connecting wires to input and output devices (sensors,
motors, other controllers, and so forth) and to a power source. In most cases, creating the control
programs that run the robot is done on another computer and then downloaded into the microcontroller's
memory via a standard computer cable. Some robot controllers, like MINDSTORMS' RCX computer brick,
use an infrared transmitter (on the PC end) and a receiver (on the microcontroller end) to load programs
into the robot.

Off-Board Control
A lot of today's robots keep most of their brains someplace else, accessing the programs stored on a
standalone computer (or network of computers) via a radio link. Before the increasing popularity of
wireless data communications, robots of this type had to be tethered (connected via trunks of cables) to a
computer, which greatly limited their range. Advantages of off-board computing include the availability of
more computing muscle, less weight on the bot, and less power needs. The disadvantages are that the
range can be limited (to the local radio range) and the robot is computer-dependent.

Nervous Nets
A radical form of robotic control, originally developed by former Los Alamos robotics researcher Mark
Tilden, doesn't use a computer at all. Called BEAM (Biological Electronic Aesthetics Mechanics) robotics,
this scheme uses conventional analog electronic components (capacitors, resistors, transistors, and
integrated circuits) to build what Tilden has dubbed nervous nets (a play on the neural networks of AI).
BEAM technology is basically an updated version of what Grey Walter was doing in the late '40s and '50s
with his robot tortoises. Inspired by nature, BEAM bots often take the form of robo-critters and can exhibit
extremely lifelike behaviours given their simple components.

Evolution Robotics ( has come up with a unique (and

cost-effective) way of getting plenty of computing power to its ER1 robot.
Evolution sells a kit that consists of only the frame, drive and power systems,
sensors, and software. The frame has a place for you to park your laptop
computer, which becomes your robot's brains (when you're not electronically
balancing your checkbook or playing Sims Online).

Other Controllers
Frequently, robots have special controllers to manage power and speed. Not surprisingly, they are
called power controllers and speed (or motor) controllers. These usually take the form of separate
circuit boards with all of the electronics needed to perform their tasks, and they are often located next to
their respective system (the power source and the drive train). Wires send data to and from theses
controllers to the robot's main microcontroller. Sometimes, rather than power and speed controllers being
on separatecircuit boards, they're located on the microcontroller board (either handled as part of the
microchip's duties, or separate circuitry on the main board).

n robotics a manipulator is a device used to manipulate materials without direct contact. The
applications were originally for dealing with radioactive or biohazardous materials, using robotic
arms, or they were used in inaccessible places. In more recent developments they have been used
in applications such as robotically-assisted surgery and in space. It is an arm-like mechanism that
consists of a series of segments, usually sliding or jointed, which grasp and move objects with a
number of degrees of freedom.
In industrial ergonomics a manipulator is a lift assist device used to help workers lift, maneuver and
place articles in process that are too heavy, too hot, too large or otherwise too difficult for a single
worker to manually handle. As opposed to simply vertical lift assists (cranes, hoists, etc.)
manipulators have the ability to reach in to tight spaces and remove workpieces. A good example
would be removing large stamped parts from a press and placing them in a rack or similar dunnage.
Additionally, manipulator tooling gives the lift assist the ability to pitch, roll, or spin the part for
appropriate placement. An example would be removing a part from a press in the horizontal and
then pitching it up for vertical placement in a rack or rolling a part over for exposing the back of the