ICT IGCSE: Applications in Manufacturing Industries
Computer-controlled manufacturing has revolutionised the way products are made. Modern factories are full of robots; everything is automated.
In a modern factory the only people you will see are a few engineers who are responsible for keeping the robots and other machinery running smoothly.
This is very different to old factories, where everything was done manually by human workers.
Robots used in factories are called industrial robots, and they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
The most common type of industrial robot looks a little bit like a human arm. The robot has joints (like our shoulder, elbow, and wrist) and some sort of manipulator / device on the end of the arm (where our hand would be).
Why Use Computer-Controlled Robots?
The robots used in factories are very expensive. Many of the larger ones can cost as much as $500,000. And some factories have dozens of robots.
So why would a factory owner spend so much money on these expensive machines?
There are a number of reasons that robots are used:
- Robots can work 24 hours a day, every day, with no breaks
- Robots don’t need to be paid a wage (so money is saved)
- Robots are extremely accurate compared to humans, so product quality is high
- Robots can perform tasks more quickly than humans, so more products can be made
- Factories with robots don’t need to be heated or even have the lights on, and they don’t need food (so lower day-to-day costs)
- Robots can work in very dangerous / unhealthy conditions (e.g. with dangerous chemicals)
- Robots don’t get bored / hate their job!
There are some downsides to the use of robots in factories:
- Robots are cannot easily adapt to unusual conditions like a human can (e.g. if an item on the line is not in the correct place, a human worker would notice and correct it)
- People are made unemployed because robots are doing their jobs (however some new jobs are created – looking after the robots – and some employees can be retrained)
- People are deskilled (this means that, because the robots are doing the complex, skilled tasks that the people used to do, the people are left doing simple, boring jobs)
- The robots are very expensive, and it can take several years to pay for them (paying with the savings made by not paying any wages)