Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A look back to see where we are @ now!

Cover of Time Magazine - December 8, 1980 - 28 years ago+

Cover Story: "The Robot Revolution"
"For good or ill, it is already transforming the way the world works
The new robots do not really look like Frankenstein's monster, or like Artoo Deetoo in Star Wars, but rather like a row of giant birds.

They poke their 9-ft.-long, rubber-sheathed necks toward the row of automobile frames. From their beaks, a blinding shower of sparks streams forth. The escape of compressed air creates a loud hissing sound. This is Chrysler's sprawling 145-acre Jefferson plant in East Detroit, where the trouble-ridden firm is building the new K-cars—the Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries—that it hopes will save its future. Once 200 welders with their masks and welding guns used to work on such an assembly line. Here there are no welders in sight; there are only 50 robots craning forward, spitting sparks. They work two shifts, and the assembly line's output has increased by almost 20% since the robots arrived earlier this year.

In a plant outside Turin, the Italian firm of Digital Electronic Automation is trying out its first new Pragma A-3000. The $110,000 robot, which has just been licensed by General Electric, is assembling a compressor valve unit from twelve separate parts. Its two arms can do totally different jobs at once. When it picks up a slightly defective gasket in its gray steel claw, it immediately senses something wrong, flicks the gasket to one side and picks up another. The Pragma produces 320 units an hour, without mistakes, and it can labor tirelessly for 24 hours a day. That makes it roughly the equivalent of ten human workers. Furthermore, it can easily be reprogrammed to assemble TV sets or electric motors or, theoretically, just about anything.
Near Golden, Colo., at the Department of Energy's Rocky Flats plant, a technician pushes a red button marked REQUEST TRANSFER. Behind a 10-in.-thick concrete wall, a pair of claws reaches out to grasp a stainless steel container filled with pink powder, then lifts it into a furnace where it is baked at 950° F until it turns into a nondescript gray button three inches in diameter. Such a button could be worth $100,000, for the job of this robot, which goes into regular operation in a few months, is transporting reprocessed plutonium, one of the most toxic substances known to man. Until now, this dangerous task has been done by men in elaborate space suits. The robot, which knows neither weariness nor boredom, also knows nothing of danger..."

Read the complete article @ its source: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,922173,00.html

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