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Remembering The Father Of Robotic Welding

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Robotic WeldingThe inventor of the robotic arm, George Devol, passed away last week at the age of 99. Although not one of the more well-known inventors of our time, Devol’s contribution was undeniably important, as it changed the face of modern manufacturing. Developed in the early 1950s, Devol’s mechanical arm could be programmed to perform repetitive tasks. By the 1960s, automakers and other manufacturers were using the mechanical arms to make their operations more efficient. One of uses that emerged for the arm was robotic welding.

Below is a classic video of Devol’s invention, the Unimate, putting its skills to the test on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. While the video presents the robot as something of a novelty, it demonstrates the ease and speed with which the robot can learn a task. Carson jokes that the robot could replace people’s jobs—suggesting that it could replace the show’s band conductor.

The truth is that while robotics have replaced some repetitive jobs, they have also created new skilled jobs. “A successful robotic welding process needs a human to program the robot, and that person needs to understand what the welding process is and the limitations of the welding process,” writes Brian Doyle, welding automation sales manager at Miller Electric, in the article “The Future Of Welding In Manufacturing.”

Without a doubt, the robotic arm and robotic welding have had a large impact on manufacturing operations all over the world. So here’s to Mr. Devol, the father of robotic welding (once or twice removed, perhaps). See his robotic arm in action in the video below:

If you are not able to view the video, watch it here.