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The History of Robotics in the Automotive Industry

history of robotics in the automotive industryIt’s often said industrial robots have made their biggest mark in the automotive world but it took many decades of refinement for them to get there. How long has it been since robots got their start? The most basic ideas originate in Leonardo's time!

The modern idea for the robot made its first appearance in a play in 1921. In this production, robots were mechanical workers who helped humans – but they eventually revolted and took over the world.

To say this is an inauspicious beginning would be an understatement. Still, real-life technology soon began to catch up with the concept.

World War II Gives Industrial Automation a Push

WWII represented a leap forward in technology. U.S. automakers had high quotas and constantly sought ways to improve output. The conflict accelerated development of technologies like the first computer. In 1970, when the first integrated circuit appeared, the automation race was on.

Early industrial robots had no external sensors. However, they were still able to perform basic tasks like pick and place. This made automotive factories much safer for their employees.

Automotive Automation Booms in the 1970s

Prototype industrial robots were deployed in General Motors facilities as early as 1961. These first robots mainly performed spot welding. Their success soon attracted attention from Ford.

In 1969, the Stanford Arm was developed. With six degrees of freedom, it was capable of tasks earlier robots couldn’t perform.

In 1974, it was followed by the Silver Arm from MIT. Using embedded pressure-sensitive sensors and a microprocessor, this new arm was far more versatile. It opened the way for a years-long robot boom with 30% year-on-year growth.

By the 1980s, billions of dollars were spent by companies worldwide to automate basic tasks in their assembly plants. Although automation system deployment did dip in the 1990s, innovative technology has caused it to rebound.

Automotive Automation Today

Today, robots are an essential part of making automotive plants competitive. With interest in building plants throughout China, the stock of industrial robots in that country is expected to grow rapidly. In recent years, over half of industrial robot purchases in North America have been made by automakers.

Today’s robots are far more sophisticated than their predecessors. Many are semi-autonomous, with machine vision systems to interact within a changing environment. Some can even work side-by-side with humans. All signs suggest we are in the middle of a new industrial robot boom!


Blue Prism Training In Bangalore   (October 20, 2017 07:06 AM)

Thank you for sharing history of Robotics Automotive Industry, and also your information is so pretty i like the entire information regarding Robotics Automotive Industry.


Jacquelyn L Smith   (November 30, 2017 12:52 AM)

Great Article! In this fast growing world, Automotive industry also taking a new face to get many new innovative discovery in vehicles. Robots are also the main source to design models of car, Which never seen by someone on roads. Please keep your writing skills on because it will give us something new to learn about this industry. Thanks for your sharing.


Nisha Sabnis   (December 12, 2017 06:33 AM)

Hi ,I am so excited and happy to read this. A brief knowledgeable content… I get more than I expected here. I like the way you explain everything in your own simple style and I felt no more complicated. Please…..I will expect more posts like this. Thank you


David Finn   (December 18, 2017 06:34 AM)

Strange no mention of FIAT.This video is from 1979. Their Robot company Comau was set up in 1973.


Scott Wagner   (March 8, 2018 08:44 AM)

Good article. I just would have liked to see it get into the 2000s, 2010s, and compare to the rise in AI today.


Dominic Galvin   (June 5, 2018 02:32 AM)

I understand that FIAT had its first welding robot in the production line in 1972. The first Fiat untouched by human hands (except during quality control) was the Fiat Ritmo, first built in 1978. It ran tv commercials "hand built by robots" as part of its marketing campaigns.


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