Components of a Human Body vs Robotic System

Computer Control

microcontroller.jpgRobots are controlled using a processor.

The processor inside the robot is often a microcontroller.

  • A microcontroller is an integrated circuit with a CPU, RAM, ROM, timers and input/output ports (see Figure 14.6).
  • A microcontroller has all the components of a computer except that it is a dedicated device.
  • Microcontrollers are often described as the ‘heart’ of the robot.
  • Microcontrollers also can receive data from sensors, store and process that data and send the information to an actuator such as a motor.
  • A computer is often used to give instructions to the microcontroller. The computer transmits infrared or radio signals to the microcontroller.


Software Program

All robotic systems use software to instruct the hardware on how to perform tasks. As a rule, industrial robots perform quite specific tasks. The software that drives the hardware is often a specialized control language. Other robots are designed to perform more general tasks, such as the LEGO robots constructed for home and educational use. These general-purpose robots are instructed by more general-purpose programming languages.

Programming languages may use different techniques to control robots in performing tasks.  They fall into two categories: online programming and offline programming. Online programming involves ‘teaching’ the robot the path it must take. This is done by manually moving the robot arm through the required motions. The path is recorded and a program is generated. Offline programming requires programming code to control the robot’s motions before the robot is put to action.