How to Stop Manufacturing Robots in the Name of Safety
Posted On July 19, 2021
A group of mechanical contractors and engineers is taking matters into their own hands by calling for the “robotic arms” to be banned from all mechanical projects.
The robotic arms are being called “giraffes,” or “robot-like creatures,” because they mimic the way giraffes dance.
The robot-like limbs mimic the movements of the giraffe, and are designed to mimic human movements.
A group called The American Robotics Initiative (ARI) has been pushing for the removal of robotic arms from manufacturing, citing safety concerns.
ARI also wants the federal government to establish a federal standard for robot-related projects.
This could potentially include any robot-based work that involves the manufacture of a mechanical component.
“In a way, we want to create a standard that we can all adhere to,” says Alex Bressan, CEO of The American Robots Initiative.
The robotics industry is expected to grow to over $1.3 trillion by 2025.
But the robotics industry has a long history of safety problems, including an explosion and fires at a factory in 2010 that killed eight people and injured more than 200.
“This is a new and very troubling trend,” says Robert Cawley, senior vice president at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).
“This will be the largest industrial robot safety problem in the history of mankind.”
A group calling itself the Automotive Safety Foundation of America (ASFA) has already filed a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling for “robots to be excluded from manufacturing safety requirements and requirements for mechanical devices.”
“We believe the safety of these machines should be left up to human designers, engineers, and workers,” says Steve Czaja, a senior vice President with ASFA.
“It’s a shame that the federal agencies that are responsible for the safety and security of the American people, like the FDA, have yet to do their job.”
This petition is expected by the FDA to be heard this week.
The FDA recently released a report titled Safety Requirements for Mechanical Devices: Report from the Automobile Safety Foundation.
The report found that mechanical safety standards are often outdated, and do not fully address the safety concerns surrounding the robotics.
“We think the safety needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis,” says Dr. Stephen DeCock, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Iowa.
“But we also think that the robotics safety standards should be broadened and updated.”
The report also found that many robots manufactured today are not equipped with the latest safety equipment.
A survey conducted by a non-profit group called the Association for Robotics and Automation (ARAA) found that robots made by American companies are still behind the curve on safety issues.
“A major challenge in robotics today is that manufacturers often fail to properly implement safety measures,” the ARAA report stated.
“As a result, many robots are not adequately programmed or have inadequate safety features,” the report continued.
“Robots that are made by US companies are significantly less safe than their competitors.”
Robots are already being used in factories, but not in production jobs.
“These robotic arms can be dangerous in that they’re designed to manipulate objects on a moving surface,” says Bressani.
“So you have a problem where people are hurt, but you have no safety measures that are built into the system.”
“It could be that you have people sitting in the chair, and if the chair falls off, you’re in a situation where you can hit the person and hurt them, or the chair could get caught in the back of the chair and it could break,” says Czajas.
Bressano says that in a way the robot-manufacturing industry has the same problems as the manufacturing industry, and they’re being addressed by the robots.
“The safety issues in robotics are more acute because of the fact that we’re not using robotics in production,” he says.
“Instead, we’re using robotics to produce things.”
In response to these safety concerns, the robotics community has also begun to develop an alternative way of making robots.
Robots made from scratch and made from recycled materials have been popping up in places like factories, restaurants, and even the homes of children.
“There are many examples of people using these machines in their homes,” says DeCocks.
“You have these children, you have the elderly, and you have those who are in nursing homes, and it just becomes a natural extension of their life.”
The robots are also becoming a major threat to the elderly and the disabled.
“With robots, there is no safe way to use them,” says Mark Henson, an associate professor of engineering at Virginia Tech.
“I would say that it’s just a matter of time before robots take over a nursing home or a home that’s for people with disabilities.”
The robot problem is not only in the manufacturing sector.
The robots that are currently