Robotics is an evolving industry with innovations and developments occurring all the time. Robotics technicians must keep up with current trends and recent technologies. Reading books and articles in trade magazines provides an excellent way to learn about what is happening in robotics technologies and expected future trends. Magazines with informative articles include Servo Magazine (https://www.servomagazine.com) and Robot Magazine (http://www.botmag.com).
You can become a robot hobbyist and build your own robots or buy toy robots and experiment with them. Complete robot kits are available through a number of companies and range from simple, inexpensive robots to highly complex robots with advanced features and accessories. A number of books that give instructions and helpful hints on building robots can be found online and at most public libraries and bookstores. In addition, electronics shops, department stores, and mail order companies are other sources for relatively inexpensive and simple toy robots.
You can also participate in competitions such as the National Robotics Challenge (https://www.thenrc.org) or International Aerial Robotics Competition, which is sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (http://www.aerialroboticscompetition.org).
The Robotics Institute Summer Scholars Program at Carnegie Mellon University offers summer research programs for junior and senior undergraduate students. To learn more, visit its Web site, https://riss.ri.cmu.edu.
Attending industry trade shows is another great way to learn about robotics. Many robotics and automated machinery manufacturers exhibit their products at shows and conventions. Many of these types of trade shows are held annually throughout the country. Association trade publications provide information about industry events such as trade shows and conferences.
Other activities that foster knowledge and skills relevant to a career in robotics include membership in high school science clubs, participation in science fairs, joining national science and technology associations (such as the Technology Student Association, https://tsaweb.org), and pursuing hobbies that involve electronics, mechanical equipment, and model building.
Most robotics technicians work in computer-integrated manufacturing or programmable automation. They assist in all phases of robotics engineering, helping in the design and development of robots and other automated equipment, including computer software used to program robots.
Robotics technicians install, repair, and maintain finished robots. Others help design and develop new kinds of robotics equipment. Technicians who install, repair, and maintain robots and robotic equipment need knowledge of electronics, electrical circuitry, mechanics, pneumatics, hydraulics, and computer programming. They use hand and power tools, testing instruments, manuals, schematic diagrams, and blueprints.
Before installing new equipment, technicians review the work order and instructional information; verify that the intended site in the factory is correctly supplied with the necessary electrical wires, switches, circuit breakers, and other parts; position and secure the robot in place, sometimes using a crane or other large tools and equipment; and attach various cables and hoses, such as those that connect a hydraulic power unit with the robot. After making sure that the equipment is operational, technicians program the robot for specified tasks, using their knowledge of its programming language. They may write the detailed instructions that program robots or reprogram a robot when changes are needed.
Once robots are in place and functioning, they may develop problems. Technicians then test components and locate faulty parts. When the problem is found, they may replace or recalibrate parts. Sometimes they suggest changes in circuitry or programming, or may install different end-of-arm tools on robots to allow machines to perform new functions. They may train robotics operators in how to operate robots and related equipment and help establish in-house basic maintenance and repair programs at new installations.
Companies that only have a few robots don't always hire their own robotics technicians. Instead they use robot field technicians who work for a robotic manufacturer. These technicians travel to manufacturing sites and other locations where robots are used to repair and service robots and robotic equipment.
Technicians involved with the design and development of new robotic devices are sometimes referred to as robotics design technicians. As part of a design team, they work closely with robotics engineers. The robotics design job starts as the engineers analyze the tasks and settings to be assigned and decide what kind of robotics system will best serve the necessary functions. Technicians involved with robot assembly, sometimes referred to as robot assemblers, commonly specialize in one aspect of robot assembly. Materials handling technicians receive requests for components or materials, then locate and deliver them to the technicians doing the actual assembly or those performing tests on these materials or components. Mechanical assembly technicians put together components and subsystems and install them in the robot. Electrical assembly technicians do the same work as mechanical assembly technicians but specialize in electrical components such as circuit boards and automatic switching devices. Finally, some technicians test the finished assemblies to make sure the robot conforms to the original specifications.
Other kinds of robotics technicians include robot operators, who operate robots in specialized settings, and robotics trainers, who train other employees in the installation, use, and maintenance of robots.
Robotics technicians may also be referred to as electromechanical technicians, manufacturing technicians, robot mechanics, robotics repairmen, robot service technicians, and installation robotics technicians.