Manufacturing Economies and Living Economies

“Robotics in Manufacturing”

What are the specific aspects of ‘maker culture’ did you research?

New robotic technologies are having a profound impact on the way manufacturers conduct business. The flexibility these technologies offer is unprecedented and remarkable. Manufacturers that were forced to offshore their production are now considering implementing this technology into new resorted manufacturing plants back in the U.S. Smaller manufacturers can more easily stay competitive in the global market while keeping their operations local.

Robots deployed in manufacturing today tend to be large, dangerous to anyone who strays too close to their whirling arms, and limited to one task, like welding, painting or hoisting heavy parts. The latest models entering factories and being developed in labs are a different breed. They can work alongside humans without endangering them and help assemble all sorts of objects, as large as aircraft engines and as small and delicate as smartphones. Soon, some should be easy enough to program and deploy that they no longer will need expert overseers.

What previous technology, system, or man-power did it replicate, simulate, or replace?

There is no doubt that with todays’ robotic technology many human jobs will be replaced. An example is in the new Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., a robot might do up to four: welding, riveting, bonding and installing a component. At the Philips Electronics factory on the coast of China, hundreds of workers use their hands and specialized tools to assemble electric shavers. That is the old way. At a sister factory in the Dutch countryside, 128 robot arms do the same work with yoga-like flexibility. Video cameras guide them through feats well beyond the capability of the most dexterous human. One robot arm endlessly forms three perfect bends in two connector wires and slips them into holes almost too small for the eye to see. The arms work so fast that they must be enclosed in glass cages to prevent the people supervising them from being injured. And they do it all without a coffee break — three shifts a day, 365 days a year.

What are the advantages of this new technology or approach and what are some possible negative consequences of this approach?

Some of the advantages of this approach is that manufacturers have found a great way to improve their operations. New robotic technology allows manufacturers to keep their staff, while also adding a safe industrial robot directly to the shop floor. There will also be a huge boost in efficiency and productivity for any manufacturer that decides to invest in collaborative robotic systems. Having the option to free up the skilled labor force to work on essential tasks can greatly improve moral and achieve a level of success that was never before possible. Using robots also will reduce the risk of human error.

Robotic technology help provide assistance for the employees on the shop floor. These new robotic systems are easily reprogrammable which makes them extremely useful for on the fly assistance. They can lift and hold heavy components or perform intricate tasks that would otherwise require additional machinery. With robotics technology companies have huge savings. For less than a yearly full time salary, a manufacturer can purchase an “employee” that never needs to take a bathroom break or a salary. It might only take a year before a robot pays for themselves, and from there on out it will only be adding value to the company. Some robots are also extremely energy efficient.

There are also some possible negative consequences of this approach. Robotics technology is already common in manufacturing, but today’s robots are expensive, single-purpose and challenging to reprogram. Typically, they require isolation from humans for safety. Some robotics might have speed restrictions. One problem is that today’s collaborative robots frequently have to slow down or stop whenever people veer into their paths, disrupting production.

Another negative aspect in the implementation of robotics is its impact for human jobs. The falling costs and growing sophistication of robots have touched off a renewed debate among economists and technologists over how quickly jobs will be lost. The convergence of these developments means that robots are helping to increase overall output and save money, but not helping to add jobs. In looking at data from 2010 to 2016, manufacturing has seen 10 to 20 percent increases in output, but only a 2 to 5 percent increase in jobs.

 How does this issue relate to your readings for this week?

I can see how this issue relates to my reading for this week. According to Cameron Tonkinwise in the book “Design as Future Making” chapter “Design Away” stated that; “The essence of design ethics lies in the fact that no act of creation can avoid an act of destruction” (pg. 200). In this case we can see how robotics are a huge advance in todays technology, but we can’t ignore the harms that it does to the increase of unemployment rates. Also, I agree with what Elio Caccavale and Tom Shakespeare pointed in the chapter “Thinking differently about life: Design, biomedicine, and “Negative Capability”, which is; “Science will continue to develop in ways we cannot predict. Human beings will continue to be excited, alarmed, and confused by the choices that scientific research offers them” (pg. 35). I just hope that all this technology created by us will help us, but not somehow affect us.


Yelavich S. and Adams B, 2014. Design as Future Making”, (pg. 200).

Yelavich S. and Adams B, 2014. Design as Future Making”, (pg. 35).

Author: Barbaro Baez Alvarez

I am a passionate graphic designer that enjoys what I do. I like challenges and like to share ideas and opinions with the clients to come out with the best solution and best design possible. I have experience in these programs; Adobe Creative Cloud: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Muse, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Wordpress, Autodesk and Microsoft Office. I am also responsible, fast learner and know how to work as a team if it is required.

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