The role of robots in the ‘real world’

When you hear the word ‘robot’, you might think of the outrageous dance-moves that Peter Crouch busted after his hat-trick against Jamaica. What was he thinking? Those long arms and legs made him look like some sort of blonde hyper-spider.

Other people may think of RoboCop, R2D2, or even Bender from Futurama. All good robots!

Anyway, the point is that robots are everywhere these days and not just on the TV or in dance competitions. In fact, they are a key part of most production and manufacturing companies and many other organisations across the world. Consequently, robotics and automation engineer career opportunities are cropping up all over the place.

Robots and automated machines never get tired. They can work 24 hours a day, they can work in hazardous places and they are much more accurate and consistent than any human. The exciting world of automation and robotics engineering has the important task of bringing these machines to life, maintaining them, fixing them when they malfunction and designing and building new models.

How can I get into automation and robotics engineering?

Although automation and robotics engineering is an area of engineering in its own right, it is really the amalgamation of several different areas of engineering.

Electricians and mechanics, as well as electrical, mechanical, software, hardware and infrastructure engineers all have a role to play in this complex area of engineering. Their role is to design, build and maintain these complicated machines.

There are a range of entry points to this subsector and it’s open to all kinds of characters, from apprentices to PhD graduates. Wherever your strengths lie there’s a lot of scope for career development. Indeed, whether you’re a practical superstar or a theoretical genius you can get involved with this intriguing line of work.

What other fields of engineering are involved?

Robots have four elements:

  • Mechanical
  • Electrical part
  • Hardware and infrastructure
  • Software.

The software is kind of like the glue that sticks all the other bits together; it runs on the hardware and makes the mechanical and electrical parts work together to perform a specific task.

Although these different constituent parts seem rather separate, robotics and automation engineering often involves a crossover between different disciplines of engineering. It’s not uncommon to find electro-mechanical engineers working in this area, or mechatronics engineers who combine electric engineering with both computer and electrical engineering.

What are the benefits of becoming an automation or robotics engineer?

Working in this type of engineering can bring an immense sense of fulfilment. If you take a project from inception to completion, the rewards can know no bounds. Projects are often complicated and can be time-consuming, especially when so many different components are involved. You can also get a great deal of satisfaction from knowing that you are reducing the amount of humans that have to work in potentially dangerous places.

In terms of technological advancement, automation and robotics engineering is progressing quickly in its traditional home of automotive industries, but also in other areas too. Automation and robotics engineering is now also used within the emergency services, the military and medical professions.

The application of automation and robotics can be broad. You could be working on single action robots in factories that stamp dates or put lids on pots. Alternatively, you could be working on much more complex projects and be designing pilotless drones or explorer buggies.

So if you fancy yourself to be a young Anakin Skywalker (strictly Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace) a graduate job in robotics or automation engineering could be the perfect first career step for you!

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