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posted by martyb on Wednesday January 19 2022, @07:49PM   Printer-friendly
from the it-has-begun dept.

Now You Can Rent a Robot Worker:

Polar Manufacturing has been making ​metal ​hinges, locks, and brackets ​in south Chicago for more than 100 years. Some of the company's metal presses—hulking great machines that loom over a worker—date from the 1950s. Last year, to meet rising demand amid a shortage of workers, Polar hired its first robot employee.

The robot arm performs a simple, repetitive job: lifting a piece of metal into a press, which then bends the metal into a new shape. And like a person, the robot worker gets paid for the hours it works.

​Jose Figueroa​, who manages Polar's production line, says the robot, which is leased from a company called Formic, costs the equivalent of $8 per hour, compared with a minimum wage of $15 per hour for a human employee. Deploying the robot allowed a human worker to do different work, increasing output, Figueroa says.

"Smaller companies sometimes suffer because they can't spend the capital to invest in new technology," Figueroa says. "We're just struggling to get by with the minimum wage increase."

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by ElizabethGreene on Wednesday January 19 2022, @08:59PM (3 children)

    by ElizabethGreene (6748) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 19 2022, @08:59PM (#1213943) Journal

    how is this different to large, automated plants, where there is a machine ("robot"?) for each step in the process, and each feeds the next?

    The line between "robot" and "machine" is very fuzzy. Usually, the line gets drawn around programmability, but it is completely arbitrary.

    E.x. a fully automated stamping line can have a coil feed metal into the stamping head and the die eject the scrap and parts into separate bins. That's a machine. If you replace the die ejector with a two-DOF arm and actuator that pulls the part out of the die, most people will call that a robot... even if it's dumb as a rock.

    It's arbitrary.

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  • (Score: 2) by DrkShadow on Wednesday January 19 2022, @10:45PM (2 children)

    by DrkShadow (1404) on Wednesday January 19 2022, @10:45PM (#1213976)

    Hmm. Something that could plausibly be re-purposed for another task? (Automobile assembly arms that do exactly one thing)

    I think machine is something that follows a fixed path (programming isn't fixed, but gears and pins are). For a robot, it needs to ask *something* (program, punchcard) for its next action. If it does does-thing-when-thing (sensor on a conveyor belt) it's a machine.


    • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Thursday January 20 2022, @09:29AM (1 child)

      by maxwell demon (1608) on Thursday January 20 2022, @09:29AM (#1214105) Journal

      What's strange to me in this discussion is that a recurring theme is that robots are not machines. In my view, robots are a certain class of machines. A robot is always a machine, but a machine may not be a robot.

      For me, a machine is a robot if it has many ways of movement. A big block that goes up and down is not a robot. An machine arm that has many joints is a robot. And yes, the boundary is fuzzy. As are the boundaries of almost all real-world concepts.

      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 2) by ElizabethGreene on Saturday January 22 2022, @12:21AM

        by ElizabethGreene (6748) Subscriber Badge on Saturday January 22 2022, @12:21AM (#1214673) Journal

        I'm with you. Electrically, pneumatically, or hydraulicly actuate mechanical critters, smart or dumb, are machines.

        There are more fuzzy edges when we start looking out to intelligent machines. A machine capable of locomotion, self-preservation, procreation, planning, execution, communication, and introspection is probably going to be a machine, robot, and person.