Process automation is the use of software specifically designed for control of robotics in a factory or plant. Such software is used to automate tasks that were originally done by people, for example moving widgets from A to B, part inspections, hazardous or difficult processes, etc.
The use of robotics automation in manufacturing has both advantages and disadvantages when compared to special-purpose machinery. For short manufacturing runs, the more expensive and slower automated robots are the preferred choice. They can be quickly adapted to nearly any task, and then cheaply re-adapted later for future work. For long mass manufacturing runs, highly custom one-off machinery is preferred as these are designed and highly optimized to perform a specific task at the lowest per-unit cost.
Software for automated robot manufacturing can range from the very simple to the very complex. The most simple would consist of hard coding a specific set of actions for a specific machine and a specific task. Software could be designed so that low-skilled labor can quickly reprogram a machine, either through graphical user interfaces, or even 'learning' robots that can 'watch and learn'. Other types of software are designed for collaborative robots, where multiple robot machines operate together to complete a task. For example, one robot arm can rotate a part while another spray paints it. Or two robot arms can lift something that one arm would be too weak to lift alone. Beyond controlling moving robots, robotic technology and software extends to 'machine vision',
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