Five-ton robot on wheels sticks out it arm to turn a "hot" valve in Hanford plutonium plant.
One-Armed Robot Tackles Hot Jobs
A ONE-ARMED robot is turning the valves in the giant plant at Hanford, Wash., that makes A-bomb plutonium out of uranium. The new robot looks like a railroad handcar with a small Navy gun on top. It has no fancy name, just the unimaginative title "tool dolly." But it can do practically anything the human arm can do, and it can go where human arms can't go—into areas swarming with invisible, deadly radiation.
Operated either remotely or from the dolly itself, the robot can move around on its track; raise, lower, or extend its arm (the "gun"); and grab, twist, or bend with its claw hand. The dolly easily takes apart machinery—and puts it back together again —opens and closes doors, and works with all kinds of tools. Engineers of the General Electric Co., which runs Hanford for the Atomic Energy Commission, developed it.
CRANE by SEWARD S. BABBITT. See full patent details here.
Patent number: 484870 Filing date: Jun 13, 1892 Issue date: Oct 25, 1892
Seward Babbitt's crane first mentioned around 1980 in terms of robotics history and timelines in textbooks, but in terms of enabling technology only, rather than being identified as a robot in itself. That distinction is getting lost in modern references to this invention. Its included in my timeline only to highlight that it is not a robot. It shares characteristics of manipulator arms only.
The first mentioned of Babbitt's invention in terms of robotics that I can find is from The Journal of Epsilon Pi Tau – Volumes 6-10 – Page 98 "In 1892, Seward Babbitt of Pittsburgh patented a rotary crane with a motorized gripper for removing hot ingots from furnaces. "
Another early patent that looks surprisingly modern was granted for a robot called 'Improvements in or relating to Positioning or Manipulating Apparatus' invented by Cyril W. Kenward. The British patent was filed March 29, 1954 and was published August 21, 1957, and preceded George Devol's first robot patent by several months. It is an interesting parallel that Britain, birthplace of the machine tool industry, would also pioneer the idea of robotics.
Hydraulically powered, this dual arm, gantry mounted robot was years ahead of its time. The patent even speaks of robot self-replication. Featuring detachable grippers and gantry mounting, it could well be used as an illustration for a current research contract proposal. Another key feature of this design was complete internal porting of hydraulics and internal wiring, problems that went unaddressed in early hydraulic robots and often is not achieved in modern day hydraulic robots. Figure above shows the six-axes, hydraulically powered arm in cross section.
Text source: Robot Evolution: The Development of Anthrobotics By Mark E. Rosheim, 1994
Interesting that some comments made around this patent is that it was not successful. It should be noted that the patent was only a British patent, and not filed in the US or other countries. When the "Versatran" and "Unimate" robots were to be imported into the UK in 1967, these clearly infringed the Kenward patent. It was reported at the time that this matter was resolved by a "cash payment". Further, the author of the article, Douglas Hall, adds "It did, however, illustrate how people in britain often have good ideas for inventions but then have to sit on the sidelines as noone is prepared to back them".
MECHANISM FOR REMOTE MANIPULATION OF INDUSTRIAL OBJECTS Anthony J. Kaye et al
See full patent details here.
Patent number: 3173555
Filing date: Sep 7, 1962
Issue date: Mar 16, 1965
This invention relates generally to mechanism for positioning or otherwise manipulating objects, tools and the like in industrial operations, including programmed industrial manipulators. In a preferred form, it comprises mechanism affording duplication of the human arm's manipulative skill in placing physical objects in an infinite number of attitudes •and positions in a three dimensional space and operated and controlled by memory or program devices with which the desired movements of the mechanism may be recorded and then subsequently employed to cause the mechanism to repeat the record movements.
Mechanisms have been devised in the past which simulate certain movements of the human arm and hand, commonly known as remotely controlled handling equipment, programmed manipulators and the like, operating to duplicate the manipulative skill of the human arm in its ability to grasp, rotate, locate, and otherwise manipulate objects and to do this under the constant control of a remotely located person or suitably designed mechanical, electrical or similar memory or programming medium.
It is an object of this invention to apply a new principle to such art of manipulating objects in space, namely the use of one or more mechanical members acting as tension or compression vectors to guide or restrain the lateral movements of an object carrying member, thus enabling the latter member to position an object in space.
Another object is of embody this new principle in a flexible member or arm, guided and restrained by one or more adjustable such vector members, or "tendons," to precisely move one end of the flexible member and an object carried thereby from point to point in space limited only by the size and range of the equipment.
It is a further object of this invention to apply this new principle to a flexible arm which carries a gripping hand and for which a plurality of hand types are provided with the gripping hands being readily interchangeable.
Another object is the provision of such a mechanism operated by 'a single motor unit for achieving three dimensional positioning, as in the assembly of the multiple parts of a product.
Another object is to provide an object handling unit employing this new principle and including mechanisms by which the desired movements of the equipment can be retained and through which the equipment can subsequently automatically, accurately and continually repeat the desired movements.
Other objects and advantages, will become more apparent in the following specification and claims taken in connection with the accompanying drawings which describe and illustrate certain embodiments of the invention.
New Industrial Boom Is Displayed by GE
Schenectady General Electric recently displayed the third member of its family of "Industrial manipulators," the Man-Mate CAM 1600 industrial boom for material handling.
The CAM 1600, like other Man-Mate booms, is designed to amplify the operator's strength and retain "human-like" dexterity by following his motions- According to GE officials, this line of industrial booms allows the operator to "feel" the material he handles and react instinctively to it with the ease of lifting a lightweight object by' hand. Basic to this "touch" feature, they said, is a Sens-A-Lift, electro-hydraulic servo control. system.
The CAM 1600 can handle loads up to a nominal capacity of 750 pounds, the capacity depending on the boom's reach and the load-gripper weight. The boom has a 22-foot horizontal reach and 15-foot vertical reach. It rotates on an axis of 300 degrees.
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The Man-Mate series is manufactured by the cybernetics automation and mechanization systems operation of GE's reentry and environmental systems division headquartered here. The line was recently transferred to the division to consolidate the CAM's technology of the company.
The Man-Mate CAM 1600 has been in production service for about 10 months at the General
Electric Appliance Park East in Columia, Md., according to Howard A. Brust, manager-industrial sales for the CAMS Operation.
"The boom is used to sort packaged electric ranges for delivery to the warehouse, transfer time for each being 15-20 seconds.
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The load gripper, or terminal device, is custom-designed to a customer's specific requirement and provides the function of a man's hand. Some terminal devices now in use include vacuum grippers, mechanical jaws and carton cover lifts. Depending on the terminal device used, the boom can handle such diverse objects as large sheets of plate glass or metal, red-hot metal forgings, automobile transmissions or engines and bulky containers," Brust explained.
"Regarding the recent emphasis on personal safety, the Man-Mate offers a means to remove the man from direct contact with the object to be manipulated, particularly where the function cannot be automated for technical reasons. It's also no problem to provide the operator an air-conditioned cab," he added.
Ralph Mosher, then aged 49, with a version of Man-Mate.
Source: Life Magazine 2 May 1969, p36.
Source: Robots: Fact, Fiction and Prediction – Jasia Reichardt.
Man-Mate was made in several versions to handle different loads. The model above was the larger machine, probably with a lifting capacity of 10,000 lb. The Man-Mate 1600 had a smaller capacity of 1600 lb.
Of all the GE CAM prototypes, it appears the range of Man-Mates was the main one to stay in production, even being licenced to AST in Germany (see above).
Western Space and Marine, which was founded by a GE engineer who worked on the Man-Mate line in the 1970s, bought the rights to the Man-Mate technology and continued to develop and improve it. The giant robotic arm, which uses force-feedback to allow the operator to lift loads up to 10,000 lbs, is today used mostly in the forging and foundry industries.
An old Man-Mate "For Sale" a while back.
One of the earliest CAM developments was a simple boom. It can be seen in the two images below.
Apparently the CAM technology was further deployed in these manipulator arms developed for the research submarine, Aluminaut.