Want to Expand Your Skillset? What It Takes to Become a Robotics Engineer

Published On
Aug 1, 2017

Robotics is on the rise, and the world of robotic automation continues to grow. While automation is indeed replacing certain jobs, robotics brings with it a whole host of new vacancies in the industry.

The National Robotics Education Foundation found that 81 percent of 200 senior executives put robotics at the No. 1 spot for job growth in the United States. "Industry 4.0" is the name for this ongoing rise in automation and exchange of data in manufacturing technologies. The smart factory was created as a result of its cyber-physical systems, cloud-based calculations and computing.

As the demand for smart factories increases, so does the demand for automation and robotics. More than half of the participants in a Capgemini survey say they have invested $100 million in smart factories and automation over the last half-decade. Smart factories are expected to add an extra $500 billion to the worldwide economy this year. The same survey predicts that, by 2022, more than one-fifth of all manufacturing companies will be smart, particularly in parts of the world where there are not enough willing candidates to do the work automation replaces.

What’s more is that contrary to what many would expect, this rise in automation and use of robotics is not consuming vast amounts of energy or acquiring as major a carbon footprint as predicted. The U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) reports a decrease of 2 percent in the energy consumed from coal and an increase of 6.5 percent in energy consumed from electricity in the manufacturing world.

Manufacturing efficiency is on the rise.

The future of robotics

This all means we will be seeing many more robots on company floors, especially in manufacturing plants. If we look back on the last seven years, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds that more than 136,000 robots have been brought in so far and, along with them, almost 900,000 new jobs. This is easy to understand—if we simply look at the popular disposition of robotics to use electricity, this means more electrical engineers would be required to link up the robots on the plant floor. The job market for robotic engineers has never been so buoyant, and the amount of study aides, courses and online materials available for those wanting to learn the art is vast.

So what exactly is a robotics engineer? A rather self-explanatory title, robotics engineers are accountable for the design and production of robots and are tasked with system diagnostics, total supervision and troubleshooting. Essentially, they are the bridge between mechanical and electrical engineering, IT and psychology. As the world of robotics is fast-changing, robotics engineers need to be constant learners and adapt quickly to change and new precedents.

Admittedly, robotics is not the easiest of career choices. It is a faceted role, bridging across a variety of different disciplines. However, this also presents a perfect opportunity for trained engineers—electrical engineers, for example—to move into this new, exciting and rapidly growing market of the future. As stated above, if you are already on the plant floor linking up electrical cables to robots, you may as well be looking after them, too.

Main responsibilities as a robotics engineer include approving designs and formulas, debugging programs, performing maintenance on robots, synching them to other devices and managing a team of engineers. Interested yet? It has the potential to be lucrative, too!

Becoming a robotics engineer

There is significant studying involved, but why wouldn’t there be? As robots become more capable and versatile, their components can become more complex to understand. While many companies maintain their place in the growing world of robotics by making motion-solution additions to their existing products, some companies are entering it with entirely new products.

For example, a producer of hydraulic pneumatic and electric actuators have recently brought to market new T-bot and H-bot robotics, which function with linear belts to move in complex 2-D forms. Some robots may require linear and rotational ranges of motion, for which rotary ball splines offer many advantages, such as high accuracy and cheaper installation expenses. The possibilities are endless, but with a background in a profession such as electrical engineering, the leap should be manageable.

Step one: Stop by the Robotic Industries Association’s website for tips and resources on how to initiate your robotics career in the best way. These include webinars, educational events, beginner guides and certification training.

Step two: Check your company. If you are lucky enough to already work for a company that is moving into the realm of robotics, see if they are considering developing their own certification programs to help encourage robot education. Many companies have already formed their own universities and training schemes solely for this purpose.

Step three: Take some time out. If you can use vacation time, check out the Kuka and FANUC courses near you for on-site education and training. Kuka offers its KORE program through a variety of educational institutions and provides you with a foundation in robot programming and operation. FANUC is also offered through conventional educational centers and is more focused on automation education. While the course fully covers robotics, it also takes a further look at CNC machining and robotic drilling.

Step four: Look at what you can do in the meantime. The Universal Robots Academy is part of Universal Robots, which is one of the big players in the world of collaborative robotics. It prides itself on its easy-to-learn modules and the fact that you can fit in the time to study around your day job.

Modules include the following:

  • Features and Terminology
  • How the Robot Works
  • Setting up a Tool
  • Creating a Program
  • Interaction With External Devices
  • Safety Settings

Other online options include the affordable yet sought-after Udacity, which is sponsored by industry majors such as Lockheed Martin. It offers simulated environments for students to familiarize themselves with hands-on projects over a six-month period of time. Moreover, you will learn from educational professionals about the ins and outs of kinematics, controls and deep learning.

Our world is indeed becoming more robotic at an exceptional rate, which means a continued high demand for engineers trained in robotics until 2024 at least.

If you do have a background in electrical engineering, no doubt you are already coming into contact with automated robots on a regular basis given the preference for electrical energy. This could make you a prime candidate for installing, servicing and maintaining this equipment.

About the Author

Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a technology writer whose work has appeared on VentureBeat, Metering & Smart Energy International, VICE and The Huffington Post. To read more posts by Kayla, you can visit her blog, Productivity Bytes.

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