Robotics technicians install, service, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair robots and automated production systems. They must understand computers, electrical and electronic systems, sensor and feedback principles, and how robots work as machines. Their duties vary depending upon whom they work for and the type of robots on which they work.
Robotics technicians, employed by manufacturers, work closely with designers, engineers, and technologists. They might be involved in the developing, testing, programming, and actual on-site installation of new robots. Some technicians work as robotics trainers and train others to install, use, and maintain robots. Robotics technicians have another important role - they are the people who help keep the robots "working". Employed by robot manufacturers, suppliers, distributors or by the companies that use and depend on robots, they maintain and troubleshoot all aspects of robots and automated systems - mechanical as well as electrical.
In the auto industry, skilled trade workers such as electricians, millwrights, pipe fitters, machinists, and machine repair workers maintain robots. Called general maintenance technicians, these skilled robotics technicians take care of all the electro-mechanical equipment. Thoroughly cross-trained and skilled in multiple trades, they are responsible for the maintenance and repair of a wide variety of robots and equipment. They analyze equipment problems and troubleshoot electrical components and systems, as well as service and repair both hydraulic and pneumatic systems. They also do welding and machining.
Robotics technicians are employed either by the manufacturers and distributors of robots or by the robot users and are often responsible for the initial installation of the robot. They may then establish an in-house maintenance and repair program. If employed by the robot manufacturer or distributor, maintenance technicians usually respond to service calls. These members of the robotics team work closely with engineers and other technical workers. Robotics technicians who are trained in computer programming sometimes perform low-, mid-, and even high-level programming and reprogramming of the robots. In many cases, the robotics technician acts as the liaison between robotics engineers and the customers who purchase the machines. They may also install the robots at the manufacturing plant or other site where they will be used.
Other robotics-related employment fields include operators and trainers. Robot operators actually operate the robots. Some of the larger users of robots provide their own specialized in-plant training programs to instruct their workers in the systems and equipment used to power and control the robots. Robotics trainers must have extensive experience installing and maintaining robots. They supervise trainees and less experienced technicians in all aspects of robotics design, installation, and maintenance. Trainers are employed at companies that manufacture robotic systems. They may also provide instruction at trade and technical schools, vocational schools, and some high schools.
Duties and Responsibilities
Some of the more common tasks and assignments performed by robotics technicians include:
- Assist engineers in the design and application of robot systems, using knowledge of field conditions and practices
- Inspect electronic components from suppliers prior to robot assembly
- Inspect and test robots for defects after manufacturer's assembly
- Install robots or robot systems at users' sites in stationary positions or on track
- Install robot safety systems
- Provide start-up assistance to users, including qualifying (fine tuning) performance and accuracy of robots and troubleshooting
- Program robot for series of manipulator (arm-hand) moves (movements) manually or by electronic instructions to a microprocessor or by setting up and adjusting sequence by hand-held teach pendant
- Modify computer-controlled motion of robots
- Trouble shoot to determine robot malfunctions, using knowledge of microprocessors, programmable controllers, electronics, circuit analysis, mechanics, hydraulics, and pneumatics
- Disassemble robots and/or peripheral equipment to repair or replace defective circuit boards, sensors, controllers, encoders, servomotors, servovalves, or automatic lubrication systems
- Reassemble robots
- Train other technicians and skilled workers to operate, program, repair, and service robots
- Keep records of test procedures and results, service schedules, repairs, etc.
Most robotics technicians work forty hours per week and some work overtime. Generally, they work alone or in pairs. Some technicians travel to customers' plants to service or install equipment. Others spend their time working in-house with engineers and scientists. Depending on the employer, robotics technicians may work in well equipped test labs, in manufacturing operations of robot makers, and/or servicing robots in user's plant facilities. Labs may be clean and well lighted while production areas may be noisy, hot, dirty, or have high levels of dust or fumes. Attention to safety is critical as robots are capable of quick, sudden movements.
Robot maintenance technicians, assemblers, and operators often work in noisy plants. Robotics technicians may be expected to be on call around the clock in plants where robots are in twenty-four-hour use. Operators may have to work night shifts. In some cases robotics technicians belong to labor unions.
Highly skilled robotics technicians can earn excellent incomes, with hourly rates from $65 to $125 for industry professionals. Individuals who graduate from the George Brown College Robotics Technician program have the entry level skills required to succeed in a competitive market. Students must develop logical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and trouble shooting skills in order to be successful both in the program and in the field after graduation.
Applicants for entry-level jobs may have to pass tests that measure mechanical aptitude, knowledge of electricity or electronics, manual dexterity, and general intelligence. Newly hired Robotics technicians, even those with formal training such as our program, usually receive some training from their employer. They may study electronic and circuit theory and math or study in detail the equipment used by a particular manufacturer or proprietor. They also get hands-on experience with equipment, doing basic maintenance, and using diagnostic programs to locate malfunctions. Training offered by employers may be in a classroom or it may be self- instruction, consisting of videotapes, programmed computer software, or workbooks that allow trainees to learn at their own pace. Experienced technicians realize that there profession requires a commitment to life-long learning and attend training sessions and read manuals to keep up with design changes and revised service procedures. Many technicians also take advance training in a particular system or type of repair.
Good eyesight and color vision are needed to inspect and work on small, delicate parts and good hearing to detect malfunctions revealed by sound. Because field repairers usually handle jobs alone, they must be able to work without close supervision. For those who have frequent contact with customers, a pleasant personality, neat appearance, and good communications skills are important.