[Worldkings] Top 100 pioneers in all fields (P. 12) George Devol (USA): The "father" of the modern robotics industry

18-03-2023

(Worldkings.org) George Devol's most famous invention, the first programmable industrial robot, started a revolution in manufacturing robots that continues to this day.

George Charles Devol Jr. (February 20, 1912 – August 11, 2011) was an American inventor, best known for creating Unimate, the first industrial robot. Devol's invention earned him the title "Grandfather of Robotics".

 

In the 1930s, George Devol began realizing the value of factory automation while working on magnetic recording technology. In 1954, he filed a patent for a robotic arm that could move with six degrees of freedom and store step-by-step digital commands on a drum or other medium. This would become the Unimate industrial robot.

The robot was built by Unimation, the world's first robot manufacturing company, founded in 1956 by Devol and Joseph EngelbergerOffsite Link in Danbury, Connecticut. In 1961, Unimate was in operation on a General Motors assembly line at the Inland Fisher Guide Plant in Ewing Township, New Jersey. The 4000-pound robotic arm transported die castings from an assembly line and welded these parts on auto bodies.

Unimation soon began full scale production, expanding to include robots that could weld, print, and assemble. Unimation was sold in 1983 to Westinghouse, who later sold it to a French company.

 

Devol's patent for the first digitally operated programmable robotic arm represents the foundation of the modern robotics industry. Today, industrial robots have transformed factories into safer places and improved products with precision and consistency.

Devol worked as a self-employed inventor from 1945, eventually running Devol Research. In 1989, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bridgeport. The original Unimate resides in the Smithsonian Institution's collections.

 

According to invent.org & historyofinformation.com


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