A robotics engineer is s behind the scenes designer who is responsible for creating robots and robotic systems that are able to perform duties that humans are either unable or prefer not to complete for a variety of reasons. Through their creations, a robotics engineer helps to make jobs safer, easier, and more efficient, particularly in the manufacturing industry.
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A robotics engineer will spend the majority of their time designing the plans needed to build robots. They also design the processes necessary for the robot to run correctly. Some of these professionals are also responsible for designing the machines that actually assemble the robots. Once the design phase has been completed, only then do they move toward assembling the unit.
This type of engineer is responsible for creating several different types of robots that are used to complete a variety of different tasks. Prior to a robot being constructed, the engineer will have first researched and determined exactly what the robot will be used for, and the manner in which it will accomplish its goal. For these professionals, the building process will take a great deal of time. Robots are highly technical and difficult to create, and the task can be very tricky. For this reason it's not uncommon for a robotics engineer to only work on a handful of projects throughout his or her entire career. Professionals in this field need to be very patient.
In order to work as a robotics engineer, an individual will first need to earn a bachelor's degree in engineering. Courses in robotics typically include general training in pneumatics and hydraulics, numerically controlled systems, CADD/CAM systems, integrated systems, logic, and microprocessors. Since robotics technology relies heavily on the expertise of several engineering disciplines, engineers who specialize in robotics will typically have degrees in electrical, manufacturing, industrial, electronic, or mechanical engineering.
It will typically takes four to five years to complete a bachelor's degree. Most major universities and colleges will have an engineering department. Some colleges even offer engineering programs specially geared toward robotics. Depending on the college or university, they may allow students to complete work-study programs in order to receive on-the-job training while working towards earning their degree.
For upper-level positions within the industry, a master's or doctorate level degree is required. In order to remain abreast of new changes and developments within the industry, working robotics engineers will still need to continually update their technical knowledge. This requirement is generally satisfied by annual conferences, seminars, and training sessions.
In addition to the engineering component, professionals in this industry also need to be well versed in the areas of electronics, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. The ability to effectively communicate, both orally and in writing, is also essential to being successful in this field.
Robotics engineers typically equally share their time between a lab and their office. Time in the lab is spent working on small mechanical parts that are components of the larger robot they are creating. The time in their office is spent working on plans and writing papers. A typical work week will consist of 40 hours, Monday to Friday. However, the project that the robotics engineer is working on can make this schedule vary drastically. For some projects, overtime work may be necessary to make sure that the job is completed by a deadline. Occasional travel may also be necessary. The typical day-to-day duties are often mentally straining and can sometimes be stressful. This is particularly true when strict deadlines are in place.
Most commonly, robots are used within the automotive industry on vehicle assembly lines. Some 90 percent of all robots created are used within this industry. However, you can also find these professionals working in the food packaging, appliance building, and electronic industries.
Typical day-to-day duties include:
Building, configuring, and testing robots.
Designing software systems to control their robotic systems, such as those robots used for manufacturing.
Designing automated robotic systems that are used to increase the production and precision levels within a specific industry.
Analyzing and evaluating the prototypes and robotic systems they have created. This is generally a never-ending task, since technology is constantly changing and advancing.
Reviewing and approving cost estimates and design calculations.
Serving as technical support for the robotic systems they have created.
Teaching plans paths to robots.
Performing research into the design, operation and performance of robotic mechanism components or systems.
Typically, a robotics engineer will earn between $50,000 and $60,000 each year. However, this figure can vary greatly. Factors such as education level, additional training, and years of experience will all affect the amount of income earned.
The area of engineering an individual works in will also play a major role in their income potential. For example, engineers who work as freelance contractors, working exclusively for a manufacturing plant, will earn substantially more than other engineers. This is because these types of engineers are paid directly for the projects they work on. An engineer who is working for an engineering firm in an entry-level position will earn substantially less.