An industrial robot is defined by ISO 8373 as an automatically controlled, reprogrammable, multipurpose manipulator programmable in three or more axes. The field of robotics may be more practically defined as the study, design and use of robot systems for manufacturing (a top-level definition relying on the prior definition of robot).
Typical applications of robots include welding, painting, assembly, pick and place (such as packaging, palletizing and SMT), product inspection, and testing; all accomplished with high endurance, speed, and precision.
The most commonly used robot configurations are articulated robots, SCARA robots, delta robots and cartesian coordinate robots, (gantry robots or x-y-z robots). In the context of general robotics, most types of robots would fall into the category of robotic arms (inherent in the use of the word manipulator in ISO standard 8373). Robots exhibit varying degrees of autonomy:
Some robots are programmed to faithfully carry out specific actions over and over again (repetitive actions) without variation and with a high degree of accuracy. These actions are determined by programmed routines that specify the direction, acceleration, velocity, deceleration, and distance of a series of coordinated motions.
Other robots are much more flexible as to the orientation of the object on which they are operating or even the task that has to be performed on the object itself, which the robot may even need to identify. For example, for more precise guidance, robots often contain machine vision sub-systems acting as their visual sensors, linked to powerful computers or controllers. Artificial intelligence, or what passes for it, is becoming an increasingly important factor in the modern industrial robot.