The Unimate Robot

By: Tashi Japheltsang, Journalist

The Unimate, created by George Devol in 1954, was the very first robot ever created. It was a hydraulic arm that was functional. Processes for automating metalworking and welding were used by the auto industry. About 4,000 pounds were on the arm. Joseph Engelberger, known as the “Father of Robotics,” had the vision and commercial sense that led to the creation of the Unimate. Engelberger and Devol created a prototype after approximately two years of work. The Unimate #001 was the name of it. The Unimate 1900 series was the first robotic arm for factory automation to be mass-produced in 1961. Engelberger wanted to increase the number of foreign customers by the year 1966. Therefore, he granted Nokia of Finland a license to produce the robots in Scandinavia. As well as some of Eastern Europe. Engelberger secured a licensing arrangement with Kawasaki Heavy Industries (now Kawasaki Robotics) in 1969 to build and market the Unimate robots for the Asian market following an invitation to speak to 400 Japanese tech executives interested in robotics for manufacturing in Tokyo, Japan. The Smithsonian Museum of American History houses one of the robotic arm’s initial models. The Unimate robot helped to provide the foundation for many industries’ automatic production lines of today.