Robotic arm inventor George C. Devol dies at 99

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ROBOTICS pioneer George C. Devol, who invented the prototype of robotic arms, has died in the US aged 99.

The American inventor came up with the concept of Universal Automation, which led to Unimate, the first industrial robot. This was a mechanical arm which was programmable, allowing it to repeat tasks like grasping and lifting.

The first Unimate prototypes were controlled by vacuum tubes. Transistors were used later as they became available. A rotating drum memory system with data parity controls was invented for the Unimate.

The Unimate arm was adopted by General Motors in 1961, followed by other auto-makers Chrysler and Ford. It was first used to lift and stack die-cast metal parts from moulds, and its role then expanded to other duties like welding and painting.

The rest, as they say, is industrial robotics history.