George C. Devol, 99, a self-taught tinkerer whose invention of the robotic arm revolutionized factories around the world, died of a heart ailment Aug. 11 at his home in Wilton, Conn. . . .
The Unimate, as the product became known, was designed to perform jobs that were dangerous or costly for human workers. Mr. Devol sold the first of his robotic arms in 1961 to a General Motors plant in Trenton, N.J., where it was programmed to handle the hot metal used in die casting.
Other early customers included Chrysler and Ford. Partly because of the influence of labor unions, which saw the robots as a threat to U.S. jobs, sales did not take off in the United States.
Mr. Devol’s product was wildly successful in countries such as Japan, however, and in the late 1960s the company signed a deal with Kawasaki Heavy Industries.