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Increasingly there is a need to equip robots with intelligent sensing so that they can detect and compensate for discrepancies between what they have been taught and what is required in the real world. This enables them to allow for variations in the immediate manufacturing environment (e.g. component variation) and also relaxes the requirements for precision in the hardware and the accuracy of teaching. The authors describe their work on semiautonomous adaptable units for use in assembly. The units are of integral design equipped with sensors, local processing power and local actuation. They are intended to be placed on the machinery and automatic assembly, which may have either hard-automation or robotic form.