Ten types of robots you’ll find in a manufacturing plant

Companies consistently try to achieve high output of top-quality products with precise manufacturing processes. Industrial robots can help users achieve all those aims and others. Emily Newton lists down 10 most common industrial robots used in the manufacturing sector.
Ten types of robots you’ll find in a manufacturing plant
Many media outlets discuss industrial robots as a whole, but they don’t always break down the types of robots that companies use in their facilities. Here are 10 of the most common industrial robots chosen by decision-makers in the manufacturing sector.

1. Articulated Robots
The machines in this category feature rotary joints that provide excellent flexibility and adaptability for numerous tasks. Articulated robots are among the most common types used in manufacturing, mainly due to their freedom of movement.

Articulated robots get classified according to the number of their rotation points or axes. The six-axis type is the most common for articulated robots. However, some manufacturers choose the seven-axis variety depending on the task, especially since those can reach around obstructions.

2. SCARA Robots
A Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm (SCARA) machine works similarly to an articulated robot. However, the equipment in this category is comparatively smaller and best suited to lighter-duty applications. These machines also fall short for duties requiring reaching around or inside things. That’s because their design features a fixed, swinging arm.

SCARA robots move along the X and Y axes but stay rigid along the Z-axis. Therefore, manufacturers depend on them for tasks involving transferring parts between two parallel planes. For example, a SCARA robot could move components from a tray to a conveyor belt.

3. Cartesian Robots
Cartesian robots have three linear joints that operate along the X, Y, and Z Cartesian coordinate system. Some models also have accompanying “wrist” components that rotate for increased movement. Adding a motion controller allows for rotation around more than one axis.

Users of robots in this category can also customize the stroke and size of each axis. This capability allows tweaking the equipment’s functionality to suit numerous manufacturing jobs. Pick and place, assembly, and inspection duties are among the reasons why manufacturing companies invest in these types of machines.

4. Delta Robots
People sometimes refer to the machines in this group as “spider” robots. That’s because they have thin control arms coming down from a trio of base motors, resulting in a design that mimics spider legs.

Since these robots boast pick rates of up to 300 units per minute, manufacturers choose them for efficiency. Another advantage is that they sit above the work area, meaning they don’t take up floor space. That’s particularly crucial for manufacturers dealing with tight surroundings.

5. Cylindrical Robots
Cylindrical robots are a segment of a larger group called stationary robots. When these machines operate, their bases stay in one position while the attachments move to complete tasks. Cylindrical robots feature rotary joints for rotational movement, then prismatic joints that let the machine’s attachments move linearly.

Manufacturers often use these robots for assembly tasks. They also work well for spot-welding jobs.

6. Autonomous Robots
Autonomous robots represent a large category of machines that perform their tasks independently after programming. Therefore, once a manufacturing professional trains an autonomous robot, it will keep performing that task according to the required specifications until someone makes tweaks.

Autonomous robots excel while performing repetitive tasks in environments that rarely or never change. Manufacturers often invest in them to boost productivity and decrease error rates.

7. Semi-Autonomous Robots
Semi-autonomous robots are like autonomous ones in that they operate independently without ongoing human input. However, a crucial distinction for this category is that the machines can also accept direction from people or controllers.

Manufacturers frequently connect the robots in this group to exterior control systems. The machines can then start or stop processes, saving time for factory workers.

8. Collaborative Robots
The industrial robots of past eras typically stayed enclosed in cages, keeping humans safe as the machines operated. However, collaborative robots represent an emerging and popular category of machines that work alongside humans. These robots include sensors that make them slow down or stop if people get too close.

For these machines — and many other industrial robots — there’s an ongoing push to build lightweight, energy-efficient and flexible machines. For example, polyamide is a material that provides excellent durability and flexibility for robotics applications. A study also showed that using it for a robotic arm reduced the component’s weight by 40% and caused similar energy-efficiency and cost-effectiveness gains.

9. Soft Robots
The industrial robots covered above usually have hard materials used for their chassis. However, manufacturing companies sometimes need soft robots for extremely delicate tasks. These machines often have air and water pressure-controlled systems, making them suitable for manufacturing tasks that may use harmful chemicals that could damage hard-bodied robotics.

Soft robots often feature designs similar to the human hand. Thus, manufacturers may use them to grip fragile goods. For example, online grocery brand Ocado uses air-operated soft robots in warehouses to grab produce without bruising it.

10. Mobile Robots
Mobile robots comprise a large category of machines that can move around an environment rather than staying in one place. An autonomous guided vehicle (AGV) requires strips or wires that keep the robot restricted to a specific travel path. If an AGV encounters obstacles, it cannot steer around them and needs a human to remove the blockage before moving again.

In contrast, an autonomous mobile robot (AMR) moves far more dynamically and does not require guidance beyond the initial training sessions that allow it to learn a facility’s layout. It can also steer around obstacles and people.

Mobile robots commonly assist manufacturers by moving goods around a plant. One such machine, used by Ford Motors in Spain, brings spare parts to the right areas and saves employees as many as 40 working hours. It also did not replace human jobs. Autonomous forklifts are another kind of mobile robot frequently used in manufacturing. Some models carry as much as 1,500 kilograms.

Robots Make Manufacturing More Manageable
Successful manufacturing companies must consistently achieve high output of top-quality products. These businesses also depend on precise processes that keep operations running smoothly. Industrial robots can help users achieve all those aims and others.

These 10 categories describe the robots that manufacturers are most likely to choose for their facilities. Some crossover exists in the groups above, too. For example, a company may invest in industrial robots that fit into the semi-autonomous category and the articulated group.

This list can help company leaders narrow down which kinds of industrial robots they may want to use in their facilities. However, before making any significant purchasing decisions, these individuals should speak to robotics providers about how they intend to use the machines. Then, those representatives can ensure clients get the industrial robots best suited to meet or exceed their expectations.

About the Author:
Emily Newton is a tech and industrial journalist with over four years of experience writing articles for the industrial sector. She is Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, an online publication exploring innovations in manufacturing, technology and science.

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