The ubiquity of robots in factories and industry has led to a familiarity with robots as a tool of automation. Rapid technological advancements have allowed many manufacturing sectors to rely on robots for everyday tasks. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that up to 45% of work activities can be successfully automated. The impact robots can have on a company’s operation is well-established. By now, many executives have heard of SCARA or Polar robots, and they are aware that these advanced machines can increase their performance and production. What other robots are out there, and how can they benefit your business? In this article, we’ll take a look at the top six types of industrial robots currently on the market.

What are the Major Types of Industrial Robots in 2020?

All robots perform the same standard functions: They use sensors to detect changes in their environment and manipulators to interact with their surroundings. Robots typically perform two primary tasks: harvesting and positioning. How they do this, though, is as varied as the tasks to which they are assigned.

Articulated Robots

Articulated robots are the most common types of industrial robots. They comprise a mechanical configuration that resembles a human arm. With the use of articulated joints with multiple degrees of freedom, the arm provides a large range of movement. Articulated robots with six degrees of freedom are the most common. Other types may only have four degrees of freedom or even fewer.

Advantages: High speed, large work envelope for minimal floor space. Easy to align with multiple planes.

Disadvantages: Requires a dedicated robot controller, complicated programming, complicated kinematics.

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Cylindrical Robots

Cylindrical robots have at least one rotary joint at the base and at least one prismatic joint connecting the links.  With their pivoting shaft and extendable arm, they can move vertically and horizontally by sliding. They offer both linear movement and rotary movement about the vertical axis. The compact design of the effector allows the robot to reach tight workspaces without any loss of speed. Cylindrical robots are mostly used in simple applications, like pick-and-place, where rotary motions must be incorporated.

Advantages: Simple operation and installation. Minimal assembly. Robots can reach in 360-degrees from base. Requires minimal floor space and can handle heavy payloads.

Disadvantages: Doesn’t do well with obstacles. Low accuracy in direction of rotary motion.

Cartesian Robots

Cartesian robots are also called rectilinear or gantry robots and have a rectangular configuration. These types of industrial robots deliver linear motion by sliding on its three perpendicular axes (X, Y, and Z). Due to their rigid structure and configuration, they can carry heavy loads. They can also be used to perform pick-and-place tasks, loading and unloading, material handling, and even high precision operations. Most 3D printers operate on gantry systems.

Advantages: Provides high accuracy with simple operation. Easy to program offline and highly customizable. Able to handle heavy loads. Relatively inexpensive.

Disadvantages: Requires large operational and installation area. Complex assembly. Movement limited to only one direction at a time.

SCARA Robots

SCARA stands for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm. These robots consist of two parallel joints that provide motion in one isolated plane. The rotary shafts are positioned vertically, and the end effector moves horizontally. SCARA robots excel in jobs that require precise lateral movements, and they are ideal for assembly applications. SCARA robots are suited to pick-and-place or assembly operations where high speed and high accuracy are required. SCARA robots move quickly and integrate into existing infrastructure more easily than cylindrical and cartesian robots.

Advantages: High speed, excellent repeatability, large workspace.

Disadvantages: Requires a dedicated robot controller, limited to planar surfaces, hard to program offline.

Learn more about Scara Robots >>

Polar Robots

Polar robots are the veterans of the robot world. They are one of the first types of robots developed and are still popular today. The axes of the robot are combined to form a polar coordinate system, which allows the robot to have a spherical work envelope. Polar robots are commonly used for die casting, injection molding, welding, and material handling.

Advantages: 360-degree range of motion. Large work volume. Require minimal floor space.

Disadvantages: Short vertical reach, low accuracy, and low repeatability in the direction of rotary motion. They require a sophisticated control system.

Delta Robots

Delta robots are also called parallel-link robots. They consist of parallel joint linkages connected to a common base. Delta robots are especially useful for direct control tasks and high maneuvering operations (such as fast pick-and-place jobs). Delta robots make clever use of the mechanical advantage of four-bar linkage systems.

Advantages: Very high speeds are attainable. High operational accuracy.

Disadvantages: Complicated operation and requires a dedicated robot controller.

As you can see, many industrial robot options exist on the market. In addition to the autonomous models listed, you might find collaborative robots fit your automation needs better. Collaborative robots come in the same basic types included in this article, but are designed to work directly with human operators.

The most important thing is to know before selecting your robot is what tasks you need it to perform, and how you want it to integrate into your existing infrastructure. For help selecting the best robot for you, check out some of our other articles on Our robotic integrators will help you choose the right automation tools for your company.