Articulated vs. pick-and-place robot arm: What's the difference?

December 12, 2023
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What is an Articulated robot arm?

An Articulated robotic arm is a type of industrial robot that's designed like a human arm and has different segments that are known as links. These links are usually connected by joints that give this robotic arm more flexibility and precision. They can either be rotary joints (revolute) or linear (prismatic joint).

Generally, these Industrial robotic arms have around two to six links (sometimes more) that grant them a certain degree of freedom (DOF) for movement. The most common configurations are 4-DOF and 6-DOF, with the latter having more flexibility than the other.

Thanks to this flexibility, these handy bots can be used in a range of industries, like manufacturing, agriculture, entertainment, and more. But what other benefits can an Articulated robot offer?

Firstly, they have incredibly precise movements, which means they can do intricate tasks in a more efficient way.

Not only that, but they can perform more dangerous tasks or handle hazardous materials, which reduces the need for human workers to be put in potentially dangerous environments. Of course, this helps to boost workplace safety.

Furthermore, they can perform tasks that include (but aren't limited to):

  • Welding
  • Packaging
  • Surgical procedures
  • Animatronics
  • Agricultural processes

What is a Pick-And-Place robot arm?

Pick-And-Place robots are those that are designed to handle objects in industrial and manufacturing industries. They can help streamline processes by lifting items from one specific location and placing them down in another. This reduces (and in some cases even eliminates) the need for human workers to do repetitive tasks.

Pick-And-Place robots are usually equipped with sensors and vision systems and are mounted on stands. These stands are strategically placed so that the robotic arms can reach the entire operational area.

The end-effector, which is located at the end of the robotic arm, is also tailored to suit the objects that the robot handles. In turn, this facilitates tasks like gripping tools or handling attachments.

The operational movements of a Pick-And-Place robot include transferring items or products between different stationary surfaces, moving objects between moving and unmoving surfaces, and vice versa (for example, moving them between conveyor belts).

Additionally, Pick-And-Place robots use Five-Axis robotic arms for straightforward tasks. However, Six-Axis robotic arms can also be used for more complex tasks, since they have the ability to rotate and reorient items.

There are several types of Pick-And-Place robots, each designed for a specific purpose. This is what makes them so versatile and applicable in various industries. They include:

  • Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm (SCARA robots): SCARA robots have flexible arms connected to three vertical axes, which allow them to work within certain limits.
  • Spherical robots: These bots move in both a linear and rotational way.
  • Cylindrical robots: Unlike spherical bots, cylindrical robots can move horizontally, vertically, and rotate.
  • Delta robots: Delta robots are known for their speed and precision. They have three arms connected by linkages to the joints at the ends.
  • Cartesian robots: These robots operate on an X, Y, and Z axis for precise and controlled movements in multiple planes.
  • Gantry robots: Similar to a gantry crane, these bots also have a horizontal bridge that is supported by vertical columns. This allows them to cover larger surface areas.
  • Collaborative robots: Collaborative robots (also known as Cobots) are named after their main role on a factory floor. They collaborate with humans to guide them in picking or reaching certain areas.
  • Parallel robots: Parallel robots, also known as parallel manipulators, have multiple arms that are connected in parallel to the end-effector. They're perfect for high-speed and precise tasks.
  • Fast pick robots: These robots excel in high-speed tasks and can manage around 300 items an hour.

What is the difference?

Since articulated arms can also be pick-and-place bots, it can be tricky to tell them apart. So what exactly is the difference between these Industrial robots?


Pick-And-Place robots are specialized in repetitive tasks like assembly or packaging and are fantastic for picking up and precisely positioning objects. Their sensors and vision systems help to make sure they're incredibly accurate.

On the other hand, Articulated robots are more versatile. Their robotic arms can do more than just pick up and place objects. Instead, their joints and degrees of freedom allow them to complete more complicated and intricate tasks.

Precision and range

Moreover, Pick-And-Place robots are designed for repetitive tasks with a focus on accuracy. They're better suited for environments where objects need to be lifted and placed regularly, while an Articulated robotic arm can be applied in a range of environments. This is because they have a better range of motion and much more flexibility that can be used for the automotive and electronic industries.

Degrees of freedom

As we've already mentioned, Articulated robotic arms have several joints (usually 6 or more) and DOF, much like the RO1 from Standard Bots. This allows them to mimic the movements of a human arm more accurately. This can be really beneficial in certain tasks where spatial orientation can be challenging.

In comparison, Pick-And-Place robots have a specific number of axes, ranging from 3 to 6, depending on the type you've implemented. The axis configuration is optimized for very specific tasks, which helps to ensure efficiency on the production floor.


Generally, Pick-And-Place robots are much easier to program since their tasks are usually repetitive and specific. Any necessary programming focuses on optimizing efficiency and accuracy for well-defined operations.

Articulated robotic arms may potentially need more sophisticated programming - especially in cases where they need to do several tasks or intricate movements. The complexity of this programming usually comes from the need to tweak multiple degrees of freedom.


Pick-And-Place robots are usually considered to be more cost-effective, since they're simpler and only focus on one task. This means that your initial investment and overall operational costs may be lower.

Articulated arms are slightly more expensive. This is mainly due to their more advanced capabilities and versatility in different sectors. However, because they have a broader range of applications, they may be able to give you a more favorable return on investment (ROI) over time.

With the RO1, that's exactly what you get - a great ROI. You also get a much cheaper robot that can outshine even some of the most expensive and high-quality bots on the market.

Additional features

Lastly, Pick-And-Place robots are designed with a smaller footprint, meaning they take up less space on your production floor. They also operate on their own, without the need for human intervention.

Conversely, Articulated robotic arms take up more space for their operations, which can be tricky in confined workspaces. Luckily, the RO1 is designed to be more compact than standard robotic arms, so it won't take up all the space in your workroom. Articulated arms also work alongside humans on collaborative tasks, which is fantastic when cooperation is important.

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Gantry/Cartesian Robots

Cartesian and Gantry bots are both types of linear systems. They work as alternatives to traditional Articulated robots with rotational movements. They both move in a straight line along a rail system and feature multiple axes that run perpendicular to one another, which creates a cubic or rectangular work envelope.

Although the terms 'Gantry' and 'Cartesian' are sometimes used interchangeably, they have slight differences in terms of their axis configuration, workload positioning, and the amount of distance they cover.

Cartesian robots

Cartesian bots can be configured with either 2 or 3 axes. Two-Axis versions of this robot may have an X, Y setup or an X, Z setup. On the other hand, Three-Axis versions include all 3 axes: X, Y, and Z.

The workload positioning for Cartesian bots is supported on one of the outer axes. In a Two-Axis bot, it's usually supported on the Y-axis, while it's supported on the Y or Z-axis in a Three-Axis version. Additionally, the payload capacity of these robots may be slightly limited, since they only use their outer axes for supporting workloads.

Generally, these robots are widely used for pick-and-place, assembly, and dispensing tasks. This is especially true for processes that require a traveling distance of around 3.3 feet (1 meter) or less.

Some of the advantages of Cartesian bots include easier programming, thanks to the simplified linear movements, and a well-defined work envelope, which makes it easy to utilize for safeguarding and part placement.

Gantry robots

Gantry bots consistently use all 3 axes in their grid system - X, Y, and Z. Unlike Cartesian configurations, Gantry robots use 2 X axes, and some systems may also use 2 Y or 2 Z axes. The workload placement for gantry bots is centralized within their footprint. This helps to overcome the payload capacity limitation of Cartesian bots.

These robots are ideal for applications that require a traveling distance of more than 3.3 feet (1 meter). This may include part transfers, palletizing, picking, machine loading, and assembly.

The advantages of gantry bots include:

  • A higher payload capacity
  • Longer reach capabilities
  • Centralized workload positioning

Articulated vs Gantry Bots

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty of the difference between Articulated robotic arms and gantry bots. There are several features and factors that set them apart, which have been outlined below.

Articulated robots

Articulated robotic arms are praised for their flexibility and can reproduce the same movements of a human arm with multiple joints. These robots are the perfect choice for tasks that go above and beyond the standard pick-and-place processes.


  • High degree of freedom: Articulated arms offer multiple joints, which gives you a wide range of movement options.
  • Versatility: They are well suited for complicated applications like welding, painting, and more intricate assembly processes.
  • Precision: Articulated robotic arms are capable of precise positioning, which makes them perfect for tasks that require high levels of accuracy.


  • Complex programming: Because of the several joints that make up these bots, their programming may need more skilled workers or be incredibly challenging.
  • Space requirements: If you have a smaller working environment, the size of these machines may leave you limited.

Gantry robots

Gantry or Linear robots follow a linear motion along a rail system (hence their name), which may make them more straightforward to use. While they can usually cover more ground than an articulated bot, they still have their drawbacks.


  • Easy programming: Since gantry bots are more straightforward and use simple linear movements, they're also easier to program. You may not even need a worker with a specialized skillset to program them.
  • Well-defined work envelope: Because the work envelope is more easily visualized, the planning and execution phases of your workflow naturally become more simple.
  • Efficiency: These bots are ideal for processes that need repetitive and precise linear movements.


  • Limited flexibility: Gantry bots may be less suitable for tasks that need more complex motions.
  • Smaller range of motion: Compared to Articulated robotic arms, the range of motion of these bots is much more limited.
  • Setup: Gantry bots need to be mounted to a ceiling gantry, which may limit smaller businesses that don't have the right setup for this machine.


Which type of robot is more common in manufacturing environments?

The decision between articulated bots and Pick-And-Place robots depends on the nature of the manufacturing tasks at hand. Pick-And-Place robots are invaluable in scenarios where you need to relocate objects with a good amount of precision. They usually thrive on assembly lines and during packaging and can help boost your efficiency in routine operations.

Meanwhile, articulated bots have arms that extend beyond standard tasks and can be more helpful in welding, painting, and intricate assembly processes.

How does the choice between these robots impact productivity in a manufacturing setting?

Generally, Pick-And-Place robots are champions when it comes to repetitive, high-speed tasks, which helps to enhance your operational efficiency where you need more precise manipulation. However, Articulated robot arms have a higher upfront cost but they have unparalleled versatility in handling more complicated operations. In turn, they can also boost the efficiency of your productivity.

At the end of the day, your choice depends on the type of processes you're using these bots for. They can both be incredibly helpful and improve your productivity on the production floor.

Final thoughts

As robots (and their applications) start to evolve, picking the right type of bot for your business is essential. No matter which bot you choose, it's important to pick one that suits your existing processes as well as your budget, available space, and nuanced factors.

With this guide, you'll be able to find the perfect addition for your production floor to help improve your productivity and streamline your business.

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