Industrial drilling robot: Everything factory owners need to know

August 17, 2023
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What are Industrial Drilling robots?

Industrial Drilling robots are automated robots that can handle drilling tasks with precision and speed. These robots use end-effectors such as drill chucks or drill heads to bore holes in materials.

The robot arm moves to the exact position required, activates the end-effector — the end-of-arm tooling — to start drilling, and then moves on to the next hole. Some can handle multiple drill bits for different-sized holes or drill types like twist drills, spade drills or center drills. 

Interchangeable drill chucks, spindles and entire drill units attach to the robot arm and provide the drilling mechanism. They need to be balanced, securely attached and able to handle the forces required for the job.

When it comes to types of drilling, robots can do everything from simple pilot holes to complex patterns. They excel at repetitive tasks like drilling in lines, grids or circles. And they can drill materials from wood and plastic to steel, aluminum and beyond.

Major manufacturers of Industrial Drilling robots include FANUC, ABB, KUKA, and Standards Bots. They offer a range of robots in various sizes, payload capacities, and price points. 

Types of Drilling robots and their capabilities

Industrial Drilling robots can take over tedious, repetitive drilling tasks, freeing up your human workers for more complex jobs. There are a few types of Drilling robots to consider:

  • SCARA robots: Leveraging their articulated arm motion, SCARA (Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm) robots prove to be optimal for rapid and repetitive drilling assignments. They offer greater agility compared to Cartesian robots; however, their range of motion is usually limited, rendering them suitable primarily for compact components. 
  • Articulated robots: Equipped with numerous rotary joints, Articulated robots excel in managing intricate drilling tasks of utmost complexity. Their extensive range of motion facilitates drilling in challenging locations. Nonetheless, Articulated robots usually demand more sophisticated programming and often come with elevated costs. They are ideally suited for accommodating diverse end-effectors engaged in grinding, ascending, buffing, and drilling activities. 
  • Cartesian robots: Cartesian, also known as Gantry robots, navigate along three linear axes (X, Y, Z), offering a straightforward yet adaptable functionality. These robots are affixed to elevated rails, enabling them to traverse in various directions. Cartesian robots seamlessly fulfill tasks such as drilling vast parts or multiple parts across a cell floor.
  • Collaborative robots: In situations involving close interaction with humans, Collaborative robots (Cobots) are frequently the preferred option due to their inherent collision detection features. This preference is driven by the desire to enhance overall safety during human-robot interactions. Cobots are available in various forms such as Cartesian, Six-Axis, and SCARA.

In terms of drilling capabilities, robots can handle tasks like spot drilling, through drilling, and tapping or thread cutting. Implementing Drilling robots may require an upfront investment, but the long-term benefits to productivity and safety can make it worthwhile for many factory owners. 

Essential end-effectors for Drilling robots

To effectively drill materials, Drilling robots require specialized end-effectors that are tailored to the task. The end-effector is the component at the end of the arm that interacts with the environment. For drilling, the two most common types are drill chucks and drill spindles.

Drill chucks

Drill chucks, also called drill holders, grip and rotate standard drill bits. They come in a range of sizes to accommodate different bit diameters. Pneumatic, which requires compressed air, or electric drill chucks provide the rotational force and torque for drilling. Drill chucks are simple, inexpensive and versatile since they can use any standard drill bit. However, for high-volume production, drill chucks may require frequent bit changes which reduces productivity.

Drill spindles

Drill spindles are motorized attachments designed specifically for drilling. They have an internal spindle that rotates a precision drill bit at high speeds. Drill spindles provide more power, control, and precision than a standard drill chuck. However, they require specialized drill bits and collets to fit the spindle. Drill spindles allow for faster drilling cycles since bits do not need to be changed as frequently. They are ideal for high-production environments where precision and speed are priorities.

Some other considerations when selecting an end-effector are:

  • Drill bit diameter and depth of holes - Choose an end-effector that can generate enough force and torque for your drilling needs.
  • Cost - Drill spindles are more expensive, complex options compared to the simple drill chuck. Consider your budget and needs.
  • Maintenance - More complex drill spindles have additional parts like bearings that require regular maintenance. Drill chucks are typically lower maintenance pieces.
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Key considerations when implementing Drilling robots

When implementing Drilling robots in your factory, several important factors need consideration. These advanced machines can streamline your drilling processes, but only if they are set up properly. 

Some key things to consider are: What materials will the robot be drilling? How precise and repetitive are the movements? What drilling speeds and depths do you need? Answering questions like these will help determine the robot model, end-effectors, and drilling heads that will work best in your application.


Acquiring a Drilling robot requires a significant initial investment, with costs spanning from $30,000 to over $500,000 for intricate, sizable setups. It’s crucial to take into account not only the initial outlay but also the continuing operational expenses encompassing maintenance, repairs, and utilities. Although robot drilling systems might entail higher upfront expenditures compared to manual drilling methods, their potential for enhanced productivity and material savings can yield long-term financial benefits.

Space requirements

Drilling robots take up space on your factory floor. They need adequate room to reach the parts they are drilling so space will be needed for part piles or conveyors. Carefully consider where you will place the robot before purchasing to ensure you have adequate square footage. For instance, Articulated arms require flexibility to navigate intricate drilling environments, whereas Cartesian robots excel in covering expansive areas and can move directly to specific locations when guided by suitable tracks. The area will also need to be accessible for technicians to service and maintain the equipment.


Proper safeguarding like protective fencing, light curtains, and emergency stops are essential. Your employees will need training on how to safely operate and work around the equipment. In situations involving proximity to humans, Collaborative robots are often preferred due to their built-in collision detection capabilities. These capabilities play a pivotal role in significantly enhancing safety during interactions between humans and robots.


Examine the range of control and programming choices offered by the Drilling robots under your consideration. Robots with user-friendly programming will feature intuitive touchscreen interfaces, potentially obviating the need for extensive robotics expertise. Certain options even provide CAD/CAM programming based on your digital workpiece designs. 

With some upfront investment and planning, Drilling robots can transform your factory drilling processes. Keep these key factors in mind to help ensure a successful robot implementation.

Top manufacturers of Industrial Drilling robots

When it comes to Industrial Drilling robots, several top manufacturers lead the way. These companies are innovating new robotics technologies and producing high-quality, durable Drilling robots for factory automation.


FANUC is a Japanese robotics company and one of the world’s largest manufacturers of Industrial robots, including Drilling robots. Their Drilling robots, like the M-710iC/50, feature high accuracy and speed, with a flexible arm that can handle a variety of drilling positions and angles. FANUC robots are a popular, trusted choice for many manufacturers.


KUKA is a German robotics enterprise that produces a range of Industrial Drilling robots, including their KR 60 HA and KR 120 R3900 ultra K robots. These robots are known for fast, precise drilling and high reliability. KUKA also offers helpful resources for implementing robotics, such as their "Smart Manufacturing" program. They have experience helping manufacturers in the aerospace and automotive industries.


ABB is a leading Swiss robotics corporation and supplier of Industrial robots, including models designed specifically for drilling applications like the IRB 6700 family. Their robots feature high accuracy, flexibility, and intuitive programming to easily integrate into existing production lines. ABB also provides support to help manufacturers implement an effective robotics automation strategy. They work with companies in industries ranging from automotive to electronics to help improve productivity and quality.

Standard Bots

Standard Bots is a robotics manufacturer based in the United States and is a prominent player in the robotics manufacturing sector. Their RO1 Six-Axis robot stands out for its remarkable versatility, seamlessly integrating into a multitude of applications. Noteworthy attributes of the company encompass competitive pricing, advanced no-code programming, and exceptional precision. 

Next steps

While the initial investment may seem steep, the long-term benefits to productivity, quality, and worker safety are huge. Do your research, understand your needs, and find the right robot and end-effector combination for your particular manufacturing process. Get help from the experts if you need it. Before you know it, you'll have an automated drilling system up and running that will transform how you make your products.

Interested in bringing a drilling robot to your own business? RO1 by Standard Bots is a great choice for machine shops large and small:

  1. Affordable: RO1 is the most affordable robotic arm in its class, starting at almost half the price of incumbent competitors. 
  2. Powerful: RO1 is faster and more precise than competitors, despite having the highest payload capacity in its class at 18 kg.
  3. Integrated: RO1 comes equipped with built-in relays to control almost any machine on the market, including plug-and-play support for Haas CNC milling machines.

Speak to our solutions team today to organize a free, 30-day onsite trial and get expert advice on everything you need to deploy your first robot.

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