Top types of industrial robots: A comprehensive guide

October 4, 2023
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Understanding Industrial robotics

Industrial robots are machines designed to enhance production and efficiency. These robots are programmable, meaning they can be customized to do a wide range of tasks like assembly and moving materials.

These robots are great for making a company's machinery work better, saving money in the long run, and keeping workers safe. Industrial robots also excel at tasks that are repetitive and require high precision.

The different Industrial robot types

Many manufacturers turn to Industrial robots to simplify their processes, improve worker safety, ramp up production, and cut costs. As these robots become common on factory floors, there's a growing demand for various types of Industrial robots that fit specific jobs and industries.

Below are the most common Industrial robots you can find on the market, including their strengths, weaknesses, and applications.

1. Articulated robots

An Articulated robot is an Industrial robot that mimics the movement of a human arm. It consists of an arm attached to a base with a twisting joint. This arm can have anywhere from two to ten rotary joints, which are like pivot points.

These joints, or axes, allow the robot to move in different directions, similar to how our elbow, wrist, and shoulder joints work. Articulated robots mostly have either four or six axes, which provide them with a range of motion.

Articulated robots are known for their flexibility and ability to work at high speeds. They're often used in tasks like assembly, arc welding, material handling, machine tending, and packaging.


  • High speeds: Articulated robots can work at rapid speeds to enhance productivity.
  • Large work envelope: They cover a large working area while occupying minimal floor space.
  • Easier alignment: These robots can be aligned to multiple planes, making them versatile.


  • Complex programming: Due to their multiple joints, programming Articulated robots can be intricate.
  • Expensive: Due to their complex structure, Articulated robots are challenging and expensive to manufacture and operate.


  • Arc and spot welding
  • Material handling
  • Machine tending
  • Food packaging
  • Automotive assembly
  • Steel cutting
  • Foundry and forging applications

2. Cartesian robots

Cartesian robots, also known as linear or Gantry robots, are common types of Industrial robots. It operates by moving along three straight-line axes: X (side to side), Y (back and forth), and Z (up and down). Some versions can move up to six directions in total.

Cartesian robots often come with cameras and sensors to measure distances and identify objects.


  • Simple: Cartesian robots are easy to build, program, and use because they move along just the X, Y, and Z axes in a straight line.
  • Precise: Thanks to their straightforward design and operation, Cartesian robots can be controlled with great precision for jobs requiring extreme accuracy.
  • Cost-effective: Their uncomplicated structure and ability to do various tasks make them an affordable choice.


  • Lacks flexibility: Cartesian robots are designed for specific movements, making it challenging to adapt them to other tasks.
  • Takes up space: They require a lot of operating space compared to other Industrial robots.
  • Limited speed: They're not the fastest, so they aren't suitable for tasks that need to be done quickly.


  • Pick-and-place applications
  • 3D printing
  • Automation assembly applications
  • Microelectronics
  • Packaging and wrapping
  • CNC applications

3. Cylindrical robots

A cylindrical robot is an Industrial robot with a unique structure. At its base, it has a rotary joint. Connected to this is an arm with a prismatic joint, which means it can move up and down, sort of like a telescope. This design gives the robot three ways to move: two in straight lines and one in a circular path.

The circular part allows it to rotate its arm 360°. This allows the robot to do both circular and straight movements on a horizontal plane. It can also move up and down and rotate around the same axis.

Cylindrical robots are designed for static environments, meaning they can't move on their own. This static design makes them incredibly stable and rigid - great for carrying heavy loads.


  • High-load carrying capacity: Thanks to their powerful robot arms, they can easily handle heavy loads.
  • Fast and accurate: They're quite fast and precise when moving objects around on a flat surface.


  • Takes up space: They take up a large amount of floor space and don't offer many benefits, which makes them less popular compared to other robots.
  • Stationary: They can't move independently from one spot to another.
  • Limited range: These robots mainly work close to their base and don't have a wide up-and-down movement range.


  • Assembly operations
  • Heavy load handling
  • Painting and coating
  • Material handling
  • Welding line automation

4. Delta robots

A Delta robot is easy to spot because it looks like an upside-down triangle, with a mobile platform and three arms joined by spherical joints. Like the Cartesian robot, the arms of the Delta robot can move in three directions: side to side (X), back and forth (Y), and up and down (Z) - the latter of which they're especially good at.

Delta robots are flexible and cover a wide working area in a dome-like shape. They can handle delicate tasks with precision at high speeds. This is because all three arms directly control the end part.

You'll often find Delta robots in industries like food, pharmaceuticals, and electronics, where things need to be picked up and placed fast.


  • High speeds: Delta robots are popular for their ability to work quickly and efficiently.
  • Versatile and precise: They're designed to be incredibly precise and adaptable to different tasks.


  • Can't carry heavy loads: The lightweight parts of a Delta robot are not capable of handling heavy loads.
  • Stationary: Delta robots can't move independently from one spot to another.


  • Food and pharmaceutical handling and packaging
  • Product selection and sorting
  • Microelectronics
  • Microassembly
  • Micro welding
  • Printing and painting

5. SCARA robots

A Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm (SCARA robot), is an Industrial robot that finds its use in multiple industrial applications. These robots have articulated arms and rotating joints on horizontal axes.

It excels at performing fast and precise movements on a horizontal plane. It can also work vertically, although with some limitations.

SCARA robots are particularly well-suited for pick-and-place tasks for light and moderate loads. You'll find these robots performing a variety of tasks in the medical industry.


  • Incredibly precise: Among Articulated robots, SCARA robots offer the best positioning precision, making them great for tasks requiring pinpoint accuracy.
  • Compact and can be easily moved: They can be easily mounted on a surface, taking up minimal space.
  • High speeds: SCARA robots are stable and firmly anchored, allowing them to handle loads at higher speeds.


  • Limited load capacity: These robots are designed for light to moderate loads, making them unsuitable for heavy objects.
  • Limited vertical movement: They don't have much movement in vertical directions.
  • Complex: Configuring these robots for different tasks can be complicated.


  • Pick-and-place operations
  • Electronics assembly
  • Dispensing
  • 3D printing
  • Machine tending
  • Material handling

6. Polar robots

Polar robots, often referred to as spherical robots, are among the most versatile Industrial machines available. They're used not only on production lines but also in research and development fields, such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and biomechanics.

These robots have a fixed base and offer three degrees of freedom, enabling movement along the X, Y, and Z axes. Additionally, they feature an extendable articulated arm that provides flexibility in reaching and maneuvering.


  • Strong load-carrying capacity: Thanks to their powerful joints, Polar robots can easily handle heavy loads and objects.
  • Versatile: They excel in three-dimensional movements. This versatility makes them suitable for tasks in tight spaces and even at inclined angles.


  • Large footprint: Their design doesn't make the best use of available workspace.
  • Complex construction: Due to their multiple joints, spherical robots can be intricate to design and maintain.
  • Expensive: The complexity of their design can lead to higher upfront and maintenance costs.


  • Assembly applications
  • Casting and material handling
  • Prototyping
  • Research and development
  • Biomechanics
  • Underwater and space exploration

7. Collaborative robots

Collaborative robots, often called Cobots, are a type of Industrial robot that shares its workspace with humans. Unlike traditional robots, Cobots are designed to prioritize worker safety.

Cobots use sensors to keep an eye on what's happening around them, especially when humans are nearby. They use advanced force, proximity, and vision sensors to detect and respond to human presence.


  • Enhances worker safety: Collaborative robots are designed to work safely alongside human workers, with soft exteriors and sensors to prevent injuries.
  • User-friendly: They feature intuitive human-machine interfaces that feel natural to work with.
  • Adaptive and flexible: Cobots are incredibly versatile and can be programmed to do a variety of different tasks.


  • Limited speed: Although they could work faster, Cobots often work at slower speeds to ensure safety.
  • Expensive: Their advanced safety features make them more costly than other types of Industrial robots that don't work near humans.


  • Assembly applications
  • Inspection and quality control
  • Material handling
  • Pick-and-place operations
  • Welding and soldering
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Which type of Industrial robot is most commonly used?

The most commonly used type of Industrial robot is the Cartesian robot, which is often used in CNC machines and 3D printing. Articulated robots are also commonly used, particularly in manufacturing and the automotive industry.

What determines the different types of Industrial robots?

The different types of Industrial robots are determined by several factors, but mainly their speed, size, and workspace. They are also determined by the arrangement of their arms; the number and configuration of these components define the type of Industrial robot.


When it comes to mechanical design, Industrial robots can be sorted into six main categories: Articulated robots, Cartesian robots, SCARA robots, Cylindrical robots, Delta robots, and Polar robots. As the world rapidly moves toward Industrial robotics, understanding the various types of Industrial robots is key. These robots, designed for use across multiple industries, can significantly help businesses in enhancing productivity, reducing costs, and prioritizing worker safety. In fact, they already have!

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