Choosing the right Industrial Polishing, Sanding, Deburring, and Grinding robot for your specific needs

August 17, 2023
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Can one robot perform all these functions? 

While industrial Polishing, Sanding, Deburring and Grinding robots are designed for specific purposes, some models are versatile enough to handle multiple functions. The key is to determine which tasks are most important for your factory’s needs.

Polishing and Sanding

These robots require specialized end-effectors and abrasives to buff, sand, and smooth surfaces. They can handle flat or contoured parts and a range of materials from metal to wood to plastic. If polishing and sanding are your primary needs, focus on robots designed specifically for these purposes. 


Deburring robots remove rough edges, flashes, slag, and excess material from parts. They require end-effectors with grinding wheels, brushes, and abrasive tools. While some Deburring robots can handle basic polishing or sanding, their main function is edge finishing. For factories with many Deburring needs, a dedicated deburring robot may be the best choice.


Grinding robots shape and finish parts through abrasion. They require diamond grinders, abrasive disks, and other abrasive end-effectors. Grinding robots are ideal for applications like die grinding, surface grinding, and chamfering. They can be more versatile, also handling some deburring, sanding, and polishing tasks. However, for high-precision grinding, a dedicated Grinding robot may produce better results.

Some Industrial robot manufacturers like FANUC, ABB, KUKA, and Standard Bots offer models that can switch between multiple end-effectors, allowing a single robot to perform several functions. However, there are pros and cons to this approach. While a single, flexible robot may reduce costs, it may not achieve the same level of precision and quality as a robot focused on a single purpose. For the best results, evaluate your factory’s specific needs and priorities. 

Throughout this guide, we will delve into the essential techniques of polishing, sanding, deburring, and grinding. These procedures play a crucial role in refining the surface of metals, resulting in smoother finishes and improved functionality.

Industrial Polishing robots and end-effectors

Industrial Polishing robots use specialized end-effectors, or end-of-arm tooling, to buff, shine and smooth surfaces. 

OnRobot Sander, stands out as one of the most versatile options, proficiently handling polishing, sanding, and deburring applications. This remarkable end-effector is equipped with a grit-changer, enabling your robot to seamlessly switch abrasives during your operation. Although incorporating these features adds some weight, they significantly reduce the necessity for frequent operator intervention.  

The selection of polishing media, pads, and abrasives is contingent upon the material and desired final surface finish. When opting for a Polishing robot, it is crucial to take into account the material’s hardness, as well as the robot’s power and torque requirements. While the majority of robots are electrically powered, in cases involving exceedingly large or robust materials, it might be prudent to consider an end-effector with pneumatic or hydraulic actuation.

Industrial Sanding robots and end-effectors 

Industrial Sanding robots use sanding end-effectors to smooth and finish surfaces. The most common types are disk sanders, belt sanders, and random orbit sanders.

To get started, you’ll need to determine which type of end-effector, or “sanding tool”, will work best for your needs. The two most common options are abrasive belts/disks and sanding pads.

  • Abrasive belts and disks excel at sanding large, flat surfaces offering remarkable efficiency for high-volume sanding tasks. Certain sanding end-effectors are equipped with a grit-changer, reducing the necessity for manual abrasive changes by your team.
  • Sanding pads are ideal for contoured and irregular surfaces. Made of flexible, abrasive material, they easily conform to diverse shapes and are especially compatible with Articulated robots. To ensure even pressure during sanding, a force sensor is essential in this setup.

Other considerations when choosing an end-effector include:

  • Actuation: Electrically-actuated end-effectors offer precise control over a robot’s movements and actions. In situations involving hazardous environments, a pneumatic-actuated end-effector is a more suitable option. When using this end-effector, it’s essential to have a reliable source of compressed air readily available and properly attached to the end-effector for a seamless operation.
  • Durability: More durable end-effectors mean less downtime for changes and less waste.
  • Ease of changeover: Quick-change mechanisms minimize downtime when switching abrasives.

An Industrial Sanding robot can save time, improve quality, and reduce health hazards, making it a wise investment for any factory focused on efficiency and productivity. When choosing a Sanding robot a specific item to consider is:

The types of surfaces and finishes you’ll be sanding: Robots vary in their sanding capabilities with some excelling in broad sanding over large, flat surfaces, while others are tailored for edge, contour, or detailed sanding in confined spaces. When choosing a robot for sanding tasks, it is essential to take into account factors such as speed, load, capacity, and reach. Robots capable of handling rough surface removal at high speeds will have distinct requirements compared to those needed for the precise and delicate finishing of intricate parts.

Industrial Deburring robots and end-effectors 

Industrial Deburring robots require specialized end-effectors and tools to remove excess material and smooth edges. The most common types of end-effectors are grinding, buffing, and lapping.

  • Grinding is best for a robot with a heavy payload or strong mechanical force output. It’s good for removing excess weld material, edge breaking, and heavy stock removal.
  • Buffing is ideal for a robot with a circular range of motion, such as a SCARA or Six-Axis.
  • Lapping provides a precise level of repeatability and surface finishing for close tolerances. It’s best for planarity, parallelism, and achieving a specific surface roughness.

Consider the types of materials and part geometries you need to process when choosing a deburring end-effector. When choosing a Deburring robot a specific item to consider is:

The type of surfaces and finishes you’ll be deburring: Robots specifically designed for heavy deburring and surface finishing might not be the most suitable choice for high-precision polishing. It is crucial to ascertain the required level of precision and finish quality for your specific application to make an informed decision about the most appropriate robot that aligns with your needs.

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Industrial Grinding robots and end-effectors

Industrial grinding robots require specific end-effectors, abrasives, and tooling and have unique considerations compared to other types of Industrial robots. The end-effector is mounted to the robot's wrist or arm. The most common types of end-effectors are abrasive and vacuum tooling.

  • Abrasive tooling is connected via a spindle or sanding pad, offering significant control over the grinding process. However, precision is crucial to prevent any damage to the part. This type of tooling, including grinding wheels and sanding discs, is employed for physically grinding, sanding, buffing, and polishing materials.
  • Vacuum tooling can efficiently catch debris during the process and can be attached to the end-effector. It is important to note that if you opt to attach a vacuum or other suction device, it will contribute to the overall payload capacity of your robot.

To perform grinding tasks, Industrial robots need grinding wheels or disks as end-effectors. These wheels come in a variety of grits, sizes, and bonding agents depending on the material being ground. When choosing a Grinding robot a specific item to consider is:

Grinding requirements: The capabilities of grinding robots are contingent upon the robot model and the end-effector tooling used. These versatile robots can effectively perform surface grinding, die grinding, deburring, polishing, and chamfering tasks. Moreover, many of these robots are adept at executing high-precision work on intricate parts, thereby ensuring the safety of employees by keeping them away from hazardous situations.

Grinding requires the highest degree of precision and control.  When choosing a Grinding robot, consider the types of materials and part geometries, production volume, available floor space, precision, and finish requirements. 

Key considerations 

  • Payload capacity: Ensuring the robot’s payload capacity is a crucial consideration. The robot must be capable of handling the weight of the attached end-effector or any additional accessories. If you plan to incorporate a vacuum or suction device to capture debris, it is essential to take into account that this tool will also contribute to the overall payload capacity of your robot.
  • Reach and range of motion: The robot’s arm must be able to access all areas of the part. More complex parts may require a robot with a longer reach and greater flexibility. Robots with Six-Axis of motion provide the most flexibility to polish intricate shapes.
  • Cost: Prices range from $30,000 up to $500,000 or more for large, complex systems. The initial investment depends on the robot model, tooling, and any required safety mechanisms.
  • Programming and control: Modern robots are designed to be easy to program for basic tasks. You can get started with simple, no-code programming software and basic training. For more complex jobs, you may need an experienced robot programmer.
  • Safety: Certain robotic processes generate fine particles and debris, necessitating appropriate ventilation, filtration, and protective equipment to safeguard nearby operators. Conducting a thorough risk assessment is essential to identifying potential hazards and implementing necessary safety measures, such as protective barriers, emergency stops, and comprehensive operator training. When operating in proximity to humans a Collaborative robot is often the preferred choice due to its built-in collision detection, enhancing overall safety during human-robot interactions.

Major manufacturers of robots


ABB is a leading Swiss robotics company and a major manufacturer of Industrial robots. ABB robots are used for metal finishing across many industries like automotive, aerospace, medical equipment, and consumer electronics. Their IRB series includes compact robots ideal for small parts grinding and polishing. For large-scale grinding, their bigger IRB 6700 and YuMi models are good options. ABB robots are known for precision, speed, and reliability.


FANUC is a large Japanese robotics company. Their robots are used in the automotive, aerospace, medical, and other industries. Some of their most advanced Industrial robots include their R-2000iC series and their M-20iA collaborative robots that can work alongside humans for small grinding parts. These robots are fast, accurate and available in a range of sizes for any workload. 


KUKA is a German robotics company that makes innovative Industrial robots. KUKAs Polishing robots are known for their precision and durability, mainly in the automotive sector where their huge-capacity robots are most useful. For large castings and heavy workloads, their KR 1000 Titan and KR 3000 Titan models are ideal. KUKA robots are powerful, durable, and provide high performance for demanding tasks.

Standard Bots

Standard Bots is a renowned US-based robotics manufacturer and offers a wide range of innovative products. Their RO1 Six-Axis robot stands out as a versatile solution suitable for a wide array of applications. The company is recognized for its competitive pricing, cutting-edge programing capabilities, and advanced vision systems. Notably, their robots are designed with plug-and-play capability seamlessly integrating with OnRobot end-effectors This makes them an excellent option for high-mix shops and cost-effective deployment. 

Next steps

So there you have it, a quick education on industrial Polishing, Sanding, Deburring, and Grinding robots. While each robot serves a different purpose, together they can transform your factory operations by handling tedious, repetitive tasks with speed and precision. The key is finding the right robot for your needs and budget. 

If you invest in the right robot, you'll gain an automated worker that requires minimal maintenance, increases productivity, and allows your human employees to focus on more engaging work. 

Interested in bringing an Industrial 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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