Machine tending and machining robotics: What you need to know

August 31, 2023
Standard Bots robot visualizer

Defining Industrial Machining vs. Machine Tending robots

Industrial Machining robots and Machine Tending robots may sound similar, but they actually serve two very different purposes.

Industrial Machining robots are designed to do the actual cutting, grinding, and shaping of materials. These robots manipulate tools like milling cutters, grinders, and welding torches to physically alter parts. They require high precision and dexterity to complete complex tasks. The upfront costs for these robots are significant, but they can achieve major cost savings through increased productivity and reduced waste over time.

On the other hand, Machine Tending robots are built to load, unload, and transfer parts between machines in an automated production line. Their job is to move materials and parts to the right place at the right time so that the actual machining and assembly equipment can do their jobs efficiently. These robots typically have a lower upfront cost and require existing equipment such as a CNC mill or lathe.

To utilize either type of robot, you'll need a properly designed work cell, the right end-of-arm tooling like grippers, and software to program the robot's movements. You'll also want to consider factors like payload capacity, reach, degrees of freedom, and integration requirements with your existing equipment.

While Industrial Machining and Machine Tending robots have distinct strengths, for some operations a combination of both types may provide the optimal solution. By understanding how these advanced automation technologies can meet the unique needs of your production, you'll be equipped to make choices that maximize efficiency and return on investment.

Key differences: Precision, programming, and cost

Industrial Machining robots and Machine Tending robots may seem similar, but there are some key differences to consider before investing in either.


Industrial Machining robots are designed for high-precision work like welding, grinding, and polishing. Precision denotes the robot’s capacity to execute movements and attain positions with utmost accuracy. Optimal speed and precision are particularly advantageous for tasks characterized by high volume and repetition, demanding meticulous positioning. In the realm of robotics, this attribute is commonly termed as “repeatability”. On the other hand, slower and comparatively less precise robots might be more suitable for straightforward tasks such as machine loading or unloading. 


Industrial Machining robots tend to need skilled programmers to operate. Programming these robots to perform complex tasks can take many hours. Contemplate the level of programming simplicity and integration feasibility for the robot within your operational framework. For a high-mix machine shop operating with a diverse range of products, seek out an interface that is user-friendly and intuitive, featuring pre-programmed functions designed for frequent activities such as pick-and-place operations which are commonly seen in machine tending.


The cost of robots exhibits a broad spectrum depending on their specification. Entry-level robots can be acquired from $5/hour, whereas sophisticated high-payload robot setups, equipped with advanced programming functionalities and supplementary elements like conveyors or vision systems, might surpass $500,000, or even exceed it. It’s crucial to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the overall ownership expenses, encompassing programming, installation, and upkeep. In certain cases, a higher initial investment can translate into substantial long-term gains in efficiency and productivity throughout the robot’s operations lifespan.

Choosing the right robot for your factory

Once you’ve decided to automate your factory, the next step is determining which type of robot is right for you. Do you need an Industrial Machining robot to handle hazardous or repetitive tasks like welding, painting or assembly? Or would a machine-tending robot that can load, unload, and monitor your existing equipment suit your needs better?

Industrial Machining robots

These robots are designed to take over dangerous, tedious jobs in manufacturing environments. They can perform tasks in a wide range of applications, including:

You'll need a robot arm and an appropriate end-effector — or end-of-arm tooling — such as a welding torch or paint sprayer. While the upfront costs of these robots and end-effectors are high, over time they can significantly reduce operating expenses through increased productivity and improved quality.

Considerations and components for machining robots

Industrial Machining robots are versatile automated arms capable of executing an array of high-precision tasks, including welding, painting, and assembly. To function effectively, they encompass the following key components.

  • High-precision parts such as actuators, encoders, and servo motors are crucial for achieving precise positioning and guidance of the robot. These components ensure that the robot’s movements are accurate and consistent. 
  • Robust construction such as a sturdy arm and base is essential to endure the forces generated during machining operations. These arms serve as the core manipulative element, granting the robot mobility and dexterity. In industrial applications, robotic arms typically possess five or six axes of rotation, providing the flexibility needed to navigate intricate spaces and reach challenging angles.
  • Specialized end-effectors or “end mills” are vital for securely holding cutting tools required for diverse tasks such as milling, grinding, polishing or laser cutting. The compatibility and effectiveness of these end-effectors greatly influence robotic machining capabilities.
  • Advanced software and programming to precisely control the robot’s intricate movements. These programs guide the robot through precise paths, ensuring efficient and accurate machining processes.
  • Safety measures: The incorporation of safety measures is essential to ensure the well-being of workers. Protective features such as fences, cages, and sensors safeguard personnel from potential hazards posed by the moving components of Industrial robots.

    In scenarios involving close human-robot interaction, Collaborative robots frequently emerge as the favored option. Their inherent collision detection capabilities play a pivotal role in augmenting safety.

The main benefits of Industrial Machining robots are increased productivity, improved quality, and improved worker safety. The drawbacks are the high upfront investment and the need to train employees on how to program and operate it.

Standard Bots routine editor

Considerations and components for Machine Tending robots 

Machine Tending robots are meticulously designed to seamlessly automate the loading and unloading processes of various machines, including injection molding machines, and stamping presses. To proficiently carry out these tasks, they call for the consideration of several crucial components:

  • Robotic arms: A machine tending arm, equipped with four or five axes of rotation, is engineered to manipulate parts with precision. The arm’s range and dexterity are critical, enabling it to effectively navigate and access the entire workspace of the machine under its care.
  • End-effectors: Machine Tending tasks demand specific end-effectors tailored to the parts in question. These could include straightforward grippers, versatile suction cups, or specialized part manipulators. The end-effector’s ability to securely grip and manipulate the produced parts is pivotal to the robot’s success. For larger components, opting for a robot with an elevated payload capacity becomes imperative. This ensures that the robot can adeptly handle both the mass of the parts and the accompanying end-effector.
  • Vision system: A vision system assumes a paramount role in enhancing the robot’s capabilities. By facilitating the identification, orientation, and precise locating of parts, the vision system empowers the robot to execute its tasks with impeccable accuracy. 
  • Safety equipment: Similar to Industrial Machining robots, Machine Tending robots require stringent safety measures. Physical barriers and sensors must be thoughtfully deployed to create a secure environment, effectively separating human workers from the robot’s moving components.

    Where human-robot interactions occur in close quarters, Collaborative robots often emerge as the preferred choice. Their built-in collision detection capabilities become a defining advantage, markedly bolstering safety levels when humans and robots interact closely. 
  • Streamlined programming: Machine Tending robots typically require minimal programming to execute simple tasks such as picking up, transporting, and placing parts. This streamlined programming approach ensures quick and efficient setup.
  • Sensor integration and software: Incorporating a variety of sensors is crucial for several functions, including part detection, collision avoidance, and accurate tracking of component locations within the workspace.

In summary, while Industrial Machining robots and Machine Tending robots have some similarities, there are key differences in their components, applications, and benefits that factory owners need to consider when choosing a solution. Evaluating the specific tasks required and potential return on investment can help determine which type of robot is the best fit. 

Industrial Machine Tending robots

Machine Tending robots are used to automate the loading and unloading of materials for other equipment like CNC machines, stamping presses or injection molding machines. Their responsibilities include:

  • Loading raw materials and parts
  • Removing finished pieces
  • Monitoring equipment and alerting human operators if there are any issues

These robots require a robot arm, gripper tooling to grasp parts, vision systems to identify materials, and safety mechanisms to ensure no one enters the robot cell during operation. 

Further reading on types of Industrial robots, applications, costs, and implementation can be found on our resources page. Evaluating your specific needs and working with robotics experts is the best way to determine which robot is the optimal choice for your factory.

Next steps

Now you've got a better understanding of Industrial Machining robots versus machine tending robots. If high precision and minimal errors are a must, machining robots are probably your best bet. But if you're looking to reduce costs and increase efficiency for more basic tasks, machine tenders can get the job done for a fraction of the price. Either way, by automating some of your operations you'll gain huge benefits like improved productivity, higher quality, and a safer work environment. 

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

  • Affordable: RO1 is the most affordable robotic arm in its class, starting at almost half the price of incumbent competitors.
  • Powerful: RO1 is faster and more precise than competitors, despite having the highest payload capacity in its class at 18 kg.
  • 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.

Standard Bots equipment manager
Standard Bots camera vision
Press contacts