Pick and Place automation: How it works + how to get started

January 24, 2024
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What is Pick and Place automation?

Pick and Place automation refers to using robots and automated equipment to pick up and move objects. Easy, right?

These systems are now used commonly on assembly lines and in manufacturing to handle tasks like selecting parts, orienting them, and placing them in the correct position.

Why automate your Pick and Place operation?

If you run a manufacturing facility, automating your Pick and Place processes should be priority #1.

Here are some simple reasons why: 

  • Save time. Pick and Place robots can work 24/7 with zero breaks, completing tasks in a fraction of the time it would take humans. This lets people be people and focus on high-level tasks.
  • Cut costs. Automating repetitive tasks reduces or outright eliminates the need for additional staffing to handle increased production. Plus, it also lowers the risk of tragic workplace injuries and errors that could halt operations.
  • Boost quality. Robots provide consistent, precise placement and picking. They don't get tired, distracted by life situations, or absent-minded, so they handle each part with care and accuracy.
  • Scale up easily. As your production needs increase, simply reprogramming your robots allows them to work faster and handle higher volumes. There's no need to go through the hiring and training process for new employees.
  • Stay competitive. If your competitors have already automated their facilities, you need to as well to keep up with their lower costs, higher production rates, and ability to fulfill large orders. We’ll say it straight out: automation is becoming essential.

How can you automate your machine shop?

Thankfully, automating your pick-and-place operations is easier than ever before. 

Of course, some methods will be easier to integrate, and others will require a significant overhaul of your shop floor. 

In broad strokes, here are your options: 

  • CNC machines: From lathes and mills to routers and grinders, CNC executes pre-programmed tasks precisely, giving a boost to accuracy, consistency, and output.
  • Industrial robots & Collaborative robots (Cobots): These bots take care of repetitive tasks like material handling, loading/unloading machines, and even performing basic machining operations. 
  • Automated material handling systems: Conveyor belts, robotic arms, and automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) can significantly streamline material flow.
  • Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES): These software platforms are essentially the brains of the operation, integrating data from various machines, sensors, and personnel to optimize production flow, track progress, and identify bottlenecks.

How can robots help with Pick and Place automation?

There are a few options to choose from, depending on your needs and budget.

First up are Cartesian Robots. These are the classic Three-Axis robots that move along X, Y, and Z axes. 

They're all about precise, linear movement, which is why you'll often find them in assembly tasks where accuracy is essential. They're fast and can cover long distances, even with heavy stuff, but their movement is strictly in straight lines.

Then there’s the Delta Robots. They have a spider-like appearance, with parallelogram-shaped arms, but they’re super quick and accurate, covering a work area between 500 to 1500mm. 

They're fantastic for moving objects with precision without missing a beat. The catch is their complex design, which often means higher costs and more involved integration processes. 

Also, technology is catching up, making Delta robots faster and more efficient.

SCARA Robots stand for “Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm.” These have a Four-Axis design. Their large work envelope is a big plus, allowing them to reach around obstacles. 

The first two joints move for extension, retraction, and rotation, while the last two mimic a wrist motion. These robots excel at high-speed assembly and Pick and Place tasks that need a wider motion range.

Lastly, the real winners, Six-Axis Robots. These are the cutting-edge, the créme de la créme of Pick and Place robotics. 

With "6DOF" standing for Six Degrees Of Freedom, these multi-joint arms can twist and turn in 360 degrees, grabbing objects from almost any position. 

They're perfect for complex assembly, packaging, CNC machine tending, and loading/unloading tasks, especially when the items are in tricky positions or orientations. 

The downside? They're usually slower and pricier, but the industry is evolving, and faster models are coming up in extremely competitive price ranges.

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Pick and Place robots: Things to keep in mind before you buy

There are several things to keep in mind before you set out to decide to go ahead with automating your production. Since these factors will affect your decision-making, think thoroughly about your specific needs before you go ahead. 

These factors are: 

It can get pricey

Automating your Pick and Place operation requires an initial investment, so you’ll want to evaluate the total cost of ownership. Most robots will vary between $2,000 to $100,000+. 

Smaller Cobots tend to have lower upfront costs compared to larger Industrial robots. Some, like Standard Bots’ RO1, even have lease models for as low as $5/Hr. 

Industrial robots, on the other hand, tend to have extremely specialized specs (like higher payloads). But, that comes with a much, much heftier price tag. 

Assess your needs before you buy! 

Speed and throughput are extremely important

How quickly do you need to Pick and Place items? If you have a high-volume operation, a fast Pick and Place robot will help you keep cycle times short.

Also, Six-Axis articulated arm robots and Delta robots can offer extremely flexible robots. These Cobots are excellent when you have lower-volume operations or need more intricate picking.

However, Industrial robots typically have a higher payload capacity and speed, which may be what you need if you have a larger operation or one requiring robots to carry massive weights fast.

Where will work be taking place? 

Have a clear picture of the environment where your Pick and Place robot will operate. 

Industrial robots tend to be well-suited for harsh or hazardous environments, while Cobots robots are ideal for shared workspaces with human workers. 

How strong is your bot?

We’re not asking how much it can bench, no. 

The maximum weight a Pick and Place robot can lift, known as its payload capacity, is an important factor to consider based on the weights of parts or products in your operation. 

Payload capacities range from a few kg. for small, simple robots up to hundreds of kg. for heavy-duty industrial Pick and Place robots.


How complex is your operation when it comes to Pick and Place tasks? 

More advanced Cobots will offer increased flexibility, dexterity, and re-programming options for intricate, varied automation. 

Conversely, simple Pick and Place operations can most likely require a more basic robot. Think about the level of customization you need for your specific application.

Our top 3 Pick and Place robot picks

The market is saturated with choices right now, and not all of them are made equal. But we’ve got the three main contenders for you, and we’re not shy to tell you about them.

They are: 

The FANUC M-710iC/50 is a fast, agile robot that can handle up to 50 kilograms. Its slim arm can access tight spaces, with six axes of motion for maximum flexibility. 

The M-710iC/50 is user-friendly, easy to program and integrates seamlessly with conveyor systems and machine tools. If you need speed and precision, this robot is a great choice, if you’ve got the $40,000 - $70,000 different versions will cost you.

Then we’ve got the ABB IRB 6640, a true workhorse with the strength to match. With a whopping payload of up to 235 kg, this Industrial robot features a sturdy arm with a long reach, making it suitable for a wide range of Pick and lace applications. 

The IRB 6640 is known for high reliability, precision, and energy efficiency. It does come with a higher price tag, $50,000 to $90,000 for the 235 kg version, and $30,000 to $50,000 for a 130 kg version that still needs to add a few plates to its deadlift. 

But the true cost-effective beast is Standard Bots’ RO1. Starting at half the price of the nearest competition, this high-end Cobot offers a good balance of speed, precision, and affordability for payloads up to 18 kg. 

Not only that, but RO1 boasts excellent speed and repeatability, 435° /s and +/-0.025 mm respectively, with no compromises. 

To top things off, it doesn’t require any programming knowledge: RO1 comes with a revolutionary no-code framework, opening up automation to companies without specialized programmers.


Pick and Place automation can streamline production in ways that seemed unthinkable just a few short years ago. 

By implementing automated Pick and Place technology in your facility, you'll boost output, cut costs, improve quality, and increase flexibility. 

The hardest part was getting started, but we’ve helped you with the research stage. But remember, the right robot goes beyond things like price range: you have to determine what level of automation is right for you, and then make an informed choice. 

Next steps

Need a productivity game-changer? Look no further than Standard Bots' RO1 industrial Pick and Place robot, a top-tier choice for both burgeoning startups and established industrial giants.

  • Affordability without compromise. RO1, leading its category, delivers unmatched value at 50% of the cost of its competitors, without losing any quality.
  • Speed and power in a single package. Despite handling up to 18 kg in payload, the RO1 outpaces competitors in both speed and precision, ensuring extreme efficiency.
  • Built-in-safety. Precision-engineered with embedded safety sensors and collision detection, RO1 guarantees secure and dependable operations within your shop floor.

Hit up our solutions team today to set up a complimentary 30-day onsite trial and expert guidance on seamlessly integrating your new RO1 to your shop floor.

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