Polishing robots 101: A guide to incorporating a Polish robot for manufacturers

July 13, 2023
Standard Bots robot visualizer

What are Polishing robots and how do they work?

So what exactly are Polishing robots and how do they work their magic? Polishing robots are automated machines used to polish and buff surfaces. They utilize abrasive pads and polishing compounds to smooth and shine materials like metal, wood, stone, and plastics.

Polishing robots come in many shapes and sizes depending on their application, but the typical application will use a Six-Axis robotic arm, equipped with an end-effector to hold the polishing pad and apply pressure. Electrically-actuated motors within the robot are then used to create the appropriate polishing pattern, be it spinning or oscillating.

The key to Polishing robots is that they can achieve a consistent, uniform finish over a large surface area in a fraction of the time it would take human workers to do the same job. They are ideal for high-volume production and can produce flawless results for items like automobile parts, fine parts, and consumer electronics.

Polishing robots may seem complex, but introducing them into your factory is quite straightforward. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Select a robot model based on your material, part size, production volume, and budget.
  2. Install and program the robot with the proper polishing technique and path for your parts. Most robots offer intuitive programming interfaces for easy setup.
  3. Load your parts onto a conveyor or workbench within the robot's work area.
  4. Start a polishing run. The robot will systematically polish each part to your specifications.
  5. Inspect the parts to ensure quality (or have another robot do that!) and make any final touches.

The benefits of automating your polishing process

Adding Polishing robots to your factory floor comes with a lot of benefits. With some initial investment, Polishing robots can save manufacturers tons of time and money. They deliver fast, flawless, and repeatable results for high-demand production environments. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Higher throughput. Robotic polishers work nonstop and at optimal speeds. They don't take breaks, call in sick, or make mistakes. Often, the only reason to stop is to switch pads. This significantly boosts your productivity and capacity.
  • Consistency: Polishing robots hugely improve consistency and quality of output as Polishing robots apply the same pressure and number of passes each and every time. No more variations between operators or shifts.
  • Improved worker safety. Automating hazardous and repetitive polishing tasks eliminates health risks like respiratory issues from dust and fumes as well as repetitive strain injuries. Workers can focus on higher-level tasks or oversee multiple Polishing bots at once.
  • Cost savings. Although Polishing robots have high upfront costs, they can save you money in the long run. Reduced scrappage, longer-lived pads, lower operating expenses, and fewer worker injuries all add up to a good return on your investment.
  • Flexibility. Modern Polishing robots are highly programmable. Easily adjust settings like polishing speed, head pressure, and the number of passes to suit different materials and products. Some robots can even handle complex, multi-stage polishing processes with different abrasives, polishing pads and built-in vision systems.

By automating your polishing line, you'll get a boost in productivity, cut costs, improve quality, increase safety, and gain more flexibility. The benefits of Polishing robots are vast, so if you're still polishing manually, it may be time to make the switch.

Polishing robot applications in various industries

Polishing robots are versatile and have applications across many major industries. Their consistent, automated polishing capabilities provide benefits for manufacturers of all types.

Automotive industry

Automakers utilize Polishing robots to buff and shine vehicle bodies, wheels, and other components. Robots can polish multiple vehicles or parts simultaneously with a high degree of precision and consistency. This reduces manual labor needs, decreases cycle times, and improves quality, which is particularly important in the brand-driven automotive industry.

Aerospace industry

Aerospace manufacturers deploy Polishing robots to refine the surfaces of aircraft, spacecraft, and satellites. Robots are well-suited for polishing large, curved surfaces to an ultra-smooth finish, common in the aerospace industry. They can also access tight spaces and polish components of varying geometries. Robot polishing helps aerospace companies achieve the exacting surface standards required for their products. Often, getting aerodynamics and tolerances just right requires a level of precision only robots can provide.

Medical device industry

Producers of medical equipment, surgical tools, and implants use Polishing robots to finish and sterilize components. Robotic polishing, paired with techniques like electropolishing, helps achieve the sterile, ultra-smooth surfaces necessary for medical applications. Automated polishing also reduces risks of contamination that could arise from manual polishing methods.

Other applications

Polishing robots are suitable for various other industries such as:

  • Optics and glass - For polishing lenses, mirrors and other optical elements where fine levels of pressure are required
  • Semiconductor - To polish silicon wafers and other components in cleanroom environments
  • Cutlery and metal goods - For polishing knives, utensils, and decorative metal items where visual imperfections are an expensive problem
  • And much, much more!

Polishing robots provide a versatile, automated solution for refining surfaces to exacting standards across many high-precision manufacturing industries. Their consistent performance, safety benefits, and labor efficiencies make them an attractive option for factory automation. Manufacturers of all types would be wise to explore how Polishing robots could benefit their production.

Choosing the right Polishing robot for your needs

Size and weight

The size and weight of the Polishing robot you choose depends on the parts you need to polish and the workspace you have available. Larger parts or rougher materials will require a bigger, more powerful robot, while smaller parts can use a more compact model. Consider the dimensions of your factory floor and any obstacles to determine the maximum size of the robot that will fit and be able to maneuver effectively.

Heavier robots provide more power and stability for aggressive polishing needs, but they require reinforced flooring and are more difficult to move around. Lighter-weight robots are more flexible, portable and precise but may lack the power for some applications. Think about how much polishing force and precision you need to determine if a heavier-duty or lighter model is right for your needs.

Number of axes

The number of axes, or joints, that a Polishing robot has determines how complex its movements can be. More axes mean greater flexibility, dexterity, and range of motion. If you need to polish intricate parts with hard-to-reach areas or want to automate additional actions, like moving a part, look for a robot with 5 or 6 axes. For polishing basic shapes and flat surfaces, a 3-Axis robot should work fine.

Consider how intricate the parts are that you need to polish and how much manipulation is required to access all areas. This will help determine if an Industrial robot with many joints is necessary or if a simpler model will do.

Degree of automation

Look at how much human input you want for your polishing process. Fully automated robots can load parts, polish, and unload with no human intervention. Semi-automated polishing processes use robots to handle the polishing but require loading and unloading by an operator. Manual robots provide polishing under the direct control of an operator and thus miss out on many of the benefits stated above.

Consider your budget, staffing costs, and desire for high-volume unattended operation. Fully automated robots have the highest upfront costs but the lowest long-term costs. Semi-automated and manual robots have lower initial costs but require more staff time to operate and reduce the benefit of continuous, overnight operation capability. Choose the level of automation that balances your needs and resources.

In the end, evaluating your specific application and factory requirements will help determine which Polishing robot is the perfect fit for your needs—not too big, not too small, but just right.

Standard Bots routine editor

Implementing Polishing robots: What you need to know

Choosing the right robot

The first step is selecting a robot that suits your needs. Consider:

  • Type of polishing required - surface, edge or profile polishing. You’ll need to choose the right end-effector. Popular choices like the OnRobot Sander can handle multiple types, while others specialize in one.
  • Size and shape of parts - robots come in different sizes and reach specifications. Make sure the robot can handle the dimensions of your parts.
  • Production volume - robots differ in speed, accuracy and repeatability. Choose one that matches your throughput requirements.
  • Ease of programming - some robots are easier to program for different parts and polishing operations. Look for a robot with intuitive programming that minimizes downtime and the need for programming specialists.

Integrating the robot

Next, you’ll need to integrate the robot into your production line. This includes:

  • Providing a stable base - the robot needs a sturdy platform or frame to operate from. This may require floor reinforcement. 
  • Supplying utilities - including power, compressed air, water cooling, exhaust ventilation, etc. depending on your polishing needs. Remember, in many cases, the robot arm and the end-effector may be powered separately.
  • Programming the robot - either using the robot's handheld teach pendant or offline programming software. Program the robot with the proper polishing paths, speeds, and pressures for your parts.
  • Fixturing parts - you'll need custom part fixtures to hold the parts in place during polishing. The robot should be able to load and unload parts from the fixtures automatically.

Top Tip: Find a manufacturer or distributor who specializes in solutions engineering. The ideal partner will help you figure out the full solution for your needs (including the robot, end-effector(s) and accessories), take care of installation and programming and even provide an aftercare maintenance and support service.

Safety considerations

Don't forget safety! When implementing Polishing robots, be sure to:

  • Install proper safeguarding - if you don’t have a collaborative robot, then this may include light curtains, safety scanners, emergency stops, protective barriers, etc. to protect workers from the moving robot.
  • Ground parts and fixtures - to prevent electric shocks from built-up static charges during polishing.
  • Provide ventilation - for any polishing compounds, coolants or debris to disperse.
  • Train workers - anyone interacting with the robot needs proper training on safe operation, loading/unloading, programming and maintenance procedures. Make sure your team knows what to expect from the robot.

Following these steps will help ensure a smooth transition to automated Polishing robots in your factory. While the initial investment may seem high, the long term benefits to quality, consistency and productivity will make it worthwhile. Welcome to the world of automated manufacturing!


So there you have it, manufacturers - As you move your factory into the future and explore automated solutions, Polishing robots are an option worth considering. They may seem intimidating at first with the high upfront investment, but if used efficiently and optimized for your needs, they can significantly boost your productivity and quality. The key is finding the right model for your applications, properly training staff, and developing the right maintenance routine. With some patience and an openness to adapt, Polishing robots can take your manufacturing to the next level.

Next steps

Interested in bringing robotic polishing to your own business? RO1 by Standard Bots is the best choice for factories 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. Collaborative: RO1 comes equipped with safety sensors and built-in collision detection, for safe operation anywhere on your shop floor.

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