Robot payload capacity: What it is and why it matters

July 3, 2024
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What is robot payload capacity?

Robot payload capacity refers to the maximum weight a robot can lift and move during operation. In simple terms, it's a measure of how much "stuff" your robot can handle. Payload capacity depends on the strength and design of a robot's joints, actuators, and end-effectors.

How do you determine robot payload capacity?

There are several factors that influence this metric: 

  • The joints are what connect the robot's arms and end-effector, allowing it to move. More robust joints, typically larger in size, can handle greater loads without breaking down or wearing out quickly.
  • Some robots are designed to maximize the mechanical advantage of their joints and links. This is achieved through optimized arm length, positioning, and joint configuration. A bigger mechanical advantage means a robot can have a higher payload capacity relative to its joint strength.
  • The materials and build quality of a robot also significantly impact how much weight it can move around. Robots made of lightweight but durable materials, like certain aluminum or titanium alloys, typically have higher payload capacities than robots mostly made of plastic. Still, durability and structural integrity are crucial. 
  • Manufacturers determine a robot's official payload capacity through rigorous testing to ensure it can repeatedly handle a target load within a reasonable cycle time. They also build in safety factors, meaning a robot's advertised capacity is less than what it's actually been tested to handle.

Why is it so important?

Just like how much you can lift dictates your strength, payload capacity is one of the most important measures for determining a robot’s capabilities.

Here’s why: 

  • Expands your robot's skillset: A higher payload capacity means your robot can handle heavier objects, tools, or materials, making it more versatile and capable of tackling a wider range of tasks.
  • Keeps your robot in top shape: Respecting your robot's payload limit prevents excessive wear and tear, ensuring it stays healthy and operational for longer.
  • Promotes safety: A properly balanced payload keeps your robot stable and in control, reducing the risk of accidents, especially in collaborative settings where humans work near robots.
  • Gives you an edge over the competition: A robot that can lift and move more gives your business a competitive advantage, allowing you to offer faster turnaround times or handle larger volumes of material.

Factors that influence robot payload capacity

The amount of weight a robot can lift and move — its payload capacity — depends on several key factors in its design and construction. The robot’s type, joint strength, and mechanical structure all play a role in determining how much it can handle without sacrificing performance or precision.

Several factors determine a robot's payload capacity:

  • Robot type: Articulated robots typically have a higher payload capacity than SCARA or delta robots.
  • Joint strength: Robots with more powerful joints and actuators can lift heavier loads.
  • Mechanical design: A more rigid arm structure and base provide a stronger, more stable platform for lifting and moving heavy objects.
  • Mounting: How a robot is mounted also impacts payload. Floor-mounted robots usually have a higher payload than shelf-mounted units.
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Examples of robots with different payload capacities

Robots come in all shapes and sizes, and their payload capacities can vary enormously depending on their design and intended use. 

Let’s take a closer look:

Choosing the right robot payload capacity for your needs

The payload capacity you need depends entirely on how you intend to use your robot. 

For light assembly or pick-and-place operations, a smaller payload may be enough. 

But for heavy lifting, material handling or machine tending applications, you'll want a robot with a higher payload rating.

Here’s what you need to know: 

  • Shop around. The type of robot also determines how much weight it can lift. Articulated robots are very flexible but typically have lower payloads, around 5-50 kg. Gantry robots are ideal for heavier loads, with payloads of 500 kg to several tons. SCARA robots fall in the middle, with payloads of 3-50 kg. For most operations, an articulated or SCARA robot will work well. Only think about a gantry robot if you need to move very heavy parts.
  • Give some thought to speed and skill. While a high payload capacity is important, you also want a robot that is fast, accurate, and skilled enough for your needs. A robot may be rated for a 100 kg payload but move at a snail's pace. Look at a robot's repeatability, number of axes of movement, and speed specifications to make sure it’s got the finesse factor down. 
  • Factor in safety. For the safety of your workers, you want to choose a robot with a payload rating well within its operational limits. Overloading a robot can cause it to become unstable or unpredictable. As a rule of thumb (not a hard rule!), go with a robot with a payload capacity at least twice what you need for your maximum part weight. You want to make sure it can move what you need at high enough speeds. 

Summing up

You now have a solid grasp of robot payload capacity.

From understanding how it's calculated by manufacturers to why it matters for performance and safety, you're equipped with the knowledge to select the right payload capacity for your specific needs. 

With the examples and guidelines covered here, you can make an informed decision when investing in an automated solution. 

Next steps

Transform your operations with RO1 by Standard Bots, the cutting-edge six-axis robotic arm built to enhance productivity for shop floors of any scale.

  • Wallet-friendly innovation: Gain access to state-of-the-art automation technology at a half the price of comparable robotic arms, without sacrificing functionality or performance.
  • Unrivaled efficiency: RO1's exceptional 18 kg payload capacity and impressive speed give you the edge, allowing you to accomplish more in less time and maximize your output.
  • Intelligent adaptability: RO1 is powered by advanced AI, similar to GPT-4, that continuously learns and adapts to your specific processes, guaranteeing optimal performance. The intuitive, no-code interface makes it easy for anyone to harness RO1's full potential.
  • Prioritized safety: RO1 is designed to work harmoniously alongside your team, equipped with advanced vision and sensor technology to guarantee a secure and collaborative work environment.

Reach out to us today to schedule a 30-day risk-free trial and witness how RO1 can revolutionize your business.

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