SCARA Robot vs Cylindrical: Which one is right for your automation needs?

October 18, 2023
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Overview of SCARA robots

SCARA, is an acronym for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm. It has a distinct design featuring two parallel jointed arms, which offers it flexibility and precision. This design allows it to work effectively in a horizontal plane, making it particularly suitable for tasks like assembly, pick-and-place, and certain types of product inspection.

Some of their standout advantages include:

  •  SCARA robots can operate at impressive speeds without sacrificing accuracy, making them ideal for rapid assembly lines.
  • Their design is very compact, allowing businesses to maximize space utility, especially in crowded manufacturing environments.
  • Their strength is their extensive horizontal reach, making them particularly effective for tasks on a single plane, like conveyor belt operations.

Overview of Cylindrical robots

Cylindrical robots have a straightforward design that operates within a cylindrical-shaped workspace. This is achieved through a combination of one rotary joint at the base and at least one prismatic joint to connect the links. This design means they can move up and down, as well as rotate around a base.

Some of their unique strengths include:

  • Their ability to move vertically while also rotating around their base makes them versatile for tasks such as machine tending where materials need to be inserted or retrieved from machines at varying heights.
  • They also provide a high degree of precision, making them valuable for tasks where consistency is important.
  • Their cylindrical work envelope ensures that they occupy minimal space, which is especially beneficial in tight or constrained workspaces.

Practical Comparison: SCARA VS. Cylindrical robots

Feature: Speed and precision


SCARA robots are a go-to when production lines require high-speed operations without compromising on precision. They are only useful for horizontal tasks though.


Cylindrical robots hold their ground when it comes to consistent precision. They are especially reliable in operations where vertical adjustments are necessary.

Feature: Range of motion


Predominantly operates in the horizontal plane.


They combine rotational and vertical movements.

Feature: Load capacity


Typically designed for lighter loads. SCARA robots are best suited for tasks like pick-and-place or assembly.


Generally capable of handling heavier loads than SCARA robots. This makes them favorable for tasks like machine tending.

Feature: Footprint


Their compact design requires a smaller footprint.


They need a more defined and dedicated space due to their vertical operations.

Feature: Durability


They often experience less wear and tear due to fewer rotational joints.


They also experience less wear and tear because of their compact design.

Feature: Use cases


Circuit board assembly, food sorting and packaging, pill dispensing and filling vials.


CNC machine tending, spot welding, transferring chemicals between containers.

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Financial comparison: SCARA vs. Cylindrical

Initial investment

Generally, SCARA robots come with a moderate to high initial cost. Factors affecting the price include the robot's reach, payload capacity, and the manufacturer's reputation. Additionally, the control systems and peripherals, like vision systems or specialized grippers, can add to the initial expense.

The initial cost of Cylindrical robots might be lower than SCARA robots, especially for basic models. However, as with SCARA robots, the total investment can vary based on the robot's specifications and any additional equipment required.

Long-term operational costs

While SCARA robots might have a higher initial cost, their maintenance costs are often lower due to their simpler design. Energy consumption can also be lower, especially for models designed with efficiency in mind.

Depending on the model and usage, maintenance costs might be a bit higher than SCARA robots. Their design, which might require regular maintenance of both the rotary and prismatic joints, can contribute to this. Energy consumption varies but is generally in line with industry standards for robotic arms.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Industries that benefit from the speed and precision of SCARA robots, like electronics or pharmaceuticals, often find that the ROI is swift due to increased productivity and reduced waste.

For businesses that require the vertical and rotational capabilities of cylindrical robots, the ROI can be significant, especially if the robot is replacing manual tasks prone to error or enhancing safety in potentially hazardous operations.


SCARA robots, with their unparalleled speed and precision in horizontal tasks, might be the answer for industries like electronics or food & beverage. In contrast, the vertical and rotational capabilities of Cylindrical robots could be the solution for tasks in metalworking, welding, or chemical handling.

But the choice always boils down to understanding your needs in-depth. Remember, automation is an investment, not just in technology but in the future efficiency and growth of your operations. 

Further reading

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