The 3 different types of popular jointed arm robots

March 5, 2024
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What is a Jointed Arm robot?

A Jointed Arm robot, also known as an Articulated robot, mimics the movements of a human arm. 

It has multiple segments connected by joints that provide flexibility and dexterity. The joints allow the arm to rotate and bend, giving it a wide range of motion.

  • Three-Axis, Four-Axis, Five-Axis, and Six-Axis Jointed Arm robots: These robots vary based on the number of axes they can rotate around. 

A Three-Axis robot moves up and down, left and right, and in and out. 

A Four-Axis robot adds the ability to twist and turn. 

Six-Axis robots offer full articulation with an additional roll axis. 

  • More advanced robots with a higher number of axes provide greater flexibility and range of motion. However, they also tend to be more expensive and complex to program and maintain. 
  • Jointed robots are ideal for repetitive tasks in a fixed work area. Their dexterity and precision make them excellent for pick and lace, assembly, and packaging operations.

Three-Axis Jointed Arm robots: Simple, but effective

If you need a robot that can perform simple pick and place or assembly tasks precisely, a Three-Axis Jointed Arm robot is a great option. 

These robots have three rotary joints that provide movement in the x, y, and z axes, allowing the end-effector to reach most areas within its workspace. 

Three-Axis robots are easy to program and typically more affordable than other types, making them ideal for companies just getting into automation.

Range of motion isn’t that great, though

The downside of Three-Axis robots is their limited range of motion. They can only perform tasks that require movement in three dimensions, so more complex jobs are out of their scope. 

Rocks at repetitive tasks 

Three-Axis Jointed arm robots excel at repetitive pick and place, assembly, and material handling applications where high precision and accuracy are important. 

They are a staple of manufacturing automation and are used extensively for CNC machining, injection molding, and packaging operations. 

Their strength is their consistent quality and throughput. 

While not the most advanced, they remain a tried-and-true option for boosting productivity on the factory floor.

Four-Axis Jointed Arm robots

Four-Axis robots are a step up in dexterity. They have an extra joint, allowing movement in one more plane. 

Usually, the fourth axis provides rotation around the vertical axis, so the robot can reach around corners or manipulate objects from different angles. 

Versatile wrist rotation

The addition of a rotating wrist gives Four-Axis robots more flexibility to maneuver in tight spaces or at awkward angles. 

They can rotate an end-effector, like a gripper, without changing the position or orientation of the arm. 

This makes them an excellent choice for machine loading and unloading, where parts or workpieces may not always be oriented conveniently.

Increased productivity

With an extra degree of freedom, Four-Axis robots can work faster and handle more complex jobs than their Three-Axis counterparts. 

They reduce the need for multiple robots or time-consuming repositioning. For many manufacturers, the increased productivity and efficiency provided by Four-Axis robots leads to a quick return on investment.

Still not perfect, though 

While more skilled than Three-Axis types, Four-Axis robots still have limitations in their range of motion and may require repositioning for some tasks

They also tend to be more expensive, though prices have dropped significantly as robotics technology has advanced. 

For high-volume production or highly intricate jobs, a robot with more axes is usually preferable.

But for many common industrial applications, a Four-Axis robot hits the sweet spot of capability, flexibility, and cost.

Six-Axis Jointed Arm robots

Six-Axis robots, also known as Articulated robots, are the most dexterous type of Jointed arm robot. 

With six rotary joints, these robots have an arm mechanism that closely resembles a human arm.

The six joints -two at the base, one at the elbow, and three at the wrist -provide tremendous flexibility and a wide range of motion. 

Six-Axis robots can reach around, under and over obstacles to access confined and awkward spaces. Their dexterity also allows them to perform complex assembly tasks with an extremely high degree of precision.

These highly Articulated robots are well-suited for spot welding, painting, and machine loading in the manufacturing industries – along with a huge variety of other tasks. 

Mind the price, though!

However, Six-Axis robots tend to be the most expensive type, often costing two to three times more than a Three- or Four-Axis robot. 

Many models also require more programming and maintenance to operate all six joints. Although truth be told, newer models require less maintenance and even operate on no-code frameworks. 

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Robots with more than 6 joints

Robots with 7 joints or more are even more dexterous and offer an exceptional range of motion – the best when it comes to more complex tasks. Some models have up to 10 joints!

Even more flexible

The extra joints in these robots translate into a wider range of motion and the ability to navigate tight spaces or awkward angles that would be difficult for even a standard Six-Axis robot. 

The delicate touch

Highly Articulated robots excel at performing delicate or complicated jobs that need a superhuman level of dexterity and accuracy. 

Things like assembling electronic components, manipulating small parts, joining pipes, and welding in tight spaces are well suited to Seven+ axis robots. 

Their flexibility allows them to navigate obstacles and approach work areas from the optimal angle.

What are the downsides of using a Jointed Arm robot?

While Jointed arm robots offer a wide range of benefits for industrial automation, there are a few downsides to keep in mind: Not everything’s sunshine and rainbows. 

They are: 

  • High cost of investment: Industrial robots can be expensive, with prices ranging from as little as $2,000 to over $500,000 for complex systems. This includes the cost of the robot itself and installation. Ongoing expenses such as programming and maintenance require skilled technicians and engineers, further increasing overall costs.
  • Limited range of motion with a fixed base: Jointed arm robots typically have a fixed base, restricting their operational range to what's within their reach. This limitation might make mobile robots or different types of robots more suitable for certain tasks. Additionally, robot arms need a significant amount of space for operation and must be safeguarded to prevent collisions, necessitating strict safety measures to avoid injury.
  • Limited dexterity for complex tasks: Despite their versatility, Industrial robots have restricted dexterity, struggling with tasks that demand delicate handling, complex movements, or a high degree of adaptability and problem-solving. In many cases, human workers outperform robots in jobs requiring extreme precision and hand-eye coordination, showcasing a gap in capabilities that robots have not yet bridged.
  • Dependency on technological infrastructure: The successful integration of Jointed arm robots into industrial processes hinges on the presence of advanced technological infrastructure. This includes not only the hardware of the robots themselves but also the software and network systems that enable them to function optimally.

So, companies must invest in and maintain this infrastructure, which can add another layer of complexity and cost to automation projects. 

Summing up

They are the three main types of Jointed arm robots that are being used in industry today. 

Now you know that each one has its strengths and ideal applications, from basic pick and lace to extremely intricate welding jobs. 

When choosing a robot, keep in mind the number of axes you need as well as payload capacity, precision, and other requirements of the task at “hand.”

(Yes, pun intended).

Next steps 

Simplify your manufacturing automation by choosing Standard Bots' RO1, a cutting-edge Six-Axis robot arm for both emerging startups and established giants. 

  • Affordability meets innovation: RO1 is not just technologically advanced; it's also economically priced. At half the cost of comparable systems, it brings high-level automation within the grasp of businesses large and small.
  • Setting new standards in performance: The Six-Axis robot arm, RO1, leads the pack with an impressive 18 kg carrying capability, outperforming competitors in both speed and precision. Its state-of-the-art self-learning technology, similar to GPT-4, redefines robotic performance expectations.
  • Inherent safety mechanisms: Safety is integral to RO1. It is equipped with advanced sensors and systems designed to prevent collisions, ensuring safe and reliable operations in diverse environments.
  • Adaptive learning capability: RO1 stands out in the automation field, capable of learning from direct interaction, adapting to new scenarios, and autonomously correcting its actions as needed.

Experience RO1 with a free 30-day trial: Discover how RO1 merges AI's adaptability with the power of robotics. Our team is ready to help you seamlessly integrate RO1's advanced capabilities into your operational processes.

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