What is a Jointed Arm Robot?

March 12, 2024
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What is a Jointed Arm robot?

A Jointed Arm robot, also known as an Articulated robot, is an automated machine with rotary joints that connect rigid links. 

The joints allow the arm to move and bend - much like a human arm. These multiple joints give the arm enough flexibility and skill to reach around obstacles and into confined spaces.

Here are some of their features: 

  • They have plenty of reach: The articulated arm configuration provides a huge work volume and range of motion. The robot can extend, retract, and rotate its arms to reach otherwise inaccessible, or hard-to-reach locations.
  • Extremely precise control: Each joint in the arm is controlled independently which allows for precise positioning and orientation of the end-effector (the 'hand' at the end of the arm). 

    Then, the software coordinates the motion of all joints to smoothly guide the end-effector along a specific path. Then, feedback from sensors helps guarantee accurate positioning and force control. 
  • Degrees of freedom: Jointed Arm robots typically have six degrees of freedom (sometimes more). This means they have six independent ways they can move, allowing for complex and versatile motions.
  • Adaptability: Jointed Arm robots are tremendously adaptable due to the ability to change their end-effectors. Tools like grippers, welders, spray guns, or other specialized attachments can be easily swapped out – meaning the robots are suitable for a huge range of tasks. 

Another great thing to mention, too: Jointed Arm robots are an extremely good investment, with an ROI of just 1-3 years.  

How do Jointed Arm robots work?

In Jointed Arm robots, each joint represents an axis of motion, with the base typically providing rotation, the shoulder joint enabling up and down movement, the elbow joint bending in and out, and the wrist joint rotating and bending.

Here are the components that make up these robotic helping hands:

  • Actuators, the movers and shakers. The joints are powered by actuators, which can be electric, hydraulic, or pneumatic. Electric actuators are common and use motors to drive the joints. Hydraulic actuators use pressurized fluid, while pneumatic actuators use compressed air. Each method has its pros and cons regarding cost, precision, and power.
  • The brain coordinates the moves. The robot arm can perform very complex movements by precisely coordinating the motion of each joint. A computer that directs the actuators controls the movement. 

    This CPU receives instructions that specify the desired pose or path of the end-effector, like a gripper. It then calculates the necessary motion of each joint to achieve that pose while avoiding collisions or joint limits.
  • Programming tells the brain what’s what. Sophisticated algorithms are necessary to smoothly coordinate the joints and navigate the arm through its range of motion. While we intuitively know how to move our own arms, precisely controlling a robot arm with multiple joints is an incredibly complex computational challenge. 

Note: The more joints the arm has, the more difficult it becomes to achieve natural, human-like movement.

What are Jointed Arm robots good at?

It turns out that Jointed Arm robots are great at a tremendous variety of tasks. They’ve already been adopted by a diverse array of industries. 

Let’s check them out: 

  • Manufacturing and assembly: Jointed Arm robots are excellent at a variety of tasks such as welding, painting, material handling, and product assembly in manufacturing and assembly settings.
  • Packaging and palletizing all day: Jointed Arm robots automate packaging lines, quickly and efficiently picking and placing products, packing boxes, and stacking pallets.
  • Advancing medicine: Jointed Arm robots help out with various surgical procedures, using their precision and ability to work in small spaces for delicate operations.
  • Keeping people out of danger: Jointed Arm robots take on dangerous tasks in hazardous environments like nuclear plants, chemical facilities, or locations with extreme temperatures.
  • Logistics and warehousing made easy: Jointed Arm robots rock at order fulfillment tasks within warehouses and distribution centers, picking items from shelves, sorting packages, and loading trucks like nobody’s business.
  • Keeping quality up: Jointed Arm robots equipped with cameras and sensors conduct detailed quality inspections of products, detecting flaws that even eagle-eyed human inspectors miss.
  • Building a new world: Jointed Arm robots find use in construction tasks, performing bricklaying, welding, 3D printing of structures, and demolition.
  • Helping agriculture grow: Jointed Arm robots are adapted for precision farming tasks, including harvesting crops, weeding, and applying fertilizer or pesticides.
  • The final frontier: Huge Jointed Arm robots, like the Canadarm on the International Space Station, play a crucial role in missions, assembling structures, deploying satellites, and repairing equipment.
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What are the downsides of a Jointed Arm robot?

While Jointed Arm robots offer many advantages, there are some downsides to keep in mind. 

Here are the factors you have to consider before you take out your credit card: 

Harder to program than you think

Programming a Jointed Arm robot can be challenging compared to other robot types

You basically have to account for movement in all the arm’s degrees of freedom and coordinate motion at each joint. 

This means you need advanced programming skills and knowledge of robot kinematics. So, for many manufacturers, the programming difficulty is a big barrier of entry to implementing Jointed Arm robots.

Note: High-end Jointed Arm robots can operate on simpler programming languages, or even drag-and-drop, no-code frameworks that don’t require any programming knowledge whatsoever. 

Sometimes, precision can suffer

Although Jointed Arms are very flexible, their mechanical complexity can make it hard to get a high degree of precision. 

Even minor errors or variances at each joint can translate into significant inaccuracies at the end-effector. 

For applications where high precision is critical, you should consider only the best-of-the-best Jointed Arm robots. 

They can be a bit on the expensive side

Jointed Arm robots tend to be more expensive than other robot types, like Cartesian or SCARA robots.

Their articulated design requires extreme precision components and actuators at each joint, which significantly adds to the overall cost. 

While prices have decreased over time and continue going down, Jointed Arm robots still represent a major capital investment for most companies. 

For some, the higher cost can be a limiting factor in adopting this technology. 

The good news is that new companies are fast breaking down this price barrier and democratizing access to Jointed Arm robots. 

Alternatives to Jointed Arm robots?

So, maybe you don’t have the money – or even the necessity to go for a fully Articulated Jointed Arm robot. 

Two popular alternatives are Cartesian and SCARA robots:

Cartesian robots

Cartesian robots have a simple, open-frame design with three linear axes of motion. They move along the X, Y and Z axes, like a 3D printer. 

This simplicity gives them a relatively large work area and pretty high precision metrics. However, they lack the flexibility and range of motion of an articulated arm. 

The more you know: Cartesian robots work well for applications like pick and place, palletizing, and assembly.

SCARA robots

SCARA stands for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm. These robots have two parallel rotary joints that provide compliance in one selected plane. 

What’s the deal with this? It gives them high speed, precision, and rigidity while still allowing some flexibility of motion. 

SCARA robots are excellent for assembly tasks that require placing and orienting components. So, they’re common in electronics manufacturing for PCB assembly and wiring.

However, both of these arm types tend to lack the dexterity and huge work volume of an Articulated robot arm. 

So, for many manufacturers, the choice comes down to balancing cost and performance for their specific application.

Summing up

Jointed Arm robots are super versatile and can do all kinds of cool stuff. And, while they’re perfect for many applications, they may not be perfect for yours.

So, always make sure to balance your needs, budget, and business infrastructure to make sure a Jointed Arm fits the bill. 

And if it does? Get ready, because your shop floor is about to get much more productive. 

Next steps 

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  • Value meets cutting-edge technology: RO1 doesn't only stand out for its advanced features; it's also attractively priced. Costing half as much as its closest competitors, it puts sophisticated automation within reach of businesses of all sizes.
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  • Built-in safety features: RO1 prioritizes safety with its comprehensive array of sensors and preventative measures, crafted to avert accidents and guarantee collaborative, dependable operation across varied settings.
  • Dynamic learning capabilities: RO1 breaks new ground in automation through its proficiency in learning through interaction, adapting effortlessly to new tasks, and autonomously fine-tuning its operations as necessary.

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