What is a Manipulator robot?

March 12, 2024
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What is a Manipulator robot?

A Manipulator robot, also known as a robotic arm, is a highly advanced mechanical device designed to perform diverse and precise tasks in various industrial, medical, and scientific applications.

It consists of multiple interconnected joints and links that provide tremendous flexibility and range of motion. 

The joints of a Manipulator robot are arranged in a specific configuration to resemble the anatomy of a human arm. This includes the shoulder joint (base), elbow joint, wrist joint, and additional joints for even more versatility. 

The base joint provides the rotation around the vertical axis, which lets the robot arm reach different areas within its workspace. 

Conversely, the elbow joint allows for bending and extending movements, while the wrist joint provides rotation around multiple axes for intricate manipulations.

Manipulator robots are heavily deployed in industrial automation processes, where they’re fantastic at performing repetitive tasks with second-to-none accuracy and consistency. 

Plus, even though they tend to have a high upfront cost, they typically have an excellent ROI of just 1-3 years. 

How do Manipulator robots work?

Manipulator robots use robotic arms and grippers to pick up, move, and place items. 

As we mentioned above, each arm has multiple joints that provide high levels of dexterity and range of motion. 

Let’s break them down in a little more detail: 

  • The joints are powered by actuators like hydraulic cylinders, pneumatic actuators, or electric motors.
  • Sensors detect the position and orientation of the arm and provide feedback to help accurately control movement. End-effectors at the end of the arm, like grippers or suction cups, grasp and manipulate the objects.
  • Some Manipulator robots operate on pre-programmed motions to repeatedly perform the same task. Others use sensor feedback in a control loop to dynamically adjust movements. More advanced robots incorporate machine vision and AI to perceive their environment, recognize objects, and plan complex motions.

As you can probably surmise, the two most common types of manipulation are pick and pPlace, where objects are grasped and moved from one location to another, and assembly, where components are put together. 

Other applications include processing, inspection, and testing. The specific tasks a robot can perform depend on its design and end-effector.

What are Manipulator robots used for?

This may not be common knowledge, but Manipulator robots are already widely used across an enormous range of industries. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones. 

  • Assembly: Manipulator robots are commonly used in manufacturing assembly lines to rapidly and precisely assemble components. 

    Their robotic arms can grab parts, join them together, and manipulate them into the correct positions for assembly. This automation speeds up the assembly process and produces high-quality, uniform results.
  • Packaging: You’ll frequently see Manipulator robots in packaging plants to grab, orient, group, and pack various products. They can lift and move packages, stack them onto pallets, seal and label boxes, fill containers, and more. 

    Using robotics for packaging reduces the amount of manual handling required and massively increases productivity. 
  • Inspection: Some Manipulator robots are outfitted with vision systems and sensors to conduct quality inspections. They can visually scan products, check for flaws, take measurements, and make sure specifications are up to snuff.

    Also, robotic inspection is very accurate and consistent, catching even the smallest flaws or deviations. Their inspection abilities are excellent for quality control in manufacturing.
  • Dangerous environments: Manipulator robots are very good for working in hazardous environments that would be dangerous or impossible for humans to access. They can operate in extreme temperatures, handle toxic chemicals, work in confined spaces, and perform repetitive tasks in locations with radiation or airborne pathogens.

    As you can probably imagine, using robotics helps keep workers out of harm's way in these situations.
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Different types of Manipulator robots

There are various types of Manipulator robots you should keep in mind, as they’re not all created equal. They differ in things like the number of axes, range of motion, repeatability, work envelope, and speed

Here are the most common ones: 

Cartesian robots

These are probably the most common type of Manipulator robots. 

Cartesian robots have three linear axes of motion, allowing movement along the X, Y and Z axes. 

Their range of motion resembles a cube, so they're ideal for pick and place applications or loading and unloading stations. 

Cartesian robots are very precise but typically slower than other types. Popular brands of Cartesian robots include FANUC, ABB and Yaskawa Motoman.

SCARA robots

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

What are they great at? They're designed for high-speed assembly applications and can reach around obstacles

SCARA robots are very fast, accurate, and rigid. They're often used for assembly operations like picking up components, orienting, and inserting them into boards or housings. 

Prominent SCARA robot manufacturers are Epson, Mitsubishi, and Toshiba Machine.

Articulated robots

Articulated robots have rotary joints that provide an even higher degree of flexibility and dexterity

They also have a large work envelope and can perform complex motion paths

However, they typically require more advanced programming to achieve precise movements. 

Articulated robots are frequently used for welding, painting, and other applications where flexibility and reach are important. 

Major Articulated robot brands are Standard Bots, FANUC, Yaskawa Motoman, and KUKA.

Parallel robots

Parallel robots have two platforms connected by several arms. The platforms move in coordinated motion, allowing for very high speed, precision, and rigidity. 

However, their range of motion is typically limited to a small work envelope

Even so, you’ll often see Parallel robots in applications like pick and place, machining, and scanning. 

Some well-known Parallel robot manufacturers are FANUC, ABB, and Yaskawa.

The benefits of using Manipulator robots

Manipulator robots wouldn’t be of much use if they didn’t bring a host of benefits for businesses, would they? 

Here are some reasons why Manipulator robots are such a valuable commodity: 

  • Productivity skyrockets: Manipulator robots can work continuously without breaks, increasing productivity. They're tireless and can perform repetitive tasks with high degrees of accuracy and precision, resulting in higher throughput and output. 

    For example, a robot on an assembly line can assemble products faster and more consistently than human workers.
  • Massive boost to quality: Robots produce consistent, high-quality work as they're programmed to accurately and precisely perform tasks the same way each time. They do not get distracted, bored or fatigued, so there are no variations in quality. 

    Parts are assembled precisely and consistently, resulting in higher-quality products with fewer flaws.
  • They slash costs: Although Manipulator robots have high upfront costs, they can reduce long-term costs for many companies. Robots don’t need wages, benefits, or time off. 

    They can also perform tasks more quickly and accurately, which cuts down waste and rework. These robots also improve productivity and quality, allowing companies to increase output and gain a competitive advantage.
  • As safe as can be: Manipulator robots can take over dangerous, hazardous, and repetitive tasks, which is a massive boost to workplace safety. Robots can handle toxic chemicals, lift heavy materials, and do extremely risky jobs without injuries. 
  • Flexible like a yoga instructor: Manipulator robots offer flexibility because they can be reprogrammed to perform different tasks. As production needs change, robots can be redeployed and retrained to take on new roles. 

    This allows companies to scale up or down as needed and adapt quickly to changes. Robots also provide flexibility in production planning since they can operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if needed – and they often do. 

Summing up

Manipulator robots are pretty amazing machines that can take over repetitive and dangerous tasks in factories and warehouses. 

With their ability to be programmed and controlled precisely, they open up all kinds of possibilities for automation and efficiency. 

Now, it’s up to you to see what type of Manipulator robot is right for your business, take the plunge, and enter a new stage of productivity

Next steps

Ready to elevate your production capabilities? RO1 by Standard Bots is a leading-edge Manipulator robot arm that's perfect for burgeoning startups as well as established powerhouses.

  • Economic innovation: RO1 combines advanced technology with cost-effectiveness. At half the cost of similar units, it makes advanced automation accessible to companies big and small.
  • Benchmarking excellence in performance: RO1’s Six-Axis manipulator arm outshines its rivals with an impressive 18 kg payload leading the way in both speed and accuracy. 
  • Safety built in: With RO1, safety comes standard. It incorporates sophisticated sensors and preventative systems to avoid accidents and achieve Collaborative operations. 
  • Adaptability and learning: RO1 is at the forefront of automation technology, able to learn from interactions due to its advanced AI (at the level of GPT-4), adjust to new tasks effortlessly, and autonomously refine its performance as needed.

Discover RO1 with a no-cost 30-day trial. Our support team is ready to guide you through the smooth incorporation of RO1 into your shop floor.

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