What is a SCARA robot? A brief introduction

October 4, 2023
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Introduction to SCARA robots

SCARA robots are essentially robotic arms with several joints that give them the flexibility to perform various tasks. A typical SCARA configuration includes a controller, a power supply, an end-effector (like a gripper or special tool), and specialized software.

These versatile machines are designed to mimic the movements of a human arm. But, unlike a human arm, a SCARA robot operates with unwavering precision and efficiency.

SCARA robots stand out from other industrial robots due to their unique range of motion, particularly in the X-Y plane. This means it can move horizontally in any direction within its workspace. It can also move vertically, although with some limitations, as the vertical axis remains fixed.

SCARA robots excel in just about any task, but their capabilities shine through in material handling operations. Whether they're picking up and placing objects, transporting items, or conducting assembly work, SCARA robots deliver the best performance.

Explaining the SCARA acronym

The SCARA robot is a common type of industrial robot that was first developed in 1978 with a focus on assembly tasks. "SCARA" originally stood for Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm.

As technology advanced, however, these robots began to be used in various applications beyond assembly processes. This led to a change in the acronym; now, SCARA stands for Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm.

Understanding the functionality of SCARA robots

In the constantly evolving world of robots, these machines in particular represent a major leap forward in assembly line technology. These robots typically have four axes (some three) that allow them to perform tasks with great speed and precision.

These robots are experts at pick-and-place tasks, where they move items from one spot to another quickly and accurately. It's like having a super-efficient assembly line worker who never gets tired or makes mistakes.

SCARA robots can move along the X and Y planes. Put simply, this means they can move between left and right (X), and up and down (Y). They also have 360 degrees of rotational movement, creating a cylindrical (or circular) work envelope.

These assembly robots are capable of performing both flexible and stiff movements. The X and Y axes are flexible, which means they can bend a little to get the job done - that's where the "Selective Compliance" part of their name comes from. However, the Z axis is rigid, meaning it doesn't move as freely.

Because these machines have just four axes to control, they're quite fast compared to other industrial robot types.

Applications of SCARA robots in various industries

SCARA robots are purpose-built machines with unique mechanics that make them ideal for specific applications. Unlike the general-use articulated arms or Six-Axis robots, SCARAs are specialists.

Although these industrial robots may not fit every job, they truly excel in certain applications across multiple industries, from food and beverage to pharmaceuticals.

Pick-and-place operations

SCARA robots are considered unbeatable when it comes to cost-effectiveness and speed in pick-and-place tasks. They are incredibly easy to set up and you can expect them to pick up products skillfully, using various end-effector tools.


SCARA robots play a significant role in manufacturing and assembly lines, handling everything from moving materials and sorting items to putting parts together.

They're incredibly popular in industries involving the assembly of intricate designs, such as microelectronics. Their ability to assemble items quickly and accurately results in greater productivity.

3D printing

3D printing has become more and more popular across various industries with the introduction of robotics, particularly in manufacturing. While Six-Axis robots are often used for larger 3D printing projects, SCARA robots have proven useful for small-scale 3D printing applications.

Packaging and palletizing

Material handling operations, such as packaging, palletizing, and labeling, are typically incredibly monotonous. Skillful SCARA robots can automate these repetitive tasks, all while ensuring convenient and accurate process handling.

This automation not only streamlines workflows but also frees up employees for more complex and creative tasks.


SCARA robots are also valued for dispensing tasks. Applying adhesives, painting, sealing - and more - all benefit from the use of a SCARA robot. Not only do they perform these tasks with better precision and overall results, but also help reduce waste and improve work accuracy during the dispensing process.

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Benefits of using SCARA robots in manufacturing

High precision

SCARA robots are known for their incredible precision, which makes them perfect for tasks that demand careful assembly. Their rigid Z axis, which prevents unnecessary up-and-down movements, contributes significantly to this precision. Additionally, having four axes helps to reduce errors.

High speed

SCARA robots are some of the fastest in the industrial robot world, second only to Delta robots. This high speed comes in handy for manufacturing tasks requiring quick processing. As Four-Axis robots, they're incredibly agile - a real asset in every industry.


SCARA robots are relatively small compared to other robots. They have a small footprint and don't reach very far, which makes them perfect for more confined workspaces. They excel on busy and packed manufacturing floors where they can be easily set up without taking up too much floor space.

Cost efficient

A SCARA robot offers excellent value for money. Its compact size means it doesn't need as many materials to build and has fewer moving parts than other robot types (Articulated robots, for example). This all adds up to lower costs, making them a smart choice for manufacturers on a budget.

Easy integration

SCARA robots can be integrated into existing automated systems easily and work well alongside other machines. Whether they're picking and placing, assembling, tending to machines, or dispensing materials, these Four-Axis robots are versatile additions that make work easier and more efficient.

Choosing the right SCARA robot for your business

Given the wide range of options on the market, choosing the right SCARA robot for your business can feel overwhelming. But, by considering your specific needs carefully and focusing on important factors, you can make a smart decision that balances cost and performance.

  1. Application: The purpose of the SCARA robot should be the ultimate deciding factor. SCARA robots have a wide range of applications, but it's important to match the robot's range of motion and payload capacity with the specific task at hand.
  2. Budget: Prices for SCARA robots vary, ranging from as low as $5,000 to over $25,000. Payload capacity, speed, brand, and customization options all influence the cost. Look for a brand that offers a good balance between quality and price, and consider additional benefits. Also, bear in mind the maintenance costs and availability of replacement parts.
  3. Accuracy: SCARA robots are only as effective as their accuracy. Compare brands on their accuracy performance and opt for one that provides high-precision machines.
  4. Cycle time: You want to choose a SCARA robot that features high-quality components for swift and efficient movements. High speed is essential for maintaining productivity in various applications.
  5. Payload: The SCARA robot should have a payload capacity to accommodate both the items it will handle, and the end effector (tool or gripper). For example, if you need to handle items weighing 6 lbs, choose a SCARA robot with a 10-12 lbs payload capacity.
  6. Programming and control: Consider how easy it is to tell the robot what to do. A user-friendly programming method will save time and ensure that staff can use the robot without errors.

Future trends and advancements in SCARA robotics

The world of robotics is always progressing, and SCARA robots are no exception. Even now, there are some exciting trends and developments on the horizon.

One major thing we're going to see more of is robots and humans working side by side. SCARA robots are going to get even better at this, making it safer for people and robots to share the same workspace.

Another major development in the pipeline is SCARA robots with supercharged vision systems. That means they'll be better at recognizing and keeping track of things, which opens the door to more complex tasks.

We're also going to see SCARA robots with enhanced intelligence. While developments are still underway, the use of artificial intelligence is advancing in leaps and bounds. This means that these robots can adapt and learn on their own, making them more efficient over time.


How is a SCARA robot controlled?

A SCARA robot is controlled using two independent motors that manage its X-Y motions. These motors use a combination of interpolation and inverse kinematics processes to control the robot's movements along these axes.

How much does a SCARA robot cost?

SCARA robots are generally considered fairly affordable considering their benefits and applications. Prices can vary significantly, however. For businesses looking to buy, a small SCARA robot is typically around $5,000 to $25,000, while a medium to large SCARA robot can cost around $45,000. This will depend on the payload capacity and number of extras.


When you're not deep into the world of robotics, these concepts can seem complicated. That's one reason why some manufacturers hesitate to invest in handy tools like SCARA robots. But, once you understand how these complex machines work and how they benefit business, it will become crystal clear that robots are the way forward in manufacturing.

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