What's the difference between Industrial and Collaborative robots?

January 24, 2024
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Industrial robots: The strong, powerful type 

Industrial robots are powerful – but generally inflexible – automated machines designed to perform repetitive or dangerous tasks without direct human intervention. 

They are typically used in manufacturing, such as in car manufacturing plants. Industrial robots are autonomous and once programmed can work on and on and on: 24/7, no rest, no breaks. 

But, there’s a drawback: these robots are usually large, heavy, and caged off for safety since they operate with a high degree of force and speed. Being in close proximity with humans would be very dangerous. 

Plus, once they’re installed and operational, they’re difficult to reprogram and limited to the specific task they are designed for like welding, painting, or assembly. 

So, while they’re very efficient at one task, they tend to lack versatility.

Keep in mind though: there are various types of robots, such as Cartesian, Cylindrical, Spherical, SCARA, and Delta robots, each with different capabilities and degrees of flexibility. 

Some robots, especially newer models, offer more adaptability and can be reconfigured for different tasks​

Cobots: The safe, adaptable cousin

Collaborative robots, or Cobots, are designed to work alongside humans. 

Therefore, unlike traditional Industrial robots that are cordoned off for safety, Cobots are built with sensors and software that allow them to detect people and objects in their path and respond appropriately before a nasty bump.

This makes them ideal for collaborative applications where robots and humans interact directly on the same shop floor. 

Caveat: “Generally safe” doesn’t mean foolproof, so proper safety guidelines should be exercised around Cobots. While the main difference between Industrial and Collaborative robots is safety, they’re not toys. 

Cobots are also highly customizable and can be reprogrammed on the fly to adapt to new tasks. Cobots are simple to program, even for those without a robotics background, thanks to intuitive interfaces that usually don't require complex coding.

Some Cobots have teaching pendant interfaces, allowing you to teach them by showing them the correct movements. 

Others, newer still, have no-code interfaces that allow even non-specialized employees to easily input new tasks.

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The difference between Industrial and Collaborative robots explained

If you’ve read this far, you may be confused about how much Industrial and Collaborative robots can overlap. Don’t worry, we’ll explain the difference between both types in more detail here. 

They are: 

Application scope

Both robots are great at repetitive tasks, but Industrial robots are more of a “go big, go large” type of thing. 

They excel in high-volume production environments where precision, speed, and repeatability are all-important. That’s why these robots often handle heavy loads (sometimes over 300 kg.) and tend to take care of hazardous tasks. 

Due to their size and the nature of their tasks, they usually operate in isolated areas, away from human workers, this separation is necessary because Industrial robots typically don't have advanced safety mechanisms to safely interact with humans.

In contrast, Cobots are billed as the safer, cuddlier alternative (though this is not 100% reliable, as we wrote above). But their sensors indeed allow them to apply the brakes if a human gets close. 

Therefore, Cobots are often used for tasks that require a human touch, like assembly, quality inspection, or machine tending.

Another key factor is that Cobots tend to be able to handle less heavy payloads. Some Cobots are still quite strong, though! 

Keep in mind that Cobots can still perform many hazardous, heavy-duty tasks, due to their flexibility, which we will get into just below. 

Flexibility, adaptability, and programmability

Industrial robots are often perceived as less flexible compared to Cobots. They are usually programmed for a specific task and reprogramming them for a different task can be time-consuming and complex. 

Therefore, this makes them ideal for operations that stay mostly the same.

Cobots, on the other hand, are adaptable beasts. They can be easily reprogrammed and equipped with different tools (their grippers, or end-effectors) to perform a variety of tasks. 

This flexibility is due to a certain amount of user-friendliness baked into their systems – often allowing staff without extensive robotics expertise to reprogram them. 

As a result, Cobots tend to be a versatile option for smaller businesses or operations where tasks change more frequently.

Cost and ROI considerations

The initial investment for Industrial robots is typically higher than for Cobots, starting at around $45,000 and exceeding $400,000 in some cases. 

This is due to their larger size, complexity, and the need for additional safety infrastructure like cages. However, they make up for this with their speed and capacity for continuous operation, which in high-volume production settings can net a high ROI. 

Cobots, being smaller and more user-friendly, have a lower initial investment cost, between $2000 to $100,000+.

They’re a cost-effective solution for businesses looking to automate without the need for extensive changes to their existing infrastructure (generally speaking). 

Also, their ability to collaborate with humans can lead to increased productivity. 

How do you choose between both types? 

Both options have pros and cons, so determining how much human interaction is required, is going to drastically influence your choice.

Let’s take a look:

Do you need to integrate or renovate?

Cobots are often more compatible with existing workflows and can be integrated without completely overhauling your facilities. 

On the other hand, Industrial robots might require more extensive integration efforts, including changes to the production line layout or the installation of additional safety barriers. 

This, of course, costs significantly more.

How easy are they to deploy?

One of the main differences between Industrial and Collaborative robots is their user-friendliness.

Cobots are easier to reprogram, and that can be a significant advantage for businesses that need to frequently change or update tasks.

Industrial robots, while capable of complex tasks, often require more specialized knowledge for programming and operation, which might necessitate additional training or hiring skilled personnel.


Cobots tend to be way more flexible. This means not just being re-deployable, but it also means you can get more out of a single Cobot. 

Industrial robots are usually less flexible but provide scalability, if you have the means, money, and facilities. Of course, these tend to be accessible only to large-scale businesses. 

Maintenance & ongoing support 

Cobots might require less intensive maintenance due to their simpler design and comparatively lower operating speeds, whereas Industrial robots, given their complexity and heavy-duty operation, might require more frequent and specialized maintenance.


As you've seen, Cobots and Industrial robots each have their strengths and weaknesses. In the end, what’s more important than the difference between Industrial and Collaborative robots is your individual needs. 

Now, you need to take the time to carefully assess your budget, operational needs, and technological expertise at hand, to make an informed choice.

Next steps

Looking to bring your shop floor into the 21st century with a Cobot? Enter RO1 from Standard Bots - the optimal choice for both burgeoning startups and established industrial giants alike.

  • Affordable and reliable: RO1 leads its class of robotic arms, delivering unparalleled value at half the cost of its nearest competition.
  • Swift & robust: Despite sporting a best-in-class payload of 18 kg, RO1 outpaces rivals in both speed and precision.
  • Built-in safety: Equipped with safety sensors and collision detection, RO1 ensures secure and dependable operations right on your shop floor.

Get in touch with our solutions team today to initiate a complimentary, 30-day onsite trial and receive tailored guidance for a seamless RO1 deployment!

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