Choosing the right robot


Research from the International Federation of Robotics shows that the demand for robots in the UK’s manufacturing sector is growing, fuelled in part by the impact of the global pandemic. To help businesses understand which type of industrial robot might suit their needs, robot integrator, Cyan Tec, looks at three options; 6-axis, cobot and Scara robots.

Robotics has been advancing at a rate of knots over the past ten years. Although the time of replacing the majority of manual labour with robot operations is still a long way off, some interesting new industrial robots are appearing which come much closer to undertaking human tasks. As an experienced robot integrator with years of experience and hundreds of installations, Cyan Tec Systems is well-placed to offer advice on the best and latest robot automation solutions.

Many suppliers are offering a new style of collaborative robots (cobots), examples include the ABB YuMi robot and the Fanuc CR range. These are perhaps the most mainstream of this expanding genre, coming from a couple of the big four global robot suppliers which are expected to grow rapidly to take the place of more expensive robots or human operators.

Is it time to collaborate?

The YuMi robot looks a lot more like, and shares many characteristics with, the human body. Designed to work alongside humans, the most notable change from the typical industrial 6-axis robot is the fact that YuMi is designed to work in the open and not behind guarding and safety interlocks. YuMi is equipped with twin articulated arms which terminate in gripper hands.

Fanuc’s CR range offers a variety of different payloads and reach, which is particularly advantageous when selecting a suitable robot for any given application. With a range of 550mm to 1813mm in reach and payloads as small as 4kg all the way up to 35kg, all models can directly collaborate with humans. They can safely become a crucial part of the team and in terms of cost-saving, need little or no guarding for human protection.

The concept of cobots is that a shop floor may consist of a mixture of humans and robots, the robots being able to feed or be fed by human operators who might be given the more complicated tasks (or tasks requiring human intelligence). Movement speed is restricted, and the arms are equipped with crash sensors to stop safely if they should come into contact with a human operator, avoiding the risk of pinch, crush or impact injuries.

Ideal especially for small electronic component assembly, these robots will not replace the traditional 6-axis industrial robot, rather they complement the range and expand the capabilities of robot-based automation. The robots can use vision to correctly pick and place components regardless of orientation, with the ability to compensate for an inaccuracy in position, in the same way a human would. As well as having the dexterity of a human operator, the cobots can be easily trained and re-trained, coping well with boring, repetitive or ergonomically challenging tasks.

Traditional robots

For some applications, where long reach or interpolated path following is required, there is no substitute for the speed and accuracy of the traditional 6-axis robot. These robots are still the obvious choice where the robot is using a tool which necessitates full safety guarding (for example, laser welding or cutting). In these applications, the capability of the 6-axis robot makes it the most appropriate choice.

In other applications involving simpler action, it might be that a Scara robot with 4-axes is more suitable. These robots have fewer movements than the full 6-axis robot and are often used for pick-and-place in assembly or loading and unloading machines.


With robots, as with other elements in automation, there is no single solution which suits every situation. Flexibility and open-mindedness will allow the optimum configuration to be found, taking into account all the criteria required by the application. In the next decade, many more cobots robots will likely be installed, and new technology is enhancing the vision, motion accuracy and intelligence of robots.


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