Industrial Robots - Types and Providers

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updated on 11.05.2020 - 14:43:12

Industrial robots are universally usable motion machines, the movements of which are freely programmable (i.e. without mechanical intervention) with regard to the sequence of movements and paths or angles and, if necessary, sensor-guided (according to VDI guideline 2860). This type of Robots is with Grippers, tools and other manufacturing equipment can be equipped and can perform handling and / or manufacturing tasks.

Question/Definition: What is/are Industrial Robots?
Also often searched: robots in an industrial environment, robots

According to European standard EN 775, a robot is an automatically controlled, re-programmable, multi-purpose handling device with several degrees of freedom, which is used either in a stationary or mobile manner in automated production systems.

An industrial robot is a system consisting of:

  • Manipulator
  • Control
  • Handheld programming device

For further details see Table "The components of the industrial robot system".

Industrial robot / robot types differentiation

Robot types based on kinematics

Industrial robots in use: Combination of SUMO Ecoplex2 and SUMO Fotoplex from EGS automation technology with Yaskawa robots

Industrial robots can be divided into the following types:

  • Serial kinematics in which the axes are arranged in series
    • articulated arm robot for complex movements (e.g. in mechanical engineering and the automotive industry), serial axis arrangement, also known as articulated arm robot or articulated robot
    • Scara robot with 3 rotation axes +1 linear axis. S elective C ompliance A ssembly R obot A rm, high precision, bring workpieces from defined positions to the assembly site and join from above
    • portal robot: built in portal construction (TTT kinematics), implementation of large dimensions, particularly suitable for transport tasks
    • Dual arm robot: Work with low payloads (up to 20kg) for the service and medical sector
    • Palletizing robot: automatic placement of pallets and packages on load carriers
  • Parallel kinematics in which the axes are arranged in parallel
    • Hexapod robot: flexible concepts including for simulators and measuring machines
    • Delta robot: light and fast robots for packaging in factories, in assembly and in the high-speed area
  • other:

Industrial robot components

The components of the industrial robot system
System component Image Description
Manipulator Industrial Robot Manipulator An electromechanical structure that generates a path movement of the TCP (tool center point) from several rotatory movements of the individual axes via gears and the individual mechanical elements. The motors of the individual axes generally have holding brakes (exception Scara kinematics, which only have holding brakes on the stroke axis of the spindle).
Robot controller Industrial robot control Controls the individual robot axes using individual servo amplifiers according to setpoints that they receive from the axis computer.
Programming device handheld programming device of an industrial robot Or The handheld device, commonly also called the teachbox, is used by the operator or programmer to handle or program the robot. It is equipped with an enabling button (some also two for left / right-handers), which must be kept actively in the middle position while programming or moving at a safe speed. The enabling button is also commonly referred to as a dead man's switch. Door safety circuits may be open while moving in the so-called teach mode (i.e. with the enabling button held in the middle position and at a reduced safety speed).

Reference point at the tool / tool center point

The tool position of an industrial robot is defined via a reference point on the tool, the so-called TCP (Tool Center Point). This is either entered manually in a tool file (if known from CAD data, for example), otherwise the robot manufacturers usually offer a way of determining it by moving to different positions in a corresponding avoidance routine.

coordinate systems

Industrial Robot Coordinate Systems
Industrial Robot Coordinate Systems

In order to be able to precisely define the tool position, an end effector, in English Tool Center Point (TCP for short), is used. This is a so-called reference point, which is located at a suitable point on the tool. Electrodes from a welding gun are often used as TCP. In order to describe which position the robot tool has to take, it is sufficient to define the position and direction of the TCP in space. A coordinate system helps with the precise classification and naming of the position.

Cartesian coordinates
is usually defined in the delivery state of the robot. The directions of the three coordinate system axes are thus obtained by applying the "right-hand rule" when standing behind the robot, i.e. at the cable connections.
Cylindrical coordinates
plays almost no role nowadays and will only be available for selection with older robots.
Tool coordinates
has its origin in the TCP of the current tool. The tool coordinate system is required to move the robot into a coordinate that relates to the tool.
User coordinates
serve to make the work of the programmer or user easier. These are one or more Cartesian coordinate systems that can be freely defined in terms of position and direction in the robot's range of motion. This allows e.g. very easy to calculate palletizing tasks on slanted pallets.

Movement types

Joint movement or free space movement
With the joint movement or free space movement, only the target position of the robot is in the foreground, all axes are moved to their target encoder value. The speeds are interpolated so that the movement of all axes ends at the same time. With regard to the movement that the robot tool or the tool center point makes, no specifications can be made. The speed for this movement is usually given in% of the maximum, since no path speed of the TCP can be specified.
Linear motion
During the linear movement, the axes of the robot are interpolated so that the current TCP describes a linear path to the target position. The web speed is entered in length / time. The axis speeds are interpolated so that on the one hand the specified path and on the other hand the specified path speed are maintained.
Circular motion
During the circular movement, the axes of the robot are interpolated so that the current TCP describes a circular path or a circle over several points. The web speed is entered in length / time. The axis speeds are interpolated so that on the one hand the specified path and on the other hand the specified path speed are maintained.
Spline interpolation
During the spline movement, the axes of the robot are interpolated so that the current TCP connects several points to a path using a mathematical function. The web speed is entered in length / time. The axis speeds are interpolated so that on the one hand the specified path and on the other hand the specified path speed are maintained.


There is no uniform programming language for robot programming. Each manufacturer has its own syntax and its own functionalities. There has been no standardization or standardization. As a rule, the program is created on the handheld programming device of the robot or on a PC in a special editor or in a mixture of both. There is also the option of offline programming, in which the robot program is created in a virtual installation and then transferred to the real installation.

Select robot type

Industrial robots from YASKAWA
Industrial robots from YASKAWA in use

The selection of the right robot type for the current application requires consideration of some boundary conditions. In addition to the following technical values, a correspondingly in-depth experience in the use of robots, coupled with in-depth knowledge of the process to be automated, also plays an important role.

Step ① work area
The active working area of a robot results from the maximum range minus the inner interference circle. All positions of the process to be reached must be in the available work area. In addition, the robot must be arranged in the best possible way for the process. The installation height must also be observed. Correct positioning ensures that the robot processes its program in favorable axis positions so that the best possible cycle time is achieved and singularities are avoided. The range is specified in the manufacturer's data sheets as the distance from the farthest point of the working area from the center of the robot base (also the origin of the robot coordinate system). The working area of the industrial robot is the sum of all points that can be reached with the intersection of the last two axes. Furthermore, the tool dimensions and tool orientation must also be taken into account in the arrangement.
Step ② payload
The specified maximum load of the robot must be taken into account. This refers to the total load on the tool flange and includes the tool and workpiece (s). In addition, the distance from the center of gravity of the payload to the tool flange of the robot must be taken into account. The robot manufacturers specify these limits in corresponding diagrams. Especially with large or voluminous workpieces or tools, the maximum permissible moments of inertia on the axes must also be taken into account.
Step ③ Installation options
If the robot is positioned correctly in relation to the process, it may make more sense to choose a different orientation in addition to the standard assembly - standing on the floor or on a plinth. He can e.g. also: hanging overhead or at a 90 ° angle on the wall. However, this must be permitted by the manufacturer, in some cases the manufacturers offer special models. There is also the possibility to enlarge the working area by mounting the robot on a separate axis of motion - linear or rotary axis - to enlarge the working area (integrated and interpolated by the robot controller)
Step ④ cycle time / speed
The total cycle time is made up of movement times and the individual process times. The robot movement time depends on the individual axis speeds, the accelerations of the individual motors, the programmed paths as well as the skillful programming and the selected axis positions. The process times depend on the actual process (s), the signal run times and any waiting times that may be required. In the data sheet of a robot, however, usually only the maximum speeds of the individual axes are given.
Step ⑤ accuracy of industrial robots
Repeatability is a type-related value that is determined according to ISO9283 and is specified in the data sheets of the data sheets. It says: How exactly a point is at least reached again when all axes are moved to the stored positions. The absolute accuracy is a sample-related value. It describes how exactly a point in space is reached, e.g. is calculated by offline programming. Absolute accuracy can be improved by special calibration measures for a specimen.
Step ⑥ media supply
Depending on the application of the robot and the resulting complexity of the tool, electrical energy or signals, pneumatics / vacuum or liquids must be fed to the tool. There are basically two ways to do this. Almost all robots have a certain number of electrical wires or air hoses installed inside the manipulator as standard. With 6 axles mostly from the base to the third or fourth axis. Additional supply lines must be led to the tool with appropriate retrofit solutions. The cable routing must allow the robot to move as required.
Step ⑦ environmental conditions
The environmental conditions in which an industrial robot works must be taken into account when selecting and designing. The IP degree of protection, which is usually specified for the manipulator, provides initial information. IP classifies protection against mechanical and liquid (non-aggressive) contaminants. The first digit stands for protection against contact or foreign bodies and the second digit for protection against water or non-aggressive liquids. If the existing protection type of the manipulator is not sufficient, this can be increased by using robot protective covers. The permissible ambient temperature for robots and controls is usually also given on the data sheet.

Industrial robot market / statistics (en)

Industrial Robots History

The market for industrial robots is growing steadily and rapidly. The current market data is regularly collected and published by the IFR (International Federation of Robotics). In the last study, which was published on September 30, 2015, the IFR paints an extremely positive picture for the global robot market:

  • In 2015, the number of units was expected to grow by 15% worldwide; in 2020 a further 1.7 million industrial robots are to be installed - worldwide there will be over 3 million industrial robots installed
  • The main growth driver is Asia, and China in particular
  • 70% of global demand is divided into 5 countries: China, Japan, USA, Korea, Germany
  • In 2018, 400,000 new robots were expected to be installed worldwide. Around 270,000 of these will be used in Asia and around 70,000 in Europe. The importance of the Asian market for manufacturers is increasing both in absolute terms and in proportion to Europe.
  • Chinese manufacturers have also played an important role in the local market since 2013.
  • In terms of robot density, Germany ranks third with 292 robots for 10,000 employees, behind Korea (478) and Japan (314), ahead of the USA with 164. In comparison, the figure for China is 36 robots / 10,000 employees.

manufacturer of industrial robots / industrial robot manufacturer

The largest manufacturers of industrial robots with company details (not exhaustive) that are active in Germany:

The Japanese robot manufacturer FANUC has been producing industrial robots for 40 years and is active worldwide. Over 100 models from FANUC are offered - one of the largest ranges of industrial robots for various applications and industries. FANUC itself emphasizes the many application-specific options and the flexible use of industrial robots. The advantages are universal applicability, simple integration and intuitive operation. FANUC's portfolio includes industrial robots with payloads of up to 2.3 tons / ton and ranges of up to 4.7 meters / meter.
Yaskawa is also a Japanese manufacturer of industrial robots, which together with FANUC is the world leader in this branch. Yaskawa industrial robots with MOTOMAN robot technology are well known. Yaskawa offers various types of industrial robots: assembly robots, Collaborative robots, welding and cutting robots or packaging and Palletizing robot.
KUKA robot
KUKA is the market leader in Germany in terms of industrial robots, followed by Fanuc and ABB. The KR 210 R2700 EXTRA industrial robot from KUKA is one of the best-known robots. The KR series from KUKA is at the forefront of innovation. More about industrial robots from Kuka on the KUKA homepage industrial robots.
The manufacturer ABB specializes in articulated arm robots and painting robots. ABB's IRB 2400 is the most widely used industrial robot in its class worldwide. The IRB series will continue in the future. ABB has already installed more than 400,000 industrial robots worldwide. Like FANUC or Kuka, ABB offers various types of industrial robots, including 6-axis, delta, painting or SCARA robots.
Dürr AG
Dürr is a manufacturer of robot technologies for the automatic application of paint, sealants and adhesives.
In addition to the production of industrial robots, the Japanese company Epson also focuses on printer production, scanners and cameras.
Stäubli is a globally active company for the areas of textile machines, quick coupling systems and industrial robots.
Industrial robot GmbH
The Industrieroboter GmbH, which is a German sales and service subsidiary of the Japanese IAI Corporation. This industrial robot specialist focuses on the development, design and manufacture of electrical actuators. Offer portfolio: Electric linear, rotary and gripping modules, Cartesian robot systems, table robots, Scara robots, controls and fieldbus connections.

There are also other manufacturers in other countries such as Japan (including Denso, Hirata, Nihon Densan Sankyo), Switzerland (including Güdel), Austria (including igm robot systems) and the USA (including Adept Technology).
The annual sales of manufacturers of industrial robots in a wide variety of industries increase from year to year. In 2016, the total sales of the seven largest manufacturers were approximately 24 billion. Euro. Mitsubishi Electric generated the most sales with around 11 billion. Euro.

Further company details can be found on the respective induux profiles of the individual companies.

Automation engineers and system integrators for robotics

Automation engineers, commonly referred to as system integrators, take up production needs in order to to automate with industrial robots.

These include

EGS automation technology
With the SUMO brand, EGS automation technology offers a wide range of standard automation systems. SUMO stands for standardized, universal, minimal space and optimized. Standardization means that planning, engineering, construction and commissioning can be reduced to a minimum. Nevertheless, the SUMO systems are universal, since the experience from numerous application cases was taken into account in the development. There is usually little space and valuable around machines already installed, which is why all SUMO systems are designed to be extremely space-saving.
Customized special solutions are also offered, from simple handling to complex full automation with several robots across the entire process chain. Robots from the manufacturers Yaskawa, Epson and Kuka are used.
Robtec is responsible for the programming, integration, repair and maintenance of industrial robots in the automotive industry.

Costs of industrial robots

The costs of an industrial robot are almost impossible to name in general. The problem is that industrial robots are never off-the-shelf and are tailored to a particular problem solution. Industrial robots are more or less modular and have basic units, but they often have to be manufactured individually and equipped with the appropriate software. With some manufacturers, almost every software option costs an extra charge. For other manufacturers, many functions of the industrial robot are standard. A six-axis industrial robot with a payload of 10 kg, a range of 1200 mm and a repeatability of +- 0.08 mm can be roughly located in the middle five-digit range. For some offers, installation, initial commissioning, test runs, maintenance and retrofitting may not be included and must be added with two thirds.

Industrial robot needed

Industrial robots can also be purchased used on various online marketplaces / wholesalers: machine finders, ebay, robotsale, etc. KUKA also offers used industrial robots (including from the KR series).

Rent industrial robots

Instead of buying new industrial robots, you can rent them at any time. Most manufacturers of industrial robots also offer the option of renting, whereby entire packages and rental offers are submitted. Contents are:

  • Robot (made of different components)
  • Control device & control line
  • Programming device
  • Optional options such as different grippers, compressors, test boards or cables

Advantages of the rental options are:

  1. suitable for short-term use
  2. mostly option of commercial takeover
  3. often no repair costs
  4. of times availability of updates

industrial robot kits

Industrial robots can also be bought as kits (e.g. in online shops such as Conrad or Robotoshop), but in most cases they are not suitable for large-scale industrial use. The kits can be controlled from the PC and can either be used as toys or for DIY applications.

Industrial robots in research

Topics in robot research include:

  • Intelligent industrial robots
  • Reusable robot applications
  • The safe human-robot interaction or Human-robot collaboration (HRC)
  • Fast variant programming
  • Use of robots for motor activation of people
  • Teleoperation of robots
  • AutomationML (Automation Markup Language)
  • Innovative robot programming methods

Industrial robots at institutes

The DLR - German Aerospace Center - runs an institute called "Institute for Robotics and Mechatronics". Robots are developed here to help people in their environment: an effective, efficient and safe interaction should be possible. (Industrial) robots from DLR aim to keep safety high, to take work off in difficult or dangerous environments and to relieve people in the work environment and everyday life.

The DLR institute places particular emphasis on the autonomous operation of robots and the Human-robot interaction on a physical and mental level.

Areas of application and industries

15-axis industrial robot in use
15-axis robot from Yaskawa here as "RoboBarkeeper"

The possible uses of the industrial robot are very diverse. It is used in a wide variety of industries and industries such as used on machine tools for machine tool automation.

Typical areas of application are:

  • Handling
  • Palletizing
  • Path welding
  • Spot welding
  • Assemble
  • Check, measure
  • Clean
  • Marking, labeling
  • Deburring
  • Surface treatment
  • Connection technologies
  • Paint

History of the industrial robot

Unimat PUMA 560 industrial robot
Image: First Unimat PUMA 560 industrial robot

The first industrial robot was the Unimate. It was developed as early as 1961 by George Devol and Joseph Engelberger, an American physicist, engineer and inventor who is now considered the father of robotics. The Unimate revolutionized industrial production all over the world, its functionality is based on the mechanical arm developed and patented by Georg Devol.

An Unimation robot PUMA 560, built in 1978. PUMA (Programmable Universal Machine for Assembly), the first Articulated arm robot with 6 servo motor axes, compiler language VAL, high speed, especially in the hand axes.

Photos: induux Location: Fraunhofer IPA, Stuttgart (Museum of Milestones in Robotics)

Professions related to industrial robots

There are several professions in the industrial robot environment, for example: Mechatronics engineer or Industrial mechanics. Many jobs and workplaces have been replaced by technological change, but at the same time the demand for work has increased due to the high number and extreme product demand. Due to the ongoing trend and strong growth in the robot industry, new jobs are expected for the coming years:

  • Fitter
  • Programmer
  • Designer
  • Sales representative

Occupational safety / DGUV

The following standards apply in particular to industrial robots:

  • EN ISO 10218-1
  • EN ISO 10218-2

Information about the safety requirements can be found on the homepage of the DGUV Department of Wood and Metal (German Statutory Accident Insurance) or in the corresponding |DGUV Information. The content is:

  1. Introduction to robot types, applications and accidents
  2. Legal basis: EU regulation for industrial robots, changes to robot systems, robot systems / interlinking
  3. Operating instructions and technical documentation
  4. Protective measures for industrial robots and systems: ranking, protective devices, calculation examples for safety functions
  5. Collaborative robot systems: minimum requirements, force & power limitation, speed & distance monitoring, safety stops
  6. Maintenance & maintenance: technical (protective) measures, remote diagnosis, design requirements, tests

There are also checklists in the DGUV's information brochure for industrial robots, e.g. for operating instructions, user information or technical (proof) documents. In addition, there are examples of declarations of incorporation, assembly instructions, EU declarations of conformity or risk assessments.


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