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Cobots VS Industrial Robots

Both industrial robots and cobots can be used in so many different applications and solutions, but there are some differences that make it more worthwhile to choose one robot over another. In this blog post, we’re going to talk about some of those differences and hopefully, clue you in on which will suit your requirements better.



Let’s start with a bit of context. George Charles Devol, often called the "Grandfather of Robotics", invented the first industrial robot, the Unimate, in 1954. Back then, robots were used for much more simpler tasks, such as picking and placing, but Unimation would soon develop robots for welding and other applications. The uses, applications and technology behind the robots continued to develop once this first robot was born, and by the middle of the 1970s, industrial robots had taken the manufacturing world by storm and were expected to grow at rates around 30% per year. Nowadays, industrial robots are used within a huge range of industries, including automotive, food and beverage, and manufacturing.


Now for a little history on the newer automated option… cobots. The first cobot was invented in 1996 by J. Edward Colgate and Michael Peshkin, who called the cobot “a device and method for direct physical interaction between a person and a computer-controlled manipulator”. Cobots really took off in the early 2000s. Universal Robots, the largest global supplier of collaborative robots, launched their first cobot in 2008, the UR5. Four years later, the UR10 was launched, followed by the UR3 in 2015. Cobots are used in countless industries, much like industrial robots.


The key difference between industrial robots and cobots is that cobots were designed with humans in mind. They are designed to work collaboratively alongside humans – it’s in the name. With cobots, there is no need for cages or safety zones that separate the robots from the workers, however with industrial robots, it is often the case that space is unnecessarily and inconveniently taken up.




Here are some other factors that differentiate industrial robots from cobots:


Cobots are perfect for low-volume, high-mix production and can almost guarantee a quick ROI (Return On Investment) when implemented effectively, because of their affordability and the lack of requirement for any expensive safety cages etc.


Industrial robots are best suited to high-volume, extremely high-accuracy, and high-speed production, where production processes continue unchanged for years (to guarantee a good ROI). Industrial robots do not encompass the flexibility that comes with cobots, as they cannot be moved around easily, or without cost, and often they are programmed for one specific task only.


Cobots on the other hand, can be moved quickly and easily, and allow for multiple uses and tasks in collaboration with tool changing accompaniments. Their ability to work alongside humans means that even without automated programming to interact with tool changing equipment, humans are able to swoop in and out of their processes, making quick amendments and changes where necessary. The cobot’s flexibility also accommodates for quickly changing customer demands and needs.


So, you see, there are many reasons why a company may choose an industrial robot over a cobot and vice versa. Ultimately, with the speed of change in the world today and constantly shifting demands, the cobot has got our vote, of course.