Differences Between Collaborative and Articulated Robots

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Collaborative robots and traditional articulated robots can both be used to automate production related tasks. Articulated robots are the most common when it comes to robotic automation, but cobots are one of the latest trends in robotics and their use is gaining popularity. There are some key differences between these two types of robots that can determine when each should be used.


Collaborative robots and articulated robots have similar configurations to one another, but there are some differences. Most cobots feature a single robotic arm attached to a base. However, there are dual arm cobots as is the case with ABB’s YuMi. Their exteriors are more rounded than articulated robots and have no pinch points. Most cobots consist of six axes, but they can have more.

Articulated robots consist of a single robotic manipulator attached to a rotating base. Most articulated robots have between four to six axes, but they can have more as is the case with the seven-axis Motoman VA1400. These robots vary in size ranging from small robots like the FANUC Lr Mate 200id to large robots including the ABB 6640.


Cobots are built with force sensors throughout their robotic arm allowing them to detect abnormal force. These sensors combined with their softer design makes them safe for collaborating on tasks with humans without any barriers. The FANUC CR35ia features a foam exterior for greater collision protection.

Traditional articulated robots must be kept separate from workers when operating through some type of safety fencing or barrier such as a workcell. They lack the collision detection technology of cobots, making them unsafe for direct human and robot interactions.


Cobots abandon traditional robotic programming methods with lead through technology. Lead through technology allows cobots to be programmed through simply guiding their robotic arm through the waypoints of an application. Cobots are able to store the application path and then recall it to replicate the path on their own. Most cobots use hand guidance programming, but some are also capable of being programmed through a tablet as is the case with the Universal UR10.

Articulated robots use traditional robot programming methods through teach pendants or offline software. Teach pendants are the most common method since they come with the robot when purchased from the manufacturer. However, for more complex applications offline programming is best.


Most cobots feature light payloads that are under 20 kg. This makes them suitable for handling light parts and tooling. FANUC’s CR35ia has the highest cobot payload capacity at 35 kg.

Articulated robots have an extremely wide range when it comes to payload capacity. Small six axis robots are capable of handling light payloads similar to those of collaborative robots. There are also articulated robots that can handle medium loads of 30 kg to around 100 kg. High payload articulated robots are those over 150 kg for heavy lifting applications.


Cobots are commonly used for automated assembly, machine tending, material handling, and pick and place applications. They are more limited in the types of applications they can automate because of their lighter payloads.

Articulated robots can automate most industrial applications with their wide range in payload and reach. The most common are welding automation, palletizing, material handling, material removal, and assembly.

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