General Purpose vs Special Purpose Robots

FANUC R2000ib 125L R30ia Motoman MA1400 FANUC M710ic 50 Motoman HP6 NX100 FANUC Arcmate 120ic
Industrial robots first got their start automating processes in manufacturing facilities. Today robots are still mainly found on manufacturing floors, but advancements in technology has allowed them to venture into other settings such as hospitals, laboratories, farms, and even space. The work environment of a robot varies based upon whether it is considered a general purpose or special purpose robot. There are many factors that distinguish these two robot categories from one another which are described below.

General Purpose Robots

General purpose robots are those that can automate a variety of applications. Most industrial robots are considered to be general purpose robots due to their multiple application capabilities. The FANUC M-20ia falls under the general purpose robot category since it can automate assembly or material handling tasks. Since these articulated robots feature multipurpose capabilities, they are able to be redeployed over and over through programming. They can change their day to day tasks or be programmed for an entire sequence of tasks. The FANUC R-2000ib can be programmed for palletizing one day and reprogrammed for packaging the next. General purpose robots feature multi-axis configurations which allows for greater flexibility in their operation. The six axis robots like the ABB 2400 provide it with the range of motion needed to automate a variety of production related tasks.


The main advantage of general purpose robots is their flexibility. They can be used for a variety of applications, work with different part types, and adapt to changes. Users are able to deploy general purpose robots for multiple projects, making them a long-lasting investment. Costs are decreased since they can reduce the amount of manufacturing equipment needed and can be redeployed. One Motoman MH50 can automate a sequence of tasks, taking on the workload of several workers by itself.


When it comes to disadvantages for general purpose robots there are not many. Their one main drawback is they may not be appropriate for specialized work conditions such as those requiring a sterile environment.

Special Purpose Robots

Special purpose robots are those that are designed for one specific task or work environment. Special purpose robots provide a niche service such as performing surgery, exploring space, or planting crops on farms. Since special purpose robots are created for a specific task, they are unable to be reprogrammed or moved to a different work environment. Cleanroom robots can be considered special purpose since they are designed for operation in work environments requiring stringent cleanliness regulations such as laboratories. A cleanroom robot is built for sterile work environments.


Since special purpose robots are designed for a specific process or environment, they will likely excel at the task or in specific work conditions. They are built with the special features needed for a specific application, allowing for flawless operations.


The disadvantage of special purpose robots is they cannot be redeployed should a process or needs change. This means users are likely to have to invest in a new robot or equipment.

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