Latest Blog Post

New Call-to-action

Yes, Collaborative Robots Can Be Repurposed in a Changing Production Environment

Karen Smock
by Karen Smock on Aug 15, 2016 7:00:00 AM

Fast turnaround is a necessity for small and medium manufacturers. Companies that can find ways to decrease lot sizes and produce small, custom runs gain a competitive edge over those with long lead times. Can robotics and automation be effective in a variable production environment? With traditional industrial automation, the answer is usually no. Large, high-volume, single-purpose workhorses are productive but not flexible. In contrast, collaborative robots are extremely flexible and adaptable, making them ideal for use in both high- and low-volume production runs.


With collaborative robots, some parameters are fixed, such as the reach radius, axes of movement (also known as degrees of freedom), and payload. For example, a UR5 from Universal Robotics is a 6-axis arm with a maximum payload of 5 kilos, and cannot be re-purposed to handle a higher payload.

However, despite fixed parameters like payload, three main features of collaborative robots make them extremely well-suited to repurposing. Mobility, re-programmability, and modularity of the end effectors, or end-of-arm tooling, are advantages that allow collaborative robots to be easily re-deployed.


MobilePlatform_.jpgUnlike traditional industrial robots, collaborative robots are cage-free, lightweight, and have a small footprint. Since only a small space is required, they can easily be set up in a new station without re-configuring the entire production floor. They’re so light, they can even be mounted on a mobile platform to be wheeled around from one area to another. The UR5 from Universal Robots weighs only 18 kg (41 lbs)! Mobility is a major advantage that allows collaborative robots to be deployed where they’re needed, just like a workforce.


Collaborative robots are designed with agility in mind. As long as the main unit and the end effector have the capacity to perform the new task, a collaborative robot like the UR5 can be re-programmed quickly. A library of programs for recurring tasks can even be stored for fast retrieval and quick re-deployment. End effectors like the Robotiq 2-Finger and 3-Finger Grippers provide the ability for the robot to grasp a wide range of different objects without changing the robot or end tool. The Robotiq 2-Finger 85 Gripper can even control the force exerted, allowing it to pick up fragile and brittle parts, as well as sturdy pieces. Watch this video to see how easy it is to program a UR5 equipped with a 2-Finger Adaptive Robot Gripper.

Modularity of the End Effectors

suction-cups.jpgA collaborative robot like the UR5 can perform many tasks by using different end-of-arm tooling like suction cups, Grippers, dispensing, cutting, drilling, or deburring tools, and more. With this
range of end options, a UR5 can feed a CNC machine, pick, pack, glue, dispense, and perform many other operations.  Changing the end effector is not as fast as simply re-programming the same end effector to perform a new task. However, tool changers can be used to make it easier for a robot to use different end-of-arm tooling. Learn more about different end effectors in this free eBook.

Re-deployability makes collaborative robots even more attractive when calculating potential return on investment. The probability of downtime is greatly reduced when you factor in the capacity for the robot to be re-programmed, moved, and adapted with a new end effector. For example, in a short production run, the same robot could be re-deployed to drill parts, glue assemblies, and pack orders. Of course, safety and suitability must be taken into consideration before re-deployment, but collaborative robots are proving to be much more flexible than their dedicated predecessors.

Compare 19 collaborative robots Now >>


Subscribe to Robotiq's Blog

Leave a comment

Karen Smock
Written by Karen Smock
Karen Smock is a freelance marketing and technical writer who specializes in manufacturing, manufacturing technology, and clear writing. She lives in a house where robots outnumber people.
Connect with the writer:

Related posts

Why Humans Should Stop Worrying About Robots Taking Their Jobs

When the topic of robots in manufacturing comes up, the first thing people talk about is a fear of losing their jobs to robotic...

Mariane Davids
By Mariane Davids - June 19, 2017
What's New in Robotics This Week - Jun 16

Manufacturing & cobot roundup, the Tertill launch, Softbank-Boston dynamics deal, 2060: It begins and much more! We hope that...

Emmet Cole
By Emmet Cole - June 16, 2017
How Today's Collaborative Robots Are Cheaper Than Fenced Options

Until recent years, robots in manufacturing were limited to fenced options that were large, took up a lot of space on the...

Mariane Davids
By Mariane Davids - June 13, 2017

Yes, We Now Support Two Grippers on One UR Arm!

...actually, we support up to four Grippers on the same arm.Our new Gripper URCap software upgrade now includes multiple Grippers control. But that’s not all!Here is the list of new features and bug...Read more

Remote control of Universal Robots user interface

Hi. Has anyone tried to or does anyone know how to remote control Polyscope, the user interface of Universal robots? I’ve had the idea to install VNC server on a robot to be able to remote control...Read more

Improve cycle time when using the Robotiq Gripper

Hi Pros,In some applications where cycle time is critical, saving a few seconds here and there can be important. Here's a new program template that allows you to save a few tenths of seconds...Read more

Allighnment with integrated force sensing of UR5

In our application we have a UR5 with a Robotiq Gripper, Is it possible to use a force feedback to aid in aligning the palletizing program to the presented pallet or work surface. I began...Read more