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Cobots vs Robots: The Ultimate Showdown

Alex Owen-Hill
by Alex Owen-Hill. Last updated on Jan 24, 2023 3:55 PM
Posted on Dec 09, 2022 11:12 AM. 6 min read time

Welcome to the ultimate showdown between cobots and robots!

For decades, conventional industrial robots have ruled the manufacturing space. They have provided businesses with automation solutions capable taking on repetitive tasks and reducing manual labor.

More recently, collaborative robots stepped into the ring as a challenger to conventional robots. They might look similar to some conventional industrial robots, but they are lighter and easier to use. Companies have started adopting cobots at an impressive rate.

Which is better? Cobots or robots?

It's time to put the two robot types against each other once and for all.

Get ready for our head-to-head… sorry… arm-to arm showdown between cobots and conventional robots.

Let's meet our contestants!

Contestant 1: Conventional Industrial Robots

In the first corner, we have the conventional industrial robot, a machine built for speed and strength.

Industrial robots have been used for almost 70 years in automated manufacturing processes. They are typically used for high-volume, repetitive tasks such as welding, painting, and large assembly. They have the advantage of being able to work quickly and efficiently, once they have been deployed to their chosen task.

This is not the first showdown for industrial robots. For decades, robots have been pitted against humans for their increased speed, accuracy, and consistency. In many cases, industrial robots came out on top… and human workers aren't always happy about it!

Conventional industrial robots are often big and strong, requiring safety fencing to avoid danger to humans… a formidable opponent.


Industrial robot performing a machine tending application

Contestant 2: Collaborative Robots

In the opposite corner, we have the relative newcomer to the automation space: collaborative robots.

Cobots are designed to work alongside humans, providing an extra hand on the production line or for other tasks. They're often smaller and lighter than conventional industrial robots, requiring less investment of time, budget, and energy to get running.

This is not the first time cobots have faced off against their robot cousins. In recent decades, they've also been pitted against humans for their safety and task consistency. And, often, humans seem happier with this pairing than with conventional robots.

Cobots have also gone head-to-arm against another surprising contender… dogs!

Airline Hydraulics recently put cobots up against a four-legged friend in their "Puppy vs. Collaborative Robot SHOWDOWN" comparing how quickly and accurately they could learn to speak, fetch, and spin around. It was a close call, but the cobot came out on top!


Gripper holding a metallic part with a collaborative robot

Let the showdown begin!

Both robots and cobots have their strengths and weaknesses.

Conventional robots can be incredibly powerful and efficient machines, capable of executing the same complex production tasks repeatedly for months on end. But they do take a long time to deploy and are expensive.

Cobots, on the other hand, are lighter and more affordable than conventional robots. They're easier to program and can work safely alongside humans. But they tend to be slower and less strong.

Which will win in our showdown?

Let the contest begin!

Round 1: Strength

The first round is strength. When it comes to power, industrial robots tend to be the stronger of the two. Some can lift hundreds of kilograms with ease.

Cobots, on the other hand, have more modest lifting capabilities. Even with the heavier payload cobots on the market, such as the UR20 with its 20kg payload capacity, it's still not much.

Winner: Robots

Round 2: Speed

When it comes to speed, robots usually have the edge and are capable of moving at high speeds that no human could match.… but it's not a simple comparison.

Traditional industrial robots usually move much faster than cobots, allowing them to complete complex tasks quickly and efficiently. Cobots often move slowly, but only to keep them within safety limits to be around humans. They are often capable of moving at the same speed as robots.

Winner: Draw

Round 3: Flexibility

When it comes to flexibility and versatility, cobots come out on top. You can quickly and easily reprogram a cobot to perform a variety of tasks. Changing between robot programs and tasks can take just a matter of minutes.

With a conventional robot, reprogramming is usually a long and difficult process, requiring you to stop production while it happens.

Winner: Cobots

Round 4: Cost

The true cost of a robotic solution can be hard to clarify. With conventional industrial robots, there are various added extras you will have to pay for that aren't always obvious up front.

Cobots are usually more affordable. Also, their ease of use means you don't need to pay expensive integration costs to get them up and running.

Winner: Cobots

Round 5: Safety

This is the round where cobots have an "unfair advantage."

Traditional industrial robots need to be caged off or required dedicated safety systems to operate safely around humans.

Cobots are designed and built with human safety in mind. You can place the cobot into your facility without safety fencing and know that your human workers will be safe alongside it.

Winner: Cobots

Round 6: Efficiency

When it comes to efficiency, this is a hard contest to judge.

What does efficiency mean in terms of robotics? What types of efficiency are we talking about, anyway?

There are various types of efficiency. Conventional robots could be efficient in that they move and complete tasks quickly. But cobots could be efficient as they take less time to program.

Winner: Draw

Round 7: Weight

There's no denying it. Industrial robots are heavy beasts. An industrial robot can be 3 or 4 times heavier than a cobot with a similar payload capacity.

Heavier doesn't mean better. The higher weight of a conventional robot means you need a stronger support structure under it and makes it harder to move the robot around.

Winner: Cobots

Round 8: Accuracy

Conventional industrial robots tend to have the edge when it comes to accuracy, and for one reason… stiffness. Their heavy structure does have one benefit — it usually makes the robot stiffer. This can improve the accuracy of the robot.

Some cobots are as accurate as some conventional robots, but in general, robots are more accurate.

Winner: Robots

Round 9: Ease of Use

The final round is ease of use. And here, cobots clearly come out on top.

Conventional industrial robots require specialized programming and maintenance that can be time-consuming and difficult for those without robotics expertise.

Cobots are designed to be much more user friendly. Their intuitive interfaces allow almost anyone to quickly learn how to program and maintain the cobot.

Winner: Cobots

And the winner is...

After a long and hard-fought battle, the winner is… cobots!

But there's a caveat…

As with any technology, the real answer for the question "Which is best for me?" is… it depends!

In our showdown, cobots may have the edge in factors like cost, safety, and ease of use. But which type you need depends on your specific needs. It's up to you to decide which factors are important for you.

No matter whether you choose cobots or conventional robots, both offer powerful automation solutions that can significantly improve the efficiency and consistency of your tasks.

Discover our Cobot Solutions

Which option best suits you? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or the DoF professional robotics community.

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Alex Owen-Hill
Written by Alex Owen-Hill
Alex Owen-Hill is a freelance writer and public speaker who blogs about a large range of topics, including science, presentation skills at, storytelling and (of course) robotics. He completed a PhD in Telerobotics from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid as part of the PURESAFE project, in collaboration with CERN. As a recovering academic, he maintains a firm foot in the robotics world by blogging about industrial robotics.
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