Cylindrical Robots: Your Guide to the Compact Automation Solution

10 January 2022
cylindrical robot the most compact automation solution
Catherine Bernier
Content Manager
Content for Cobot

Cylindrical robots are one of the most cost-effective and compact automation solutions available. Read on to learn if this robot is right for you.

Cylindrical robots are unique options for simple applications that require a compact automation solution. They are mechanically simple with one rotary axis at its base for rotation and two linear axes for height control and arm extension. With the addition of appropriate end of arm tooling you now have a functional and compact robot. This article will help you understand some of the common use-cases of this less-common robot type and learn if cylindrical robots are right for your application. Topics to be discussed in this article include:

  • Common Applications for Cylindrical Robots
  • Industries that Use Cylindrical Robots
  • When Should You Use a Cylindrical Robot?
  • How Expensive are Cylindrical Robots?

Common Applications for Cylindrical Robots

Cylindrical robots’ unique design makes them a great choice for specific circumstances. They excel at simple tasks that require a compact solution. Their slender frame and compact design allow for minimal workspace intrusion. Their limited number of moving parts also can restrict them to more simple tasks. Common applications include:

Their limited number of axes or degrees of freedom often limit cylindrical robots to the simplest versions of these tasks. Later in this article, we will discuss these trade-offs in more detail. 

Industries that Use Cylindrical Robots

Cylindrical robots are found in a wide variety of industries. This is due to their broad range of applications. As one of the older robot types, cylindrical robots have also been historically used across many different manufacturing industries. Some common industries include:

  • Automotive
  • Metals
  • Pharmaceuticals 
  • Food and beverage
  • Packaging
  • Plastics
  • Aerospace
  • Electronics

The common applications give you a direct through-line to the common industries that make use of this robot type. Material handling and welding tasks are common in automotive, aerospace, plastics, and metals industries. Additionally, palletizing is a typical end-of-line task in high-volume industries. Good examples of these include pharmaceutical and food and beverage manufacturers.

When Should You Use a Cylindrical Robot?

Now you have a solid understanding of what cylindrical robots are and what they do. When might a cylindrical robot be right for you is a key question when exploring automating a task in your facility. These robots are one of the least-common robot types in the industry. First, they are an older robot type. Additionally, most tasks suitable for cylindrical robots can be performed by SCARA and cartesian robot types. SCARAs are especially more readily available on the open market as they are standard offerings for major suppliers. 

However, there are defining features of cylindrical robots that would make them a better choice in specific circumstances. Features of your application that may lead you to consider a cylindrical robot include:

  • Task Simplicity
  • Need for Compact Solution
  • Cost Sensitivity

Task Simplicity

Cylindrical robots are suitable for the simplest tasks. This is mainly due to their construction. They don’t have the sophistication of motion like six-axis robots. This is because they have 3 axes of motion vs the six axes on six-axis robot arms. Nor do they have the high-speed capability to compete on speed with delta robots. Typical cylindrical robots move on the order of around 1000mm/s while deltas can achieve 10,000mm/s speeds.

Simple tasks that don’t require high-speed, payload, or articulate motion are candidates for cylindrical robots. An example of this would be a lightweight material handling task for a 3D printing company. A cylindrical robot could be tasked with unloading 3D printed material from the printing bed after the printing process is complete. 3D printed material is lightweight. Cylindrical robots have payload capacities of only a few kilograms. Additionally, this process is slow. The cylindrical robot won’t be held back by its limitations for a task like this.

Need for Compact Solution

Cylindrical robots are one of the most compact robotic solutions available today. Simple tasks that might be covered by a SCARA or cartesian robot might also require a compact machine. SCARA and cartesian robots often have larger workplace requirements due to their larger mechanics and less efficient use of floor space. Cylindrical robots are small and have slender mechanics. 

An example application might be an electronic soldering application. A SCARA could do this. However, if the application has limited available floor space, there might not be room to install a SCARA. A cylindrical robot could perform this task while taking up less space than the SCARA would.

Cost Sensitivity

A simple reason to consider a cylindrical robot is cost sensitivity. Sometimes there is limited capital available for automation projects. In these instances, manufacturers look for ways to cut costs where the opportunity arises. Due to their simplicity, cylindrical robots are some of the least expensive robots on the market. The obvious trade-off here is that they are easily outperformed by other robot types. They are the optimal choice only in specific scenarios. If cost is a determining factor, it may be advisable to use a cylindrical robot in place of another robot type.

Do you require additional resources to determine if a cylindrical robot is right for you? You can utilize our network of automation advisors to help you prioritize tasks suitable for automation and determine appropriate solutions. 

How Expensive are Cylindrical Robots?

So how expensive are cylindrical robots, anyway? In the previous section, you learned they are one of the least expensive robot types on the market. This is a direct result of these robots’ size and simplicity. A range of $5,000 - $15,000 USD is reasonable for a cylindrical robot. Factors such as brand, quality of mechanics, size, and sophistication of controls can significantly affect this range. However, the cost of the robot itself is not the only cost you should consider. Additional costs include: 

  • Integration costs
  • Safety equipment
  • Maintenance costs
  • Training
  • Custom end of arm tooling

There are many cost considerations in any automation project. It is a mistake to only consider the sticker price of the robot in your calculations. Detailed research into your automation project is key to finding a return on your investment. 

Do you need help creating an automation budget and estimating ROI on automation solutions? Our investment calculator can help you get an overview of these costs and values today.