Gantry Robot: Automate Your Largest Applications

15 December 2021
Gantry robot for large overhead applications
Catherine Bernier
Content Manager
,
Content for Cobot

Gantry robots are positioned to handle some of the largest applications in manufacturing. Learn where they fit in your process and when to automate.

Gantry robots are automation workhorses. As the big brother of the cartesian-type robot, this machine often handles the most demanding robotic applications. Gantry robots are identified by their large structures vaulting overtop the workstation. Gantry robots will have two large x-axis actuators that travel the length of the work envelope. They will have at least one y-axis actuator to traverse left and right across the work envelope. Additionally, they will have at least one z-axis actuator that travels up and down in and out of the work envelope. 

Their ability to scale gives them an undeniable advantage over other robot types for the right task. In this article, you will learn more about what gantry robots are and when you should consider using them for an application. Topics to be covered include:

  • Standard applications for gantry robots
  • Industries for gantry robots
  • When should you use a gantry robot?
  • How much do gantry robots cost?

Standard Applications for Gantry Robot

Gantry robots are typically reserved for heavy-duty tasks. They are found above the workstation on sturdy metal legs. Mounted on this frame is the rest of the structure of the gantry that allows it to move around the workspace and complete its task. Its construction gives it advantages that make it a great choice for specific applications. These applications include but are not limited to: 

Gantry robots are great choices for these tasks especially as the payload and size demands increase beyond what other robot types can handle. Other robots have limits to payload, speed, and reach. Gantry robots have much higher performance ceilings and are often only constrained by the space available to them.

Industries for Gantry Robot

Due to the types of applications gantry robots excel in they are common in many industries. Common industries for gantry robots include:

  • Aerospace
  • Metals
  • Plastics and Rubber
  • Logistics/warehousing
  • Paper
  • Food and beverage

Gantry robots are common in these industries for a few reasons. It is common for applications in some of these industries to have high payload requirements. These payload requirements can exceed those of other robot types. Other times, reach can be a limiting factor for using another robot type and a gantry can excel here. Let’s look at these strengths and limitations in more detail.

When Should You Use a Gantry Robot?

large gantry robot for logistics

 

Every robot type has its own strengths and limitations. It’s these characteristics that often determine which robot is appropriate for a specific application. Gantry robots are no different in this regard. They have a few strengths and limitations that can help you determine if they are right for your application. Some key features to consider include:

  • Payload capacity
  • Speed
  • Reach
  • Dexterity
  • Size

Payload capacity

Gantry robots are most notable for their payload capacity. Often resembling industrial cranes, these machines have massive metal structures that give them great mechanical strength. This construction enables them to withstand huge payloads from things like large rolls of metal and airplane components. There aren’t many applications that are too big for a gantry robot. However, plenty of applications can be too small for a gantry to make sense. For example, for small assembly tasks, such as PCB assembly, a gantry can perform the task, but would be overkill. In this instance, you would be spending a lot of money for capabilities you wouldn’t be leveraging with your gantry robot.

Speed

Gantry robots are of average speed and mostly depend on the motors used and the payload to determine how fast they can go. Depending on their size and mechanics, speeds can be as slow as several centimeters per second up to several meters per second. They have a lot of flexibility in this regard because the motors and gearboxes don’t have to fit inside a robot body housing like articulated robots. Additionally, there is a high degree of flexibility in gearing by fitting gearboxes to the motors as well as the internal gearing derived from the mechanics of the actuators. This gearing comes from ball screws, rack and pinion gears, belt-and-pulley systems, etc. 

Speed and payload are a balancing act of considerations. Higher payloads require heavier components and higher gear ratios which limits top speed. The fastest robots often don’t have great payload capacity, and vice versa. The demands of your application will determine which robot type to use.

Reach

Here is where the gantry robot really shines. Their reach is unmatched compared to other robot types. Reach is only constrained by how much space you have available for construction. Gantry robots can be as small as a few square meters to entire football fields (or pitches for our European readers!). This explains why gantry robots can be found in large warehouse and storage applications. If the task requires large distances to be covered then a gantry can be a good place to start.

Dexterity

Gantries can start to falter when the application requires flexible motion. The same construction that allows it to have great payload capacity and reach also makes it rigid. This means gantries will struggle in applications that require it to get around, to the side, or underneath the part to perform their task. For example, a gantry robot would be a poor choice for a welding application that requires it to weld multiple joints at various angles. An articulated arm would excel at this type of job. Gantry robots are typically reserved for tasks where they can move over the top of the part, drop down, perform a function, move back up, and move to its next position. 

Size

Gantries are one of the largest robot types even at their smallest level of implementation. No other robot (except mobile types) can operate across the entire length of a factory floor. This size is advantageous in large applications. However, this size can be detrimental when space is limited either laterally or vertically. Because gantries are above the workspace, this is usually not a problem. But in special circumstances, existing infrastructure can make gantry integration difficult. 

The two primary questions you should ask are:

  • Is there an application fit?
  • What is the business case for my gantry robot?

This section should provide a good starting point to understand application fit for a gantry robot. If there isn’t an application fit, then you could suffer negative consequences. This includes potential lost revenue, inefficient operation, and even complete failure of the project. The second question is regarding the business case. To answer this, you must understand the cost of your process, what is gained from automating, and the cost of the robot project. If you can make an ROI case in an attractive timeline, then you are on your way to proving a solid business case for your automation project.

If you still aren’t sure about application fit or have other questions regarding automation in your facility, reach out to experts using our network of independent advisors.

How Much Do Gantry Robots Cost?

Due to their sheer size and difficulty of integration, gantry robots can be very expensive. It is not unheard of for a very small-scale gantry robot project to have a $50,000 USD price tag. This cost would include both costs of equipment and integration labor. Costs can vary widely based on brand and region, but these robots will require a hefty investment. Our proposal tool will get you in contact with suppliers in your region so you can begin determining rough costs today.

The construction of these robots is a unique factor that affects the pricing. Since they are so large, they are often constructed on-site. A standard industrial robot arm can typically be shipped pre-assembled on a pallet. This construction will carry an additional labor cost that is minimal to non-existent with other robot types.


Cost aside, manufacturers across the world are finding returns with these robots. These users found the proper mix of application fit and business case to achieve these returns. Not sure how to determine your business case? Our investment calculator can help you reach a conclusion. This tool will help you determine where your costs lie and where you might be able to find value by automating.