Robot Components 221

Robot Components is an overview of the mechanical devices and parts that comprise an industrial robot. An industrial robot is a reprogrammable machine used to perform work in a manufacturing environment. Typically, robot components include a base, body, motor, drive, input device, controller, end effectors, and sensors. Software is also a critical component in operating modern industrial robots.

Robots can perform manufacturing processes with increased speed, accuracy, and functionality. It is important to know the components of a robot and how they work for safe operation and proper function. After taking this class, users will be able to identify and describe common components of industrial robots and the basic functions of each component.

  • Difficulty Intermediate

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 11

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Main Components of Industrial Robots
  • Robot Materials
  • Robotic Arms and Parts
  • End Effectors
  • Components Review
  • Robot Bearings
  • Drive Systems and Actuators
  • Controller
  • Sensors
  • Robot Software
  • Final Review
  • Describe industrial robots and their major components.
  • Describe materials used in robot construction.
  • Describe robotic arms and parts of robotic arms.
  • Describe common end effectors for robots.
  • Describe bearings and their uses in robotics.
  • Describe drive systems and actuators for industrial robots.
  • Describe the controller and related components of a robot.
  • Describe common robot sensors.
  • Describe software for industrial robots.
Vocabulary Term


A device that activates movement in either a linear or rotary fashion. Actuators can be motors located at the joints between linkages or be hydraulic cylinders or other linear drive mechanisms that form the linkages.


A lightweight metal that is silvery-white in color. Aluminum resists corrosion and provides lightweight support for industrial robots.

angular grippers

A mechanical gripper with jaws that move around a rotating axis during operation. Angular grippers require more clearance space than parallel grippers for gripping parts.

articulated robots

A type of robot that closely resembles a human arm. An articulated robot has a varied number of revolute joints.

artificial intelligence

AI. The ability of a machine or computer to imitate intelligent human behavior. Artificial intelligence allows machines to perform a process with autonomy.

automated guided vehicles

AGV. A programmable and highly sophisticated autonomous vehicle, often integrated with sensor technology, that moves throughout a space. Automated guided vehicles are often used in warehouses and agricultural environments.


Self-governing. Autonomous systems can be configured to make decisions independent of human interaction.

axial loads

Force that is applied parallel to a bearing's axis. Axial loads are also called thrust loads.

ball bearings

A type of anti-friction bearing metal balls that provide a rolling motion and reduce friction between moving parts. Ball bearings are capable of operating at high speeds but cannot support larger loads.


The foundation of a robot that secures it to a surface. Bases for stationary robots are often secured to floors and walls for support.


A friction-reducing device that allows one moving part to glide past another moving part. Bearings operate using a sliding or rolling mechanism.


Capable of being broken down and naturally absorbed into the ecosystem. Biodegradable materials degrade into simple, stable compounds that are not harmful to the environment.

biologically inert

A material or object that does not react when exposed to biological materials. Biologically inert materials, such as titanium, are often used in clean room environments since they resist contamination.


The casing and parts that provide structural support for the other components in the robot. The body shape of a robot varies greatly depending on the type of robot.


An enclosure containing the main components of a robot's controller. Cabinets can store the controller's memory, safety control, and power supplies.

carbon fiber

A material made from slender, thread-like strands of carbon, a strong nonmetallic element. Carbon fiber is a rigid material with good tensile strength and is used in specialized industrial robots.

Cartesian robots

A type of robot that has prismatic joints only. Cartesian robots have linear joint movement that gives them a highly rigid structure, allowing them to lift heavy objects.

cast iron

An iron alloy usually containing more than 2% carbon, along with silicon and sulfur. Cast irons offer heat resistance and compressive strength.

clean room

A room in which temperature, humidity, and air pressure are controlled and maintained. Robots are ideal for use in clean rooms because they do not contaminate the environment.

collaborative workspaces

An area in which a human works in coordination with a robot. Collaborative workspaces may have varying degrees of human-robot interaction depending on the application and the cobot technology.

contact sensors

A type of sensor that uses physical contact to detect an object or surface and its features. Contact sensors for robots include tactile and force sensors.


The main device that processes information and carries out instructions in a robot. The controller is also known as the CPU or processor.


The robots and other machines in a work cell are generally integrated and controlled by a single industrial computer or programmable logic controller (PLC) located outside of the robot itself.

crossed roller bearings

A type of roller bearing that is able to withstand and support moment load. Crossed roller bearings are often used in robot joints due to their small size.

degrees of freedom

The possible directions of movement for an object. A robot's degrees of freedom include linear and rotational axes.

drive systems

A series of components that provide mechanical force to a robot to make it move. Drive systems can use hydraulic, pneumatic, or electric power.


Any device that introduces motion into a system. Electric motors, especially servos, are the most common robot drive.


A compact mobile robot that can be guided through programming or the use of a remote control. Drones can fly, swim, or, sometimes, fly and swim.


Power created by an electrical circuit. Electric drives are the most common drives used in robots.


A device that translates rotary or linear motion into a digital signal. Encoders are often mounted to the servomotor of a robot.

end effectors

A device attached to the end of a robot arm that allows it to interact with a part, component, or material. The end effector, or end of arm tool, may be a gripper that allows the robot to pick up objects and place them down.

end of arm tool

EOAT. A device attached to the end of a robot arm that allows it to interact with a part, component, or material. The end of arm tool, also known as end effector, may be a gripper that allows the robot to pick up objects and place them down.

external sensors

A type of sensor that is located outside of or mounted to a robot. External sensors provide feedback about the robot's environment.


A return signal that confirms a condition of a robot, such as position. Feedback devices include proximity sensors and encoders.


A gripper appendage with its own set of flexible joints. Fingers on a robot can move with accuracy and dexterity similar to a human finger.

gear ratio

The relationship between the number of teeth on two meshing gears or the number of times a gear turns in relation to another gear. The gear ratio reflects the change in mechanical speed and torque from the motor.


Any physical or mechanical component. Hardware for a control system includes the processor and input device.

human-machine interfaces

HMI. A device connected to a machine that allows operators to monitor and control a machine or process. A human-machine interface may have a touch screen or control pad.


Power created by the controlled motion of a liquid. Hydraulic systems are often used with robots that must lift heavy loads.

industrial control system

An automatic mechanism used to manage dynamic processes by adjusting or maintaining physical variables. Industrial control systems allow for more precise and repeatable processes across networks of manufacturing processes and equipment.

industrial robots

A reprogrammable machine sometimes used in place of a person in a manufacturing setting. Industrial robots perform dangerous or repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy.

input devices

A device that allows a human being to communicate with and program a robot. Input devices include personal computers and teach pendants.

internal sensors

A type of sensor that is located inside a robot. Internal sensors provide feedback about the state of the robot.


A part on a gripper that grips and holds a workpiece. Jaws can be fixed or adjustable.


A structural component in a robotic arm that allows for rotational movement. Joints on a robot mimic the rotational movement of human joints, such as wrists or elbows.


A synthetic fiber with high tensile strength developed by DuPont de Nemours, Inc. Kevlar is often used as a reinforcing agent and can be used in specialized robot parts.

linear joints

A joint that moves in a straight line across a single axis. Linear joints are also known as prismatic joints.


A rigid body between two joints. Link movement is actuated by motors in the joints or, in some cases, the link can be the actuator.

machine learning

The process that enables a digital system to analyze data in order to build predictive models and make decisions autonomously. Machine learning systematically solves problems using highly complex algorithms.

magnetic grippers

A device that uses magnetism to secure to parts. Magnetic grippers allow robots to perform tasks such as handling and moving metal parts.


The substance out of which something is made. Materials for industrial robots are chosen based on desired properties, operating environment, and required tasks.


A computer processor on a small circuit. A microprocessor executes most of the functions of the CPU.


Robot software that allows communication between robots and other equipment within a system. Middleware allows complex robot systems to be controlled from a single interface.

mobile robots

A robot that is able to move through space. Mobile robots use tracks or a set of independent wheels to move.

moment load

A force applied to a rotational axis. Moment load can be controlled with the use of bearings.

multi-function end effectors

A device that contains two or more robotic tools or end effectors. Multi-function end effectors allow a robot to do more than one task in a work cell.


Any unwanted sound. Noise is mostly prevented with the use of rubber wheels on mobile robots.

noncontact sensors

A type of sensor that detects changes and objects without using physical contact. Noncontact sensors for robots include proximity sensors and vision sensors.

offline programming software

Robot software that allows robots to be programmed without any physical connection or stopping the robot's operation. Offline programming software makes process changes more efficient and prevents any downtime for the robot.

parallel grippers

A mechanical gripper with lateral sliding jaws that remain parallel during operation. Parallel grippers need less space than angular grippers when gripping and releasing parts.

parallel Robots

A robot that relies on computers and equations of motion to control the position and orientation of its end effector. Parallel robots typically have six linear actuators from the end effector to the base.

path planning software

Robot software that uses algorithms to direct the robot's motions through space. Path planning software finds the safest and most efficient route for a robot to complete a task.

personal computers

PCs. A processor-driven device that runs multiple programs and processes simultaneously. A personal computer may be used as an input device.


Power created by the controlled motion of gas, usually air, under pressure. Pneumatic systems are often used to power robotic grippers, simple pick-and-place devices, and robots in which electric motors might pose a hazard.

power transmission system

A device that moves energy from a source to an output device that performs work. Power transmission systems can be many different mechanical components, including gears, belts, and chains.

prismatic joints

A joint that moves in a straight line across a single axis. Prismatic joints are also known as linear joints.

programmable logic controller

PLC. A processor-driven device that uses logic-based software to provide electrical control to machines. Programmable logic controllers are used in factory automation.


Designed by a specific company for use only with its own systems or devices. Proprietary components include physical hardware, such as programming devices, and software, such as robot programs and networks.

proximity sensors

A device that uses a sensing field to detect the presence of an object. Proximity sensors can be used in conjunction with robots to help position the robot in space relative to other objects.

radial loads

Force that is applied perpendicular to the axis of a bearing's shaft. Radial loads in robotic joints can be supported by using bearings.

reduction gear

A gear that lessens the speed of mechanical energy while increasing the torque. Reduction gears help control and stabilize robot movement.

revolute joints

A joint that rotates around a single, circular axis. Revolute joints, also known as rotary joints, give robotic arms wide ranges of movement.

robotic arms

A programmable or remote-controlled device that simulates the movement of a human arm. Robotic arms are used in a variety of assembly and manufacturing applications.

robotic grippers

A dexterous material-handling component that resembles and performs similarly to a human hand. Robotic grippers allow robots to perform tasks such as handling small parts or assembling components.

robotic tooling

Assorted tools used by robots in various manufacturing processes. Robotic tooling includes material removal tools and welding torches.

rotary joints

A joint that rotates around a single, circular axis. Rotary joints, also known as revolute joints, give robotic arms wide ranges of movement.

Secure Digital card

SD card. A memory device used in portable equipment. The Secure Digital card was developed by the Secure Digital Association (SDA).

Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm robots

SCARA. A type of serial robot that has four axes of movement. Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm robots are often used for material handling applications.


A device that detects a change in a physical stimulus and turns it into a signal that can be measured or recorded. Sensors allow robots and other devices to interact with their environment and operate with little human intervention.

serial robots

A robot that is made up of a series of links connected by joints from the base to the end effector. Serial robots generally have six degrees of freedom.


A small motor used in robots to allow for precise movement. Servomotors are often used in several places in a robotic arm, including the elbow joint and the gripper.


A computer program that generates three-dimensional models of a robot, its parts, and its manufacturing environment. Simulation software also records the desired robot movements, creating control programs that can be uploaded to the robot's machine interface.


The coded instructions or programs that control robot hardware functions and operations. Software allows robots to perform complex tasks with autonomy.


An alloy of iron and carbon containing less than 2% carbon. Steel comes in varying levels of hardness and is the most common manufacturing metal.

tactile sensors

A device that measures various parameters that describe the contact between a sensor and an object. Tactile sensors can detect the texture of an object.

tapered roller bearings

A type of roller bearing featuring tapered inner- and outer-ring raceways and rollers. Tapered roller bearings can withstand high radial and thrust loads.

teach pendants

A device used to control a robot during programming. Teach pendants may have control buttons, a joystick, or a touch screen.

thrust loads

Force that is applied parallel to a bearing's axis. Thrust loads are also called axial loads.


A silver-gray, lightweight metal known for its corrosion resistance and strength-to-weight ratio. Titanium is often used for robots working in a clean room environment.


A device that contains two mating parts designed to attach and detach tools. Toolchangers connect the process tooling to the robot's arm.

vacuum grippers

A device that uses flexible suction cups and vacuum-controlled airflow to secure to parts. Vacuum grippers allow robots to perform tasks such as handling and moving parts.

vision sensors

A type of sensor that uses a camera to detect the presence, orientation, and features of an object. Vision sensors provide guidance to robots.

wheeled robots

A type of mobile robot that utilizes a set of wheels to move freely throughout a space. Wheeled robots are the most common mobile robots in manufacturing.

work cell

The area composed of a robot and any external devices or equipment that interacts with the robot, including additional robots. Robotic work cells can include multiple robots controlled by a single interface.