Robot Parts: What Are They and How to Buy Them

What robot parts are important for your chosen robotic application?

There is a dizzying selection of different parts you could purchase for your robot. Some of them, like the power supply, are obviously required. However, others are not so clearly needed for all applications.

How can you tell which parts are right for you? And where can you buy them if you need them?

Here’s an introductory guide to everything you need to know.

The 5 Core Parts of a Robot and Their Functions

There are some parts to a robot that you will find on almost every robotic system in the world. It’s worth getting familiar with these.

These core parts to a robot are:

1. Controller

A robot’s controller is like its “brain” (if you want to think of it in those terms). It’s basically a small, embedded computer where all of the robot’s programming runs from.

Sometimes, robots are run directly from a laptop or a desktop computer but usually they have a dedicated controller.

2. Power Supply

All robots need power. Whether they are mobile and use batteries or are plugged into some external, fixed power source, power is required for operation.

Most robots, particularly in industrial settings, are electrically powered. However, some robots are powered by hydraulics or pneumatics and only use electricity for the control elements.

3. Programming Interface

If you want the robot to follow your instructions, you need to program it. Programming is required for all types of robots, even those that can “learn” on their own.

For industrial robots, you want an interface that makes the programming as easy as possible as this is a common source of inefficiency during robot deployment. For example, a good offline programming tool is easier and more efficient to use than a classic robot teach pendant.

4. The Robotic Manipulator

Finally, we come to the robot itself.

Why have we put the robot manipulator at number 4 instead of the top spot? Because not all robots are manipulators. In industrial settings, robotic manipulators are the most common. However, other robots such as autonomous guided vehicles are not based around a manipulator.

5. End Effector

When your robot is a manipulator, the “business end” of the robot is its end effector. This is the part that interacts with the environment or task.

There are many types of end effectors you can find for robots, ranging from simple grippers to complex inspection scanners. We have listed some of them in our previous article.

6 More Robot Parts and Accessories You Might Need

There are a whole range of different parts that might apply to your task.

Here are 6 the most common ones for industrial applications:

  1. Sensors — Robot sensors come in all shapes, sizes, and uses. Examples include vision sensors to detect objects in the robot’s workspace, positioning sensors to easily detect if the workpiece is in place, and force sensors for finer-grained control of the force the robot applies on the environment.
  2. Safety Accessories — Robot safety is an important aspect of any robotic deployment. You might require safety sensors, such as light curtains or safety fences, to ensure your application meets safety requirements.
  3. External Axes — An external or auxiliary axis extends the capabilities of your robot by increasing its range of motion.
  4. Process Tools — Some robot end effectors are special in that they perform the task itself. For example, a welding robot doesn’t hold the welding tool in a gripper, it has a welding end effector. This is what is known as a process tool.
  5. Advanced Algorithms — Most robot tasks are repetitive and so don’t require advanced programming. However, some will need features like artificially intelligent planning or decision-making. For this, a more advanced computer might also be needed to run the necessary algorithms.
  6. Tool Changers — A tool changer is a device that allows you to speed up your robot application by quickly changing between different tools to suit the task.

Where to Buy Robot Parts That Meet Your Needs

One approach is to try to source all of the parts yourself from different suppliers. While this is possible, it can be a lot of extra work. If you choose to go this way, you will need to first identify which parts you will need. The searching process can be arduous so having this clarity up front helps a lot.

There are various places to buy robot parts, including directly from the manufacturers in many cases. You can also find distributors in your local area who will likely be able to source multiple different part types.

If your budget is tight, you can also find some parts second-hand. Sellers of used robots exist in many parts of the world and can be suitable for your needs as long as you know what to look for in terms of quality.

If you want to go for the easiest option, a good approach is to buy an entire pre-integrated solution, such as the robotic deburring cell we talked about in our previous article. This includes all the parts that you need for that particular robot cell.

What robot parts do you want to know more about? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or in the RoboDK Forum.. Also, check out our extensive video collection and subscribe to the RoboDK YouTube Channel

About 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 CreateClarifyArticulate.com, 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.

View all posts by Alex Owen-Hill

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