How Much Does it Cost to Integrate Robots?

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August 2020

How Much Does It Cost to Integrate Robots?

When looking to automate, ultimately what you are seeking to achieve is reduced manufacturing costs for your product. In some cases, production lines may require some human intervention such as loading of parts, and perhaps final inspection.

Return on investment or ROI is what may shape the final solution. The reason behind this is that although a fully automated line may remove all the labour costs, the overall cost may not be justified; therefore a reduced amount of automation combined with manual steps may be required to align with the ROI.

 

Why Would You Consider Robots in Your Production Line?

 

There are a number of factors that may influence this such as:

  • Project timelines – Robots arms are almost “standard” and off the shelf so this may reduce project timescales, as opposed to designing a dedicated pick and place for example.

 

  • Flexibility – Robot arms can quickly be reconfigured allowing it to carry out different or multiple functions. The use of quick-change tooling can allow the robot to change its purpose from an inspection system, utilising a camera, to a drilling system, with all electrical and pneumatic connections being integrated into the unit.

 

  • Risk – Using standard proven technologies reduces risk as opposed to designing a bespoke solution

 

  • Cost – The cost of robots has reduced considerably over the years (see below)

 

 

The above shows a dramatic reduction in actual costs, meaning the cost to integrate robots into a manufacturing cell is becoming more attractive. We also have to consider the real cost of labour when deciding to automate and integrate robots v’s Manual labour. It’s not just the hourly rate or worker that needs taken into consideration. Holiday pay, insurances, training, sick days all needs to be taken into account when calculating this.  Other intangible benefits such as the working environment, where workers are exposed to dangerous or competitive tasks, and even human error. All these factors contribute to the overall cost of a worker which ultimately affects manufacturing costs.

The average cost of a production worker is £20,545 but in practice adding in the aforementioned costs, this is likely to put the cost to nearer £30,000.

 

So, how much does it cost to integrate robots?

The cost of the robot arm is just one factor when considering robotic integration, and we also need to consider the cost of end of arm tooling, guarding, integration, programming, guarding and CE marking. This is required for both industrial robot integration, as well as collaborative robots.

 

Are integration costs the same for industrial robots and cobots?

 

Collaborative Robots Integration Cost

If we concentrate on collaborative robots for now, a UR5e collaborative robot from universal robots with tooling will cost approximately £31,000. This would therefore provide a potential payback and ROI of one year.

Supplied by companies such as SP Elements, these can offer the advantage of being able to be programmed by “anyone”, even without previous robot programming. The only requirement is knowing what you want to do with them in your project. By following online programming tutorials such as Universal Robots Academy you can have your cobot out of the box and operating within hours, as opposed to weeks as with an Industrial robot if you had no previous robot programming experience.

 

 

With regards to safety, although cobots are sold as “safe” a full risk assessment will have to be carried out to ensure its stays safe when end of arm tooling is applied, and that the product being picked us does not create another hazard. As an example, if the cobot was handling razor blades then it would require full guarding. Integration of end of arm tooling such as the vast range from On Robot, provides seamless integration with the universal robot solution. Around 80% of cobot applications will be for low speed, light applications that won’t require much if any guarding, making makes them ideal for transporting between multiple work areas, which will provide more flexibility. This also means integration costs will be lower.

 

Industrial Robots Integration Cost

Similar sized Industrial robots and Collaborative robots cost about the same, but the disadvantage of the Industrial robots, is that the programming will require an expert programmer, which will probably entail high costs. In addition, the guarding of these robot will more than likely be a “cage” to prevent any access when operating, which will have additional costs associated with it. This said, if there is a requirement in your automation project, for high speeds, high payloads, or long reaches, then this will be the route to take. End of arm tooling will more than likely require a bespoke solution, but standard grippers etc. can be used.

 

 

In summary, for a fast return on investment, a collaborative robot cell will allow you to have a cell in production within a matter of weeks, and provide you with the comfort that you will be able to reprogram with your new in-house expertise. It will also provide you with a system that can be redeployed in other areas and even work next to humans on production lines. If you require a faster heavier duty cell, then the integration of an industrial robot will may be required, however this will come with higher costs vs the collaborative robot option. In general, the cost of robots has reduced by around 65% in real terms, thus making the overall cost of integrating robots less costly in both the Industrial robot as well as collaborative robot solutions.

 

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