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What are the different types of industrial robots?

Updated: Feb 14

Industrial robotics are used to automate certain repetitive tasks in a production or logistics chain. Over the years, a growing variety of industrial robots have come onto the market. The current objective of manufacturer brands is common: to design, build and integrate tools to support users towards Industry 4.0 with the aim of gaining in flexibility and productivity. You've undoubtedly heard of exoskeletons, articulated arms, cobots or other autonomous mobile robots?

From the most basic performance to the most impressive, the range on the market is vast. So, depending on your business and your objectives, knowing the respective characteristics of robots, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each, will enable you to better apprehend your automation and robotization projects.

Robots differ in their operating modes, mechanical structures, electronics, control systems and intelligence. But what exactly are their points of differentiation?

Différents types de robots industriels
SHERPA gamme

Exoskeletons to enhance human physical capabilities

Some companies involve their employees in highly strenuous activities. They are sometimes forced to lift and move very heavy loads, put their bodies in unnatural positions or undergo intense mechanical shocks. Exoskeletons, or external skeletons, provide physical compensation to make these tasks less arduous and significantly relieve the operator.

To provide this assistance, an exoskeleton takes the form of an external biomechanical or motorized device. Developments and innovations in this market mean that the user is relieved of a multitude of tasks. They represent a well-founded hope for improving working conditions.

The humanoid robot, to reproduce the reassuring presence of a human being

A humanoid is a robot designed to bear a strong resemblance to a human (both physical and intelligent). This important innovation in the world of robotics is aimed primarily at service activities, with the aim of facilitating certain social interactions.

In the absence of a human being, a humanoid robot is perfectly suited to a welcoming, entertaining or advisory role. The use of a humanoid robot will be all the more useful if the function to be fulfilled involves repetitive tasks. Human-looking robots incorporate computers that control their actions (just as the human brain does). The computer receives the stimulus or signal, processes and analyzes it, then commands the robot to react accordingly.

The articulated robot, probably the best-known of all industrial robots

Built on the same principle as the human arm, it operates on the basis of rotary axes (4 or 6). Highly precise, it can perform a wide range of tasks (handling components, welding, painting, assembly, loading/unloading parts, etc.) in a wide variety of environments. However, its deployment remains complex and costly. Tomorrow, we'll be seeing it increasingly in a more collaborative form...

The emergence of the collaborative robot, to accompany humans in their daily lives

The image of a large robotic machine standing alone in a cage is no longer the mainstay of industrial applications. The major market trend is towards the integration of collaborative robots, also known as cobots. The interaction and cohabitation of robot and human in their environment, in total safety, are important factors in purchasing decisions and continuous improvement processes.

A cobot is a robot that acts as an assistant or helper to a human in an industrial/logistics activity. Cooperation is the key principle that distinguishes a cobot from other types of robot. It is called upon to assist the operator in his tasks, and will carry out your instructions. However, its technology and artificial intelligence will also enable it to understand its environment (route adaptation, obstacle avoidance, etc.).

Once again, there will be several types of collaborative robots

This is where we identify the growing emergence of AMRs (Autonomous Mobile Robots), also known as AIVs (Automated Intelligent Vehicles). Unlike traditional cobots (UR type), the AMR will provide mobility in an environment, thanks to its ability to move autonomously in a space, identify obstacles on its path, and adjust its trajectory. It is to be distinguished from the AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle), which moves in relation to reference points on the ground or sensors. Read our article describing the difference between an AMR and an AGV.

Finally, it's worth noting that the collaborative robot doesn't take the place of man, but rather relieves him of non-value-added tasks, as you can see in the video below:


Robotics : mass production's best friend?

For many, robotics means the automation of mass production. But it can also take a much lighter, more economical and mobile form. An AMR brings a great deal of flexibility to an infrastructure, thanks to its adaptability and rapid return on investment (ROI). Equally capable of handling high speeds and volumes, it is a good compromise and a real asset in industrial and logistics activities, for today and tomorrow.

Other criteria for categorizing robots

We've already discussed the most popular types of robot, according to a classification logic based on characteristics (load capacity, range), functionality and degree of autonomy. But there are other ways of thinking about the type of robot to adopt:

Depending on a stage in the process: goods receiving, order preparation, transport and transfer of parts, assembly, production, etc.

Depending on the type of activity: automotive, rail or aeronautical industries, e-commerce, logistics or hospital environments. Each profession has its own specificities and constraints.

The aim is to reduce operator fatigue, streamline workflows, increase productivity and save space.

So there's a robotic solution for everyone. It all depends on the objectives to be achieved!

Find out more about the different types of industrial robots

As you can see, it's not easy to find your way around and make the right choices. Sherpa Mobile Robotics brings you mobile robotics solutions at the cutting edge of the factory of the future! We'll work with you to evaluate your robotization project, and make the right choices to help accelerate your company's growth.


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