Collaborative robots and traditional robots: 5 key differences

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Collaborative robots, or “cobots” (contraction of “collaborative” and “robots”), are definitely a strong trend in today’s robotics developments.

Out go the heavy, imposing robots locked in their cages for safety reasons, it’s time to make way for collaborative robots!

This blog article will help you distinguish between these two types of robot: collaborative robots and traditional industrial robots. Read on to discover their 5 key differences!

Robots that work in partnership with humans

Because, as the name suggests, this is all about collaborative robotics, with robots that are designed to work with humans and not for humans unlike the traditional industrial robots. With this new generation of robots, you can forget the cages and make way for proper interaction.

A “cobot” acts as an assistant, and is involved in targeted complex, sensitive tasks that can’t be automated. It is also capable of learning.

Robots are now capable of picking up an object and giving it to a human, in a cooperative environment very different to that of the more traditional robots.

A concrete example: imagine a car assembly line in which one robot can assemble a wheel and another the bonnet, while employees work alongside on higher value-added tasks. Precision and quality are both improved.

Robots that allow us to focus on our core business

In the workplace, collaborative robots are tasked with carrying out tough (safe handling of hot or awkward workpieces) or very low value-added jobs. Technicians can then focus their attention on their core business and create more value added.
In this way, human intelligence is refocused on other aspects of the production chain.

Safer robots

Designed to work alongside their human colleagues, collaborative robots are equipped with features allowing seamless collaboration. The Baxter robot by Rethink Robotics is hence equipped with detection sensors, enabling it to know where its operators are at any moment.

Baxter is also programmed to immediately stop its work if it represents any danger whatsoever for a person nearby. This does away with the need for setting up secure enclosures, since the cobot’s security features are designed in such a way that it can operate amongst humans.


Robots that are flexible and scalable

Another key difference of collaborative robots is that they’re very easy to program.

Whereas traditional industrial robots require advanced computer programming skills, collaborative robots are capable of learning.

For example, in order to teach the Baxter robot a new task the operator will perform the required movements using the robot arm, which will then remember these movements and repeat them. This revolutionary learning-by-doing approach is a technique that non computer-programming operators can quickly master.

The Baxter robot, designed by Rodney Brooks, also has an open-source software development platform (SDK), allowing its users to create a wide range of custom applications. This major advantage makes it much more flexible.

And more economical

This flexibility means collaborative robots no longer need to be confined to a single task, they can be integrated into numerous projects, making them much more profitable.

They can be easily reprogrammed, moved (by mounting them on a mobile base for example) and redeployed at different stages in the production chain!

Doing away with safety barriers (the famous cages) also saves money, because these systems are quite expensive! With collaborative robotics this constraint is removed, since the robots are equipped with cameras and sensors that continuously scan their environment. Whenever they detect a human, they stop!

As Rethink Robotics’ Vice President of Product Management and Marketing Mitch Rosenberg says:

“Baxter is ideal for repetitive tasks where there is no need for highly specialised skills, but which require the common sense and judgment of a human being.”

Si vous désirez avoir plus d’informations sur le robot Baxter, n’hésitez pas à nous passer un coup de fil ou nous envoyer un email (

Et si vous souhaitez voir Baxter en action, retrouvez nous le 5 février au Concours de robotique collaborative organisé par le ministère de l’Economie, de l’Industrie et du Numérique !

Baxter Research Robot

Baxter Research Robot

Baxter Mobility Base

Baxter Mobility Base

Electric Parallel Gripper Kit for Baxter Research Robot

Electric Parallel Gripper Kit for Baxter Research Robott

Vacuum array gripper pack

Vacuum array gripper pack