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Collaborative Robots (Cobots): In-depth Guide for 2024

Cem Dilmegani
Updated on Jan 11
4 min read

It’s been 60 years since the first industrial robot, Unimate, was invented. The robotics industry has since grown, with products improving every year and humans reaping the benefits.

Industrial robots, however, have always been viewed skeptically for safety purposes. Their inability to co-exist with humans has seen them be surrounded by guardrails and kept away from the labor force.

In this article, we plan to talk about a specific type of industrial robot, a collaborative robot, that can operate directly alongside its co-workers and freely interact with them, thus opening a huge number of new possibilities for task automation. We will then look at some other application areas and use cases of collaborative robots.

What are collaborative robots?

Collaborative robots also referred to as cobots or co-robots, are robots or robot-like equipment that are designed to safely work directly alongside human workers to complete a task that cannot be fully automated.

Why are collaborative robots important?

interest in cobots is increasing

While interest in cobots is increasing, they are still a small percentage of the entire robotics industry.

According to Loup Ventures, global robotics spending will reach $13 billion in 2025. Though collaborative robots only make up about 3% of all robot sales, this number is expected to jump to 34% in 2025. Reasons for this are:

Round-the-clock functionality

Most complex processes involve repetitive, object-oriented tasks that are suitable for cobots. Unlike humans, robots don’t get tired and can work 24/7 without making careless errors. This improves business productivity.

Economical efficiency

Cobots are cheaper than industrial robots. Cobots rely on a smaller number of cheap hardware components and embedded sensors. They also do not need enclosures, reducing the need for manufacturing space.


The flexibility and re-programmability of cobots make them more investment-worthy since they can be programmed to have various applications in different sectors, ranging from manufacturing to healthcare.

What are the differences between cobots and industrial robots?

The critical difference is that cobots can safely collaborate with humans. Industrial robots lack the intelligence to work alongside humans. They work fast in pre-defined patterns and lack awareness about humans. Therefore, they are kept in cages in industrial environments to protect human workers.

An industrial robot literally being kept in a cage. Source: ResearchGate

What are some examples/use cases/applications of collaborative robots?

Cobots can perform many roles across various industries. Collaborative robots can handle many tasks in the production process, such as packing commodities, assembly, machine tending, and palletizing. The comprehensive cobot application list is as follows:

Pick & place

This involves tasks where an object needs to be displaced or re-oriented.

Machine tending

This is the loading and/or unloading of a given machine with parts or material. A cobot can help load machines such as computer numerical control (CNC), injection molding, press brakes, metal stamping presses.

Processing tasks

When cobots are equipped with end-effector tools, they are able to perform tasks such as gluing, drilling, and welding.

Finishing tasks

Activities such as polishing, grinding, and deburring require a force across the product’s surface to remove a certain amount of material. With cobots’ internal force sensing capabilities or a wrist-mounted external force-torque sensor, companies eliminate the risk of applying too much force that will defect the product.

Quality inspection

When cobots are equipped with machine vision, they are able to capture, analyze and interpret images that don’t comply with the company’s quality requirements.

You can also check out the lists of data annotation tools and services to find the option that best suits your project needs:

Packaging & Palletizing

The packaging process involves three steps. These processes are time-intensive and repetitive, therefore suitable for cobots so that humans can shift their time to more value-added tasks. These three processes are: 

  • Picking and placing the product into a shrink-wrapping machine
  • Waiting for the product to be packaged
  • Placing packaged goods onto a pallet that will be shipped to the customer.

Medical/lab cobots

This is a healthcare and research-specific use case where cobots help professionals with pick up & place tasks.

Collaborative Robot Case Studies

BWIndustrieFranceUniversal RobotsMetal and machining-Machine Tending
-Material Removal
-Quality Inspection
-Material Handling
-ROI of the installations is less than 12 months -The company has increased its turnover by 70% to reach 5.6 million euros annually.
AGH University of Science and TechnologyPolandUniversal RobotsScientific & Research-Quality Inspection
ALPHA CorporationJapanUniversal RobotsAutomotive-Material Handling
-Machine Tending
Productivity of the automobile key molding process has improved by 20%
ASSA ABLOYNew ZealandUniversal RobotsFurniture and Equipment-Material Handling
Improvement in product quality and consistency in assembly process
The University Hospital in AalborgDenmarkKUKAHealthcare-Quality Inspection
- Lab technicians now have more time to analyze the blood samples and also to spend with patients. -Cobots reduced the potential sources of error
BMWGermanyKUKAAutomotive/ Manufacturing-Assembly of the front axle drive
-Front axle transmission assembly is now completed in less than half a minute
Fitzpatrick Manufacturing CoUnited StatesRethink RoboticsManufacturing-Pick & Place
-Quality Inspection
-Co-Packing & End-of-Line Packaging
-Improved productivity
StrausakSwitzerlandSTÄUBLIManufacturing-Machine Tending
-Performance and autonomy gains -Time savings with high-speed robot arm and fast load/unload times -Greater flexibility with wide range of motion -Easy operator access/no additional floor space with integration into U-Grind machine enclosure

List of top collaborative robot companies

CompanySolution NameFoundedCity, CountryCompany Size (# of employees)Total Funding
ABBIRB 14000 YuMi1988Zürich, Switzerland10.001+$2.7M
AUBO Roboticsi52014Knoxville, United States11-50$9M
BoschAPAS1886Gerlingen, Germany10.001+$42M
ComauAura1973Grugliasco, Italy5.001-10.000-
Denso WaveCobotta1976Kariya, Japan10.001+-
1896Seoul, South Korea5.001-10.000-
FanucCR 4iA
CR 7iA
CR 7iA/L
CR 35iA
1972Oshino, Yamanashi, Japan1.001-5.000-
FrankaEmika2016Munich, Germany51-200-
1952Seoul, South Korea v-
Kassow robotsKR810 - KR12052014Copenhagen, Denmark11-50-
KawasakiDuAro11989Michigan, USA10.001+-
KinovaGen 32006Boisbriand, Canada51-200$25M
KukaLBR iiwa 7 R800 - 14 R8201898Augsburg, Germany1.001-5.000-
MRK SystemeKR 5 SI2004Augsburg, Germany1-10-
1933Kyoto, Japan1.001-5.000-
Precise AutomationPAVP6
2004CA 94538, United States11-50-
Productive RoboticsOB72010Santa Barbara, United States11-50-
Rethink RoboticsSawyer2008Bochum, Germany11-50$149M
Siasun Robot & AutomationSCR52000Shenyang, China501-1.000-
TX2-40 TX2-60 - 60L TX2-90 - 90L - 90XL TX2touch-60 - 60L TX2touch-90 - 90L - 90XL
1892Horgen, Switzerland501-1.000-
Techman RobotTM5-700
2012Taoyuan, Taiwan51-200-
Universal Robots
UR3 - UR5 - UR10 e-Series UR3 - UR5 - UR10 e-Series UR16
2005Odense, Denmark501-1.000-
Yaskawa MotomanHC101989Ohio, United States501-1.000-

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Access Cem's 2 decades of B2B tech experience as a tech consultant, enterprise leader, startup entrepreneur & industry analyst. Leverage insights informing top Fortune 500 every month.
Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst
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Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst

Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.

Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.

He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.

Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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Alistair Cairns
Jan 19, 2022 at 15:19

Hi Cem
i’m quadriplegic and i’m looking for a cobot with a light payload and around 800 mm reach that comes in a package with voice control. I can see that’s where the market is heading but i haven’t found one yet.
I want it to hold my ipad up for me sitting in bed, with occasional positional readjustment in reference to my position.
Alistair Cairns

Cem Dilmegani
Jan 23, 2022 at 21:26

Hi Alistair, hope you find the solution you are looking for. I don’t know much about retail cobot use cases unfortunately, we are focused on the B2B applications.