What is an Articulated Robot?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An articulated robot is a robot which is fitted with rotary joints. Rotary joints allow a full range of motion, as they rotate through multiple planes, and they increase the capabilities of the robot considerably. An articulated robot can have one or more rotary joints, and other types of joints may be used as well, depending on the design of the robot and its intended function.

Articulated robots working on an automobile assembly line.
Articulated robots working on an automobile assembly line.

With rotary joints, a robot can engage in very precise movements. Articulated robots commonly show up on manufacturing lines, where they utilize their flexibility to bend in a variety of directions. Multiple arms can be used for greater control or to conduct multiple tasks at once, for example, and rotary joints allow robots to do things like turning back and forth between different work areas.

The designed for bomb-defusing robots usually incorporate arms or sensor masts that can be articulated.
The designed for bomb-defusing robots usually incorporate arms or sensor masts that can be articulated.

These robots can also be seen at work in labs and in numerous other settings. Researchers developing robots often work with articulated robots when they want to engage in activities like teaching robots to walk and developing robotic arms. The joints in the robot can be programmed to interact with each other in addition to activating independently, allowing the robot to have an even higher degree of control. Many next generation robots are articulated because this allows for a high level of functionality.

Articulated robots can have arms and legs which allow them to move and manipulate a wide variety of objects. Some are designed as console units with arms, where the unit remains in place in a fixed position and the arms are used to perform tasks. Others may wheel, slide, or move in other ways so that they can navigate spaces of varying sizes. In a medical lab, for example, an articulated robot might be used to deliver and carry samples around the lab.

Basic articulated robots are sometimes available in robotics kits, allowing people who are just starting to explore robotics to play with rotary joints and to get a feel for how they operate. More sophisticated robots may be built for a special purpose by robotics experts who design every component of the articulated robot from the ground up. Robots used on assembly lines and in similar settings are produced in various quantities by companies which develop manufacturing equipment. People who are interested in seeing an articulated robot in action can try doing a search for "articulated robot" on a site which collects videos from users.

The Canadarm space robot, used on most U.S. space shuttles, was developed with funding from the Canadian Space Agency.
The Canadarm space robot, used on most U.S. space shuttles, was developed with funding from the Canadian Space Agency.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a EasyTechJunkie researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Nice article. It's interesting because I used to write the software for these kinds of robots back in my college years. Now I'm specializing in master of engineering management so hopefully, I'll be able to expand my horizons in this area.


I saw an online article recently about a Korean woman who spent almost a million dollars on a robot for her restaurant.

Customers can input the kind of food they want into touch screens they have at their tables and a robot server with an articulated arm will bring the food to them.

I really want to go to this restaurant although it looked like the menus were all in Korean.

I'm not sure the robot will understand if I try to mime what kind of food I want!

I guess there are some things a human waiter will always be able to do better, so you don't have to worry too much about losing your job just yet.


It's amazing what robots can do at the moment. One of the most advanced robots in terms of motion right now is one that scientists have created to be able to adapt to different conditions.

Not only can it move over different kinds of terrains, it can also adapt to its own body being in different conditions.

If they damage a limb, or remove it altogether, the robot will still figure out a way to keep moving in the direction it was asked to go.

It's quite spooky actually, when you think about all the films they've made about robot uprisings.

Even industrial robots seem like they are on the verge of thinking for themselves!

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