Unchained Robotics company logo
Unchained Robotics company logo
January 26, 2023
Royal Montgomery
Deep Dive
Case study
The Real Cost of Cheap Cobots - What is the place of budget cobots in the market?
Summary: Collaborative robots offer a number of advantages over industrial robots, but they also have their disadvantages. One of these disadvantages is cost. They are often significantly more expensive than similar industrial robots. This means that cobots that compete on cost do so in a premium market segment, leading to a number of surprising results.

[Unchained Robotics offers the largest selection of cobots online. Discover cobots from leading brands like Universal Robots, ABB, Doosan and many more. Prices shown without registration]

Table of Contents

  • Collaborative Robots
  • Why do people buy cobots?
  • Are there budget cobot brands?
  • Is price a deciding factor when buying a cobot?
  • Don’t forget industrial robots!
  • Conclusion

  • Since Unchained Robotics was founded in 2019, our platform has become one of the biggest online platforms for collaborative robotics in Europe. Over the last three years we have built a platform consisting of over a dozen brands. These brands range from industry giants to recent upstarts targeting small niches.

    And by working with, promoting, selling, and supporting cobots from so many different brands, we have gotten to know a lot of different kinds of customers with greatly varying needs. And it is from this relatively unique perspective that we have noticed a common assumption among many salesmen and manufacturers doesn’t really line up with reality.

    That is to say, that price is a major factor in the purchase of a cobot.

    What do we mean by collaborative?

    A collaborative robot, as defined by Wikipedia, is “a robot intended for direct human-robot interaction within a shared space, or where humans and robots are in close proximity.” The standards for such robots are laid out in various ISO standards (ISO/TS 15066, etc.).

    To be able to work in a shared space, collaborative robots require the precise surveillance of forces applied at the various joints (allowing them to detect and avoid collisions). These requirements lead to costly hardware compared to traditional industrial robots as well as severe limitations in operational speed.

    Cobots, but for non-collaborative applications

    From the outside looking in, it might be a little bit surprising to learn that, in our experience, cobots are rarely deployed collaborative applications. Even with all these built-in safety features, applications where robot arms and humans work together in the same space are still exceedingly rare. At least in Europe, in our experience.

    So why who is buying all these cobots then? And why? 

    In our experience, what really draws people toward collaborative robots is their ease of use, straightforward programming, intuitive interfaces, and comparatively easy redeployability. All of these things are standard when it comes to modern cobots (obviously to varying degrees) and are the primary reasons businesses and users choose them over industrial robots.

    And that’s the thing, if low price was a top three factor in choosing your robot, you’d probably end up with a small industrial robot and not a collaborative robot.

    Collaborative robots are expensive

    And the price difference between a good industrial robot and an entry-level collaborative robot with similar base specifications (payload, reach) is often huge. And it’s not in the cobot’s favor.

    So when customers decide to buy a collaborative robot, they are already choosing the more expensive product class. Once you choose to buy a Porsche instead of a Toyota, price is obviously not playing the leading role in narrowing down the exact model. It will play a role, but it is not the primary consideration for you as it might be for other buyers.

    And this is what we are seeing in the cobot space.

    Budget cobots – a small niche with lots of players

    The constellation of cobot companies is large and seems to be only getting larger – and a not insignificant number of new players have decided to try and compete primarily on price.

    And in our experience, these cobots generate a lot of attention. But it often stops there, budget cobots generate a lot of traffic and views on our platform and are often the first products to really attract a potential customer’s attention...

    However, we find that when the final decision is made, buyers tend to go with a robot at least one step up in terms of features and price. They relatively rarely buy the budget cobot that first caught their eye.

    Why? As explored above, we believe that this is because

    • They do not have an application that requires collaboration
      • So if they are truly price sensitive, they would likely buy an industrial robot
        • The price difference between a budget and mid-range cobot is often not very large

        • Between these factors, one can see that the demand for budget cobots is actually lower than both customers and companies often think. Companies might first look at less expensive cobots, but having already decided to spend extra money on a more advanced robot, they cannot justify the big step down in features they are accepting for a comparatively small amount of savings.

          It's all in the package

          Lastly, if a business is buying a complete solution or a package, the difference between a budget and mid-range cobot makes for very small savings at a project level. When one is discussing savings of 5,000 EUR on a six figure project at the cost of core usability to its primary component (the robot) … it quickly becomes unattractive.

          Lower cost cobots often have less polished software, a more restricted ecosystem, lower quality mechanical components, lower repeatability, etc. And when the savings are so small in the grand scheme of things, it often makes no sense to take the risk that it’s not “good enough.”

          So where do budget cobots make sense?

          Just like there is a budget luxury market, there is also a budget cobot market. While budget cobots might not be luring buyers away from established brands and tested models, they do have a place.

          Budget cobots are being purchased, but at a much lower volume than mainstream collaborative robots. And in this regard, the trend among manufacturers, especially market entrants, to promote budget-friendly cobots is out of sync with what we are seeing on the ground in terms of demand.

          Budget cobots generate a lot of interest, but in the end math just doesn’t work for most customers. The savings aren’t worth what they are giving up.
          [Make up you own mind and easily discover, price, and compare cobots from all price classes on the Unchained Robotics Marketplace. Unchained offers the largest selection of cobots online! Registration not required.]
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