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How Do Robotic Arms Work?

November 9, 2023 35 MINS

In This Article

  1. A brief overview of robotic arms’ evolution
  2. What are the parts that make a robotic arm?
  3. What are the working principles of a robotic arm?
    1. Kinematics
    2. Motion planning
    3. Manipulation techniques
    4. Sensors and Feedback
  4. What are the types of robotic arms?
  5. How many axes are possible in a robotic arm?
    1. Single-axis robotic arms
    2. Multi-axis robotic arms
  6. How much does a robotic arm cost?
  7. What are the industrial applications of robotic arms?
  8. How does design impact a robotic arm’s functioning?
  9. Looking to automate your processes?

In an age where automation and innovation are at the forefront of technological progress, robotic arms stand as emblematic pillars of our rapidly advancing society. These versatile and precision-driven mechanical innovations have seamlessly integrated into a plethora of industries, making their mark on manufacturing, healthcare, space exploration, and beyond. 

A robotic arm is a mechanical device or manipulator designed with the capability to perform various tasks, often resembling the structure of a human arm with joints and segments. It is typically equipped with sensors, actuators, and control systems, allowing it to manipulate objects, move with precision, and perform a wide range of functions autonomously or under remote human control. 

In this blog, we will explore the world of robotic arms, going beyond the surface. We will journey through their historical evolution, gain insight into the basic workings of modern robotic arms, and explore every facet in between.

A brief overview of robotic arms’ evolution

The fascinating journey of robotic arms traces its roots back to Greek civilization’s folk tales, wherein ingenious automatons were crafted to perform rudimentary tasks. However, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that the concept of robotic arms truly began to take shape. 

The visionary Isaac Asimov, in his science fiction works, introduced the idea of advanced robotic limbs in the 1940s. This sparked immense interest among engineers and innovators, paving the way for tangible progress. 

A significant milestone was achieved in 1961 when Unimate, the world’s first industrial robot, was installed on an assembly line at General Motors. This marked the birth of the modern robotic arm, designed to perform repetitive, labor-intensive tasks with precision and consistency. 

As years passed, robotics witnessed remarkable advancements, from the introduction of articulated arms in the 1970s to the ongoing integration of computer control systems, sensors, and artificial intelligence. Today, robotic arms have evolved into highly sophisticated, multifunctional tools, profoundly impacting various industries — their evolution standing as an incredible testament to human ingenuity and technological prowess.

Several businesses are automating their industrial processes with Dorna – a one-stop shop for end-to-end automation for businesses of all sizes, offering robots, accessories, grippers, and various post-purchase services.

What are the parts that make a robotic arm?

To comprehend the inner workings of robotic arms, we must first dissect their fundamental components, which include actuators, joints, end effectors, and sensors. All these components work in harmonious synergy to carry out a multitude of tasks with unparalleled precision, here’s how:

Business Automation with Dorna robot arms.

What are the working principles of a robotic arm?

Robotic arms are masters of manipulation, and their prowess lies in the intricate principles governing their operation. These principles play a big role in enabling robots to execute tasks with remarkable precision, seamlessly interacting with both objects and their environment.


At the core of their operation is kinematics, the science of motion. Robotic arms employ forward and inverse kinematics to determine their position and orientation in space. Forward kinematics calculate the end effector’s position based on the angles of the arm’s joints, while inverse kinematics work in reverse, calculating the required joint angles to achieve a specific end effector position. 

Motion planning

Robotic arms rely heavily on motion planning algorithms to navigate their environment and avoid collisions. These algorithms consider factors like obstacle avoidance and the arm’s joint limits — enabling them to adapt to dynamic surroundings.

Manipulation techniques

In their quest to manipulate objects, robotic arms deploy various techniques ranging from pick-and-place operations to assembly and welding. Their ability to exert controlled force, often measured in newtons, allows them to delicately grip fragile items or firmly secure heavy loads.

Sensors and Feedback

Their interaction with their environment is further enhanced by the use of sensors. Vision systems, force sensors, and tactile sensors enable robotic arms to perceive and respond to changes in their surroundings.

It’s through the seamless integration of kinematics, motion planning, and sensory feedback that robotic arms achieve their remarkable range of motion and the precision required to perform tasks as varied as surgery or assembling electronics with micron-level accuracy.

What are the types of robotic arms?

Robotic arms come in a variety of configurations, the prominent ones including Cartesian, SCARA, and articulated arms – each designed for specific applications.

Each type has distinct advantages, making them suitable for specific tasks and industries, ensuring the right balance between precision and adaptability in automation.

How many axes are possible in a robotic arm?

In the realm of robotic arms, the number of axes plays a pivotal role in determining the arm’s range of motion and capabilities. Robotic arms can be categorized into two main axis types – single-axis and multi-axis configurations.

Single-axis robotic arms

These arms have only one rotational or linear axis making the robot relatively simple, with limited movement along a single plane. Single-axis arms are suitable for straightforward tasks that require movement in a single direction.

Multi-axis robotic arms

Multi-axis arms feature two or more rotational or linear axes offering a higher degree of flexibility, allowing movement in multiple directions. This is also the reason they can perform complex tasks with precision, from intricate assembly processes to 3D printing.

How much does a robotic arm cost?

The adoption of robotic arms involves several cost factors that businesses need to consider. The initial investment, including the purchase of the arm, installation, and training, can be substantial. Additionally, maintenance costs, software updates, and occasional repairs must be factored in.

However, it’s essential to weigh these costs against the potential benefits. Robotic arms can significantly enhance productivity, quality, and efficiency in manufacturing, often leading to long-term cost savings. 

Businesses should perform a thorough cost-benefit analysis to assess the cost-effectiveness of robotic arm adoption, taking into account increased production, reduced labor costs, and improved product quality. In many cases, the initial investment proves to be a wise long-term strategic move.

What are the industrial applications of robotic arms?

Robotic arms have transcended their roots in manufacturing to become indispensable tools in a diverse range of industries. Their versatility and precision have revolutionized processes, offering countless advantages. Some of these industries Include:

  • Manufacturing: Robotic arms have become the backbone of modern manufacturing, executing tasks like welding, painting, and assembly with unparalleled consistency and speed. 

  • Healthcare: Robotic arms are now frequently employed in surgeries, where their precision enhances the capabilities of surgeons, leading to minimally invasive procedures, quicker recovery times, and reduced surgical risks.

  • Agriculture: Robotic arms are proving to be beneficial in tasks such as harvesting, planting, and weeding. Their tireless work in fields ensures optimal crop yields while reducing the need for manual labor.

  • Space exploration: Robotic arms have extended our reach in space by assisting in tasks like satellite repair and rover operations enabling exploration beyond human limitations.

How does design impact a robotic arm’s functioning?

Design plays a critical role in the effectiveness of robotic arms. For instance, the choice of materials affects the arm’s structural integrity and suitability for various environments. Size and form factors determine the arm’s maneuverability, versatility, and workspace compatibility.

Additionally, joints dictate the arm’s range of motion and overall capabilities. Different joint configurations, such as revolute, prismatic, or spherical joints, impact the arm’s movement. Revolute joints, for example, allow rotational movement, while prismatic joints enable linear motion.

In essence, the design of a robotic arm is not just about aesthetics; it’s the cornerstone that defines its functionality, adaptability, and overall performance in accomplishing diverse tasks across different industries.

Looking to automate your processes?

Dorna 2S Robotic Arm along with its controller.

Robotic arms are undeniably at the vanguard of automation and innovation driving efficiency, productivity, and quality across sectors. As we venture further into this captivating field, exciting advancements await.

Dorna has emerged as a leading provider of robotic arms and accessories with its cost-effective yet highly efficient robotic ecosystem. However, we go beyond this; we’re your end-to-end automation partner ensuring our robots are perfectly tailored to your needs.

Discover Dorna’s robots and services with us!

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