I was wondering if any robotics engineers around would kindly, provide suggestions on the following:

I was recently hired by a company that wants to implement a robotic solution in manufacturing for a client. It is companies first time venturing into robotics and I am the robotics intern (I recently graduated). They want me to construct a ROS compatible collaborative antropomorphic robotic arm from scratch in four months with a very limited budget (under 10000 USD). I've observed that such kinds of robot arms at the very minimum cost about 30000 USD. And based on a little research my conservative estimate of designing such an arm is more than 30000 USD (assuming if we choose off the shelf solutions such as modular robotic joints with in-built sensors). Additionally, looking at the history of the state-of-art cobots, I've come to realize that it took many years of research and design to come up with such perfection.

As I've understood, the budget and time-frame sounds preposterous, maybe I am wrong. I want to give them a practical time-frame and estimated cost with sound reasoning, because so far they don't seem to be convinced by my reasoning. So anyone who has had experience in designing industrial robot, could kindly answer the following for me:

  1. Is it really possible to design industrial robots in such a time frame? How much time does it usually take to design such a robot usually by a seasoned robotics engineer?

  2. What kind of costs should I bear in mind other than just the cost of individual components?

  3. Are there any constraints/risks (other than time and money) that I haven't foreseen that one could tell me?

Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Robotics, MRM. I'm sorry but polling questions are discouraged on stack exchange. We prefer practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face, so questions which ask for a list of different opinions are off-topic. Please take a look at How to Ask & tour for more information on how stack exchange works. $\endgroup$
    – Chuck
    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ In addition, your question is extremely vague in scope, and your project seems to cross multiple lines. It sounds like you don't have a clear definition of your project, which is likely due to your supervisors not having a clear idea of what they want. You've mentioned industrial robot several times, but then you also mentioned anthropomorphic (human-like). You have not stated the physical capabilities of the robot - is this an industrial pick-and-place, for handling small electronics, or are you trying to maneuver chassis subassemblies for cars? Something in between? $\endgroup$
    – Chuck
    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ What capabilities do you have so far? What does your company have? Is your budget just for parts? Does your salary count? If you need to buy software, Simscape Multibody is a great tool for development, but it requires Simscape, which requires Simulink, which requires Matlab. An annual subscription is $3,880 (perpetual license is \$9,700). Visual Studio Pro license is \$539. Solidworks license is \$3,995. Do you need a bench power supply? Soldering station? Wiring tools, wire, desoldering equipment, breadboards, JTAGs, o-scopes, bus analyzers, loose components like misc. resistors, capacitors? $\endgroup$
    – Chuck
    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ There's a huge list of items like this to consider, follow-up questions, follow-up answers, more questions - the question is going to turn into a huge back-and-forth discussion, which is beyond the scope of the site. If you want to discuss this or any design problem, you're always more than welcome to join us in Robotics Chat when you've got sufficient reputation (20, I believe). $\endgroup$
    – Chuck
    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ My apologies sir, I am new around. I'll probably excercise more caution on how to ask questions here. Anyway, what they require is a general purpose robotic arm having a max reach of about 1 m, capable of handling payloads upto 2 kg with a velocity of about 1-2 m/s. They want to use this arm for pick and place operations of pharmaceutical vials. I did study robotics and control and worked on some projects involving control but no experience in robotics design. Yes, the budget was for parts. We'll need to buy it all. Nonetheless, you've my deep gratitude for your answers. I find them helpful. $\endgroup$
    – MRM
    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:52

1 Answer 1


How did you come up with the 30.000$? You can't even pay a single Engineer for the four months and then you still don't have any hardware.

If it's possible in the time and budget completely depends on the task the robot has to solve. Do they want to built something like a LBR iiwa or a UR10 or a small picking robot with a reach of 20cm that moves with less than 10cm/s? Should it be a one-trick-pony or a general purpose arm?

The arms from UR cost around 20-30k, iiwa easily twice that amount, the Franka Emica around 10 (without software). UR just raised it's price and sold 25.000 arms and they can buy in bulk and have a lot of experience.

Industrial arms start already a bit cheaper (e.g. from Igus) and you could spend the months on a ROS Interface.

A collaborative arm needs a certification and that's not something to get over a weekend.

Another point against the 4 months is delivery time for you components. I use some bearings that have a delivery time of more than two months.

If you are good and lucky(!) you could manage to hack a prototype in some months.

But it's not possible to guess the time you need without knowing the task your robot should solve.

  • $\begingroup$ Many thanks for your reply sir. They want a general purpose robotic arm having a max reach of about 1 m, capable of handling payloads upto 2 kg with a velocity of about 1-2 m/s. The operations to be performed are pick and place of pharmaceutical vials of different sizes and I am sure there are much faster and cheaper solutions than an anthropomorphic robotic arm but well..... I also agree about the cost, 30,000 was not all the cost but merely of the possible hardware components that could be used for building one, that too a conservative one. Nonetheless, I am starting to get a perspective. $\endgroup$
    – MRM
    Sep 19, 2018 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ If it's pick and place, you most likely(!) will not have to be collaborative which simplifies the problem a lot. But you will not be able to solve this problem in four months. $\endgroup$
    – FooTheBar
    Sep 19, 2018 at 13:56

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