Economics of Collaborative Robotics: CNC Tending

One of the core applications that we have seen success with collaborative robotics is CNC tending.

How big of a market could be in the US? Well it’s huge. In 2014 Haas Automation (arguably the market leader for CNC Machines) sold 13,000 machines with revenues surpassing a billion dollars.

Each one of those machines will require an operators or maybe a collaborative robot.

(See example here of a collaborative robot loading CNC machine here:

What we found is that almost every job that is done using a CNC tender can also be done using a collaborative robot. Why is this? The robot has an 8.8 pound payload which means that it can pick most items or products that would be produced using a CNC Machine. In addition to that Sawyer the collaborative robot from Rethink Robotics 7 degrees of freedom and a 1260 mm maximum reachThis gives Sawyer a particular competitive advantage with regard to CNC loading in tending. Why is that? Space is a limiting factor when loading in unloading a CNC machine.


The robot sometimes has to position itself in a particular ways in order to get inside the machine and load and unload. Another competitive advantage in this application is integrated vision. Sawyer comes equipped with a Cognex grayscale camera. This makes common challenge of repeatable part presentation much easier to overcome. Another reason this application makes so much sense is the amount of time it takes to load and unload the machine.. As a result of this operators can run CNC machines resulting in huge efficiency gains in the overall organizational operation.

So what type of payback period are we dealing with in a CNC Applications with a cobot?

I've provided a calculation of that below for your reference. We made some assumptions in the calculation related to wage rate ($17.00 per hour) in and cost of the collaborative robot ($41,250). I've also included several videos below of Sawyer loading in unloading the CNC machine's.


1 Shift Sequence (16.5 month payback)

2 Shift Sequence: (8.2 Month Payback)

3 Shift Sequence: (5.1 Month Payback)


Patrick R. Gross, MBA
Collaborative Robotics
Engineered Solutions Business Development

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