When one thinks of robotics the immediate image is clean, high tech machines, in a brand new facility. Nice, yes, but expensive. Ask any business owner or production manager what they consider when looking to automate and it’s simple; the bottom line. They want to get the job done and done well, but it has to pay for itself. When considering robotics many miss the fact that this is not new technology, it has been around for years and robots are built to last. A long time.
An automotive line, where most robot manufacturers earn their keep, is expected to run for 10 years at least, all day, every day, with only occasional maintenance. Any faults on the line costs tens of thousands of Pounds, Euro or Dollars, per minute. So if you have 200 robots on a typical line the mean time between failure per robot has to be exceptionally low. Many automotive line robots have been in service for 20+ years and are still going strong.
So, where does this leave everyone outside automotive? Well not many industries have 10+ years production scheduled. So when robotics companies quote payback times of 2 or 3 years, many customers baulk. Some applications can use new cheaper collaborative robots that cost less to install and run, but still the prices can be prohibitive. So what if I said that for under £5,000 GBP $6000 USD or €5,500 EUR you can buy a decent industrial robot, complete, tested and ready to spend easily the next 10+ years fulfilling your production desires?
Yes they are out there!
There are a few pitfalls in the used market, one has to be careful that backup and service are available. Also although robots are not that difficult to install or program it will take time and money to make sure you have a reliable and legal installation. Investing in an experienced integration company can make a huge saving here. Specifying used robots is also a task for those experienced; getting the right machine for the job is vital.
The benefits of used robots are huge. They can be used where any other solution is uneconomic, often acting as a gateway to allow companies to modernise and expand their capabilities further. Payback times can often be measured in weeks or months. On occasion I have known used industrial robots to pull companies back from the brink of closure to industry leading competitiveness.
The used robot market often sees the cutting edge of robotics too. New robots would be too much of a financial risk for many innovative projects and so the inventive employ used machines to prove their concepts and test their ideas for real. Even larger established companies find benefits in cheaper machines to develop new processes. And don’t tell anyone, but most automotive companies re-use robots too.