Robotics is a rapidly growing industry and is becoming more and more popular every day. One part of the robotic market is robotic arms. These devices combine smartphone applications with wired controllers, which makes them the perfect option for kids or teens who are passionate about building things.
Robotic arms are also great tools which can be used for lessons in general automation, basic robotics, and foundational programming. If this type of device sounds like something that is right up your alley or the alley of someone you know, then this is the guide for you. Listed here are some of the best robotics arms available to buy on the market today.
Contents (Jump to)
- 1 What to Consider
- 2 OWI Robotic Arm Edge
- 3 HEXBUG VEX Motorized Robotic Arm
- 4 Pathfinders Robotic Arm
- 5 SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm
- 6 OWI Hydraulic Arm Edge Kit
- 7 Which is Right For You?
What to Consider
Before you decide which one of these robotic arms is the right one for you, there are a few things you want to consider. Here are some of the most important items to take into account prior to making your decision.
First, you want to take into consideration the application which will be performed by your robot arm. Answering this and other questions will help you as you decide which type of arm makes the most sense for you.
Do you want an arm that can pick up and place devices at a fast pace? Or do you want one that offers granular control? Knowing what type of work your robot arm will perform will serve as a starting point when choosing the best robotic arm for you.
When a robot is working, the maximum load it can handle is defined as Payload. If you plan on using your robotic arm from one point to the next, you’ll want to include a robotic arm gripper weight, along with items to offset the weight of the payload.
Repeatability is the ability of your robotic arm to move to the exact same position each and every time it performs a specific routine. Many robotic arms can repeatedly perform an action within 0.5mm each time. Some are even more accurate.
For example, if you want a robot arm to move parts from one spot to another, you’ll want to have a robotic arm that is both repeatable and precise. On the other hand, if the actions your robotic arm will be performing will vary, you probably don’t need to worry as much about precision. You’ll typically notice this measurement noted with a minus or plus value.
No, we’re not talking about the plural of the wood-cutting tool. We’re referring to the axis on which the robotic arm rotates. Your robot’s freedom of movement is directly related to the number of axes it has. The more axes, the more freedom.
If you simply want to pick and place items, four axes are enough, but if you need to perform more complicated actions or have a limited workspace, six axes will work better for you.
Distance is just as important as payload or repeatability. You need to figure out how far your robot arm needs to reach. The product specifics will list this information, helping you determine if the robot will perform your specific tasks.
The lowest point a robot can reach to the highest its wrist can reach measures the vertical reach of the robot arm, while the horizontal reach is measured from the center point of the base to the farthest the arm can extend to either side.
Motion ranges are expressed in degrees and are an important consideration as well. These can vary greatly from one robot arm to the next and are limiting factors in certain tasks.
Brakes and Inertia
Each robot arm contains information about its braking system specifications. Some robot arms have brakes on their axes and some don’t. You need to have enough brakes to achieve repeatable and precise positions.
The manufacturer also provides information on the inertia of the robot arm. If your robot arm needs a certain amount of torque to complete your application, you need to check the robotic arm for the maximum torque it can accommodate. This is critical because overloading the axes can cause the robot arm to break or shut down.
OWI Robotic Arm Edge
The OWI Robotic Arm Edge is the perfect gift for a young person showing interest in robotics or electronics. If your child or a child you know wants to learn more about the field, or you are a beginner and want to learn more or build your own, consider the OWI Robotic Arm Edge a great starting point.
OWI Robotics created the Arm Edge as an intermediate robot arm and is a great entry-level project. They are a reputable brand in the robotics market and they’re known for making exceptional robotic kits for educational purposes. It’ll get anyone started in the area of robotics, basic electronics, or mechanics.
Your child will enjoy their first-hand experience with robots when using the OWI Robotic Arm Edge. The arm has great range of motion and can lift up to one hundred grams. The LED light allows you to build or use it in the dark and the gears come with sound warnings. You won’t risk accidentally stripping any gears when you work or play.
The OWI Robotic Arm Edge comes with parts templates to build the robot arm’s outer casing as well as gears, motors, screws, a wired controller, and an instruction manual showing you how to build it.
It’s not difficult to build and it attempts to focus more on helping your child develop interest, skills, and background knowledge in electronics. The owner’s manual makes it easy for anyone to assemble quickly. It’s intended to be fun and educational instead of hard and frustrating.
The gripper at the end of the robot arm opens and closes and can lift up to one hundred grams. That includes things like an empty soda can or a large screwdriver. However, you can expand these capabilities with extra software and a USB cable, both of which are sold separately.
You can manipulate the arm in a wide range of motions so it can perform many tasks and shouldn’t have any trouble lifting things. Just be sure not to push it beyond its abilities because it doesn’t have any sensors to tell you when to stop, and it could break if you’re not careful.
The gears on the OWI Robotic Arm Edge do have audible warnings as a safety measure to ensure you don’t push them too far in the wrong direction. This prevents gear stripping or other injuries by telling you of improper movement as you assemble it.
The OWI Robotic Arm Edge also has LED lighting so you can play with it at night. The LED light shines on what you pick up, but also adds an aesthetic element to the robotic arm, making it look cool.
The radial wrist nod is 120 degrees, the base rotation is 270 degrees, the elbow motion is 300 degrees, the vertical reach is fifteen inches, the horizontal reach is 12.6 inches, and the base motion is 180 degrees.
The OWI Robotic Arm Edge should only take a few hours to build and is very easy. Having a background in robotics will get it done faster, but it’s the perfect beginner kit for those who don’t have that experience.
The high-quality plastic ensures durability, it operates on a five S system with five motors, five joints that control motion, and a five-switch wired controller.
The OWI Robotic Arm Edge kit is affordable and worth the cost for the hours of fun you and your child will have. It’s also worth the educational experience, as your child will get a good basic knowledge of robotics to prepare them for future careers as programmers or engineers.
OWI Robotic Arm Edge Pros:
- Reasonable price
- Gives kids a background in robotic and programming basics
- Easy to build, even for beginners
- Ideal learning tool for children with an interest in the STEM fields
- Instructions are easy to understand
- Cool building project for kids or teens
- Strong gripper
- Audible safety indicators prevent gear damage
- LED feature for use at night
- Durable parts
OWI Robotic Arm Edge Cons:
- No DC adapter
- Remote control has buttons that are hard for kids to push and is not very user-friendly
- Tools needed for assembly include Phillips screwdriver, small file, and needle nose pliers
- Battery compartment is hard to open
- Some parts look similar, so careful organizing is required to ensure proper assembly
- No sensors in place to ensure you don’t push it beyond its intended range of motion
HEXBUG VEX Motorized Robotic Arm
VEX Robotics makes competitive and educational robotic products and is one of the leading manufacturers in the industry. They make robotic items for robotics teams and learning institutions throughout the world.
These robotic solutions are accessible, scalable, and affordable. The HEXBUG product line offers robotic items designed for kids who want a positive robotics learning experience early on. The HEXBUG robotic arm displays exciting behavior and has intelligent attributes.
The HEXBUG VEX contains more than 350 parts including very small plastic pins and pegs, along with large plates, and while it can elicit fun play after it is assembled, it is not intended for assemblers under eight years of age.
It is a serious construction kit introducing the user to the broad field of robotics. The instructions included in the kit help you build a robotic arm from scratch, attaching all the parts together yourself.
Controlling the HEXBUG VEX requires twisting two yellow knobs close to the base. They control the angle of the main arm. Twisting a small wheel on the back of the arm opens and closes the claw. The claw can open up to five inches wide.
To rotate the arm a full 360 degrees on the base requires pushing it manually, but you can buy an upgraded Vex Motor Kit that allows you to motorize that function. Even without the electronics, the HEXBUG VEX is a lot of fun.
The HEXBUG VEX takes a few hours to assemble. The most challenging parts to assemble are the main gears and the base. It can be a difficult set to assemble because most of the parts are black so the written instructions are confusing in places.
If you enjoy building LEGO sets, the HEXBUG VEX will appeal to you because it’s very similar. While it can be complicated, if you are familiar with assembling LEGOs, the instructions and assembly will feel a lot like that.
Following the instructions carefully is very important to the successful build and functionality of this robotic arm. However, the large parts that don’t contain a lot of tiny pieces are fun to assemble and once it’s complete, itis eighteen inches tall and looks attractive.
The HEXBUG VEX is an affordable robotic arm, but the difficulty of assembly may deter some. However, once assembled, the value is in playing with it. While it takes an older child or an adult to help assemble it, children as young as three will enjoy the play.
HEXBUG VEX Pros:
- Great learning tool for kids ages eight and up
- Fun for anyone familiar with LEGO assembly instructions
- All ages can play
- Manufactured by a reputable brand in the robotics industry
HEXBUG VEX Cons:
- Can overflex and break parts if you’re not patient and careful
- It comes with a lot of small parts and can be difficult to put together
- Some users have reports small mistakes in the instructions
Pathfinders Robotic Arm
If you are interested in science or your kids want to learn more about the STEM fields, the Pathfinders Robotic Arm is a good starting point. It comes with sixty-six parts and glues for easy and convenient assembly.
The Pathfinders Robotic Arm gives children a great way to learn about machines, levers, robotics, fluid dynamics, engineering, invention, design, and technology. It can move things around the house and is perfect for kids ages eight and up.
The lightweight wood material makes the final project safe and light for kids of all ages and it’s easy to display anywhere in the home. The assembled arm is 13 ½ inches tall and has a reach of over sixteen inches.
The wood is made from sustainable sources so you can feel good about your environmental impact. It comes with everything you need to assemble it, all of which is made from materials that are good for the environment.
The unique thing about the Pathfinders Robotic Arm is that it is a hydraulic robot arm and can help the user understand fluid dynamics along with other robotics concepts. The set includes all tubing, glue, plywood structure pieces, and syringes needed to build this functionality.
The final product can pick items up horizontally and turn almost ninety degrees. Using water instead of hydraulic fluid, one person can operate the Pathfinders Robotic Arm using all of the syringes or multiple people can tag team operations, each with their own syringe and functionality.
The Pathfinders Robotic Arm contains everything needed for assembly except for food coloring, a ruler, and a pair of scissors. Food coloring is handy for identifying liquids in syringes.
The Pathfinders Robotic Arm is one of the more affordable robotic arms available. It’s one of the cheapest on this list and is a great beginner’s tool for understanding the basics of robotics.
Pathfinders Robotic Arm Pros:
- Comes with everything needed for assembly including pre-cut wood pieces, glue, and syringes
- The detailed user manual is easy to understand
- It’s a great tool for beginners to learn more about levels, hydraulics, and simple machine operations
Pathfinders Robotic Arm Cons:
- It’s easy to pull the syringes out too far, and if the water is colored, it can get messy
SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm
Robotic arms are trendy toys and most are used for children who show an aptitude for science, engineering, or any of the other STEM fields. These robotic arms help kids understand technological advancements and gain an interest in technology.
The SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm is a desktop robotic arm that offers your kids basic knowledge of robotics and a lot of fun. It is made of durable PVC materials and is a high-tech model using Computer Numeral Control for its operations, meaning you need a computer to control it.
Because the SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm uses CNC for its operations, it helps children understand not only robotics but the technology behind controlling them. With the CNC processor, you can control all aspects of the robot’s movement.
The SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm comes with structural frame bearings, four MG996R servo, two SG90 servos, and all screws necessary for assembly.
The SainSmart 6-Axis robotic arm is one of the more expensive robotic arm options. It’s well-made and comes with some complex parts and operations. While it’s intended for beginners, it requires some thought and may not be suitable for younger children.
SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm Pros:
- Made by a reputable brand with a lot of experience in making high-quality electronics
- Made of durable PVC material with a CNC processor for operations
- Uses an active joint bearing connection
- It simulates the palletizing structure of an actual robot arm
SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm Cons:
- Some users complained that the user manual was not detailed enough
OWI Hydraulic Arm Edge Kit
The hydraulic arm for OWI makes technology more interesting. It comes with parts that allow every young person with a passion for engineering to sharpen their skills and exercise their creativity.
The OWI hydraulic Arm Edge Kit contains a variety of movements that are useful, and with a large degree of rotation and durable grippers, it makes engineering easier and more fun. Its braking system also enables smooth operations.
Because it operates using hydraulics, it doesn’t use batteries or electricity. This enhances your child’s knowledge of hydraulics as well as robotics. It has the power to grip and lift small items, delighting the user every time.
The OWI Hydraulic Arm Edge Kit has six axes with wide-ranging movements. The gripper can open up to 1.9 inches with a wrist spin of 180 degrees. The shove range is 44 degrees with a base rotation of 270 degrees and a shoulder motion of 45 degrees.
The arm can reach up to 16.35 inches with a horizontal reach of 12.42 inches and a lift capacity of fifty grams. It has enough dexterity in its grip to lift small items like pens and pencils.
Removing the gripper allows you to activate a suction apparatus to elevate objects like cell phones that have a larger surface area. While the gripper can’t grip something that big, the suction is powerful enough to lift it.
The braking system is integrated into the lever controllers so the arm can execute orders with more accuracy than other robotic arms. Kids can fully command and manipulate the hydraulic arm while applying the principles they learn.
The OWI user manual is easy to understand and provides step-by-step directions with illustrations. The assembly is intended to enhance a child’s knowledge of STEM fields while enjoying the fun and learning that comes with building a robotic arm operated by hydraulics that’s easy to manipulate via lever controllers.
As with most other robotic arms on this list, the OWI Hydraulic Robotic Arm Edge Kit is an affordable way to learn about STEM fields.
OWI Hydraulic Robotic Arm Edge Kit Pros:
- Works outside because it doesn’t require electricity or anything else that’s not weatherproof
- Gives kids a fun way to understand hydro-mechanical technology
- Contains six axes for more precise movement and controlling with an elbow range of 44 degrees and a wrist rotation of 180 degrees
- The user manual has detailed illustrations as well as step-by-step instructions that are easy to understand and allows you to build the kit accurately
- The gripper is removable with a suction apparatus replacement part for lifting objects using vacuum technology
OWI Hydraulic Robotic Arm Edge Kit Cons:
- The user needs to exercise caution when lifting items that weigh more than one pound because the robot arm is fragile
Which is Right For You?
With a better understanding of what you need to look for and what’s available to you, you can make a more informed decision. If cost is a factor, any of these robots would be a viable option except the SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm.
If you want your child to be introduced into the world of hydraulics, choose the OWI Hydraulic Robotic Arm Edge Kit or the Pathfinders Robotic Arm, both of which operate using hydraulics instead of batteries or electricity.
If an attractive robotic arm is what you’re looking for, the HEXBUG VEX is the perfect option because of its sleek appearance and bug-like functionality. However, if you want something that’s the perfect beginner’s solution with very easy assembly, the OWI Robotic Arm Edge is the right choice.
Consider your budget, your needs, and the functionality you want in a robotic arm and use those factors to make an educated decision on which is the best robotic arm available for your application.
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Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!