Rethinking Sawyer

Rethinking Sawyer

Rethink Robotics, a pioneer in collaborative robots, has shut down under mysterious circumstances surrounding heavy debts and a botched buyout. What, if anything, does this mean for collaborative robots in general? If you’re thinking the shutdown proves cobots are a passing fad, the evidence suggests otherwise.

While the demise of Rethink Robotics might initially put collaborative robots on shaky ground in the eyes of manufacturers, the innovator was followed by several strong companies into the cobot marketplace. Universal Robots, for example, recently celebrated the sale of its 25,000th robot and market analysts agree that the collaborative robot market will grow exponentially in the near future. “The Global Collaborative Robots Market is expected to exceed more than US$ 3.0 billion by 2022 and will grow at a CAGR of more than 60% in the given forecast period,” according to

If you were considering a Sawyer robot to automate part of your process, consider the Universal Robots UR5e as a replacement. Consider the following important differences between the two options.

Sawyer vs. Universal Robots UR5e

Motion control - The compliant motion control, a key selling point, is also one of its weaknesses as robot is not able to follow a precise path compared to other industrial robots (incl. UR). Motion is, compared to other robots, visibly wobbly and needs “time to rest” before it finds its target position, due to the mechanical design using elastic actuators in joints.

Usability - Cartoonish face on touch-screen, more disturbing than intuitive. The user interface is designed for simple tasks, not programming just a bit more complex tasks, thus limiting its universal use. The motion features are very limited and does not give you the option to define joint/linear/circular motions as well as blends, thus virtually making it impossible to optimize a given task where low cycle time is essential. New Intera 5 software introduces visual decision-making interface, intended for complex tasks, but appears complex to use and understand itself.

Limited connectivity - Only supports Modbus TCP. Industry standards like Ethernet/IP (Allen Bradley) or ProfiNet (Siemens) communication not available. Limited digital I/O’s available. No safety connectivity available (except e-stop)

Safety certification - Sawyer’s safety system has not been certified by 3rd part. Large companies often requires the safety system to be certified by a notified body like TÜV or equivalent.

The Bottom Line

Sawyer is not designed for high-performance industrial use, even though they claim it, due to poor motion control, limited programming abilities and limited connectivity with other devices. UR offers high precision motion, easy programming interface while also supporting more complex programming. High level of connectivity available, many add-on products customized for UR with easy integration available on UR+.

Sawyer lacks presence in major global manufacturing companies, generally Sawyer is not recognized as product useful in industries requiring high-performance and high-reliability. UR is widely used in the industry and has a long reference list containing recognized global companies, like BMW, Valeo, Flextronic, Renault, PSA, Whirlpool, etc.

Sawyer safety system has not been certified by any recognized notified body. UR safety system has been certified by TÜV, recognized notified body, conforming to ISO-13849-1.

Automation Distribution offers a complimentary proof of concept for all Universal Robots applications and can also refer an integrator for special situations. Request a free proof of concept below.

Oct 16th 2018 Angela Caruso

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