What is a SCARA Robot?

Patrick Roland

A SCARA robot is an assembly machine that installs parts or carries items. It is designed to mimic the action of a human arm and can be used in jobs from automobile factories to underwater construction. This tool is frequently utilized because of its speed, efficiency and low cost.

SCARA robots may be beneficial tools for work sites that pose hazardous to humans.
SCARA robots may be beneficial tools for work sites that pose hazardous to humans.

SCARA stands for Selective Compliant Assembly Robot Arm or Selective Compliant Articulated Robot Arm. A SCARA robot has a full range of motion on its X and Y axis but is bolted down and unable to move in the Y axis. It can be programed to perform precise jobs repetitively, such as installing a pin or carrying items from one location to another within its range of motion. In the field of robotics, the SCARA is considered more affordable than many of its competitors and is one of the most popular methods of automated assembly.

Automating manufacturing through SCARA robots and other tools eliminates assembly line jobs, which can lead to an economic crisis in areas where unemployment is high.
Automating manufacturing through SCARA robots and other tools eliminates assembly line jobs, which can lead to an economic crisis in areas where unemployment is high.

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A SCARA robot is primarily used for assembly. They are used by manufacturers of everything from bulky automobiles to minuscule electronic items. It can be programmed to handle very precise installation work and cannot carry a great deal of weight, so the arm works best when handling small parts. These robots also can have their joints waterproofed in order to function in underwater construction. A SCARA's ability to be controlled remotely makes it a common feature of work sites that can be hazardous to humans, such as working with chemicals, or in environments with extreme conditions, such as a steel mill.

Considered to be relatively old in the constantly evolving world of robotics, the SCARA robot was developed in 1981 by the manufacturing company Sankyo Seiki. Since that time, it has become one of the most popular types of robots on an assembly line. Its closest competition is the Cartesian style robot. The Cartesian takes up much more space than a SCARA but can handle a heavier payload. The SCARA robot clearly does not excel at every job, but it gets high marks within its own niche.

SCARA robots are considered one of most important developments in assembly line technology because of their range of motion, speed and precision. By imitating the construction of the arm, elbow and wrist, the SCARA performs many tasks in a fraction of the time it would take a human. Whether constructing something intricate, such as a computer motherboard, or large and hulking, such as the frame of an 18-wheel semi truck, this tool helps increase production and lower costs because of its efficiency.

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Discussion Comments


@allenJo - That’s a good point. Industrial robots can also work in outer space as well. Think of the Space Shuttle and the operations to fix the Hubble Telescope. That was a precision task aided by robot technology in addition to the astronauts’ own skill and training.

Ultimately robots can be used to assemble entire bases on the moon as well. Just as with underwater operations, they can work just fine in an environment that would otherwise be inhospitable for humans.


@everetra - I think one of the most useful applications of robotic arms and robot technology is their ability to aid in ecological disasters. Robots have been used in some major oil spills to go down where no human being could descend into the ocean, and fix broken rigs or close up holes that had leaked oil.

I’m convinced in fact that some of these underwater operations would be near impossible to complete without robots that can operate night and day and shovel through tons of sand to perform delicate mechanical procedures.


Robotics engineering is a fascinating study and one that is constantly evolving. Although most implementations of robots are still the industrial kind and not the kind we see in science fiction movies, I think we are getting closer and closer to one day building robots that mimic human behavior and intelligence.

My first exposure to robotics, oddly enough, was not inside of a plant, but in a school. Lego has their famous robot kit for K-12 schools and it allows you to build customizable robots with USB, blue tooth communications and an easy to understand programming language.

Kids were fascinated with how easily they could build these little machines that responded to their every command. I hoped that someday some of them would become engineers as a result of these early influences. It didn’t matter to me whether their creations would ultimately build cars, or speak French.

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