An articulated robot is a robot which is fitted with rotary joints. Rotary joints allow a full range of motion, as they rotate through multiple planes, and they increase the capabilities of the robot considerably. An articulated robot can have one or more rotary joints, and other types of joints may be used as well, depending on the design of the robot and its intended function.
With rotary joints, a robot can engage in very precise movements. Articulated robots commonly show up on manufacturing lines, where they utilize their flexibility to bend in a variety of directions. Multiple arms can be used for greater control or to conduct multiple tasks at once, for example, and rotary joints allow robots to do things like turning back and forth between different work areas.
These robots can also be seen at work in labs and in numerous other settings. Researchers developing robots often work with articulated robots when they want to engage in activities like teaching robots to walk and developing robotic arms. The joints in the robot can be programmed to interact with each other in addition to activating independently, allowing the robot to have an even higher degree of control. Many next generation robots are articulated because this allows for a high level of functionality.
Articulated robots can have arms and legs which allow them to move and manipulate a wide variety of objects. Some are designed as console units with arms, where the unit remains in place in a fixed position and the arms are used to perform tasks. Others may wheel, slide, or move in other ways so that they can navigate spaces of varying sizes. In a medical lab, for example, an articulated robot might be used to deliver and carry samples around the lab.
Basic articulated robots are sometimes available in robotics kits, allowing people who are just starting to explore robotics to play with rotary joints and to get a feel for how they operate. More sophisticated robots may be built for a special purpose by robotics experts who design every component of the articulated robot from the ground up. Robots used on assembly lines and in similar settings are produced in various quantities by companies which develop manufacturing equipment. People who are interested in seeing an articulated robot in action can try doing a search for "articulated robot" on a site which collects videos from users.