Robot; New or Used?



Buy new or buy used?

Buyers facing a huge expense have long struggled with the pros and cons of that decision. Now manufacturers are up against the same questions when determining whether to buy new or used industrial robotics for their plants.

And it’s not just a question for the one industry; in fact, many manufacturing segments have even greater opportunities to purchase small-scale secondhand robotic cells for welding, painting, material handling, and CNC. From poultry production plants to plastic injection molding and cast and blown film, and assembly industries, facilities of all sizes and types are in a global race to automate sooner rather than later — and they are eager to explore the most cost-effective means of automating.

In the first quarter of 2016, North American companies ordered more than 7,400 new robots, setting a new record here for first quarter orders of new robotics equipment, according to Robotic Industries Association (RIA), the industry’s trade group.

Meanwhile, many other robotics buyers were bargain shopping for something other than bright, shiny and new. These buyers were looking to used robotics equipment to significantly reduce the cost of their industrial automation projects.




Statistics for used robot purchases aren’t as easy to come by as reports of new orders, but I frequently run across businesses willing to try “revivals” — innovative automation projects using refurbished older robots in an attempt to contain initial automating costs.

Sometimes it works beautifully. Other times it’s a more costly than the buyer prepared for.

A key component of the decision-making process is understanding the trade-offs in buying used robotics; the lower price tag comes hand-in-hand with sacrifices in speed, efficiency and availability of parts and technical support.

As with any other purchase of used vs. new product, a “buyer beware” approach is advised; and it pays to “kick the tires” before cutting the check for a used robot.


Though dusty, no apparent leak. However, J2 noise indicates reducer issues.

Ever wondered where that phrase, “kick the tires,” originated? Early automobiles often featured tires made of extremely thin rubber that would deflate if a prospective buyer kicked them.

If you’re trying to contain automation costs by going the previously-owned route, Inscho Solutions offers an affordably-priced evaluation package designed to do the “tire-kicking” for you, helping you ascertain how much of an actual value to your operation the used robot you’re considering purchasing may be. We’ll evaluate the condition of the equipment, the likely cost of parts replacement and help you predict how difficult it may be to find parts, service or technical support.


Here are top 6 points you’ll need to consider when buying a used robot:

  • Tech support may be limited. I’ve been working recently on the restoration of a robot welding cell built in 1994 and warehoused for the past five years. The program is pre-Windows 95, using 3.5 inch MS-DOS diskettes. Most of the folks providing tech support these days have never even worked with MS-DOS. If you’re trying to fly a WWII plane, be prepared to hunt down a WWII pilot.

  • Parts may be hard to come by. With some painstaking reprogramming, the older robot I’ve been restoring was able to weld. But a belt stripped — and since the belt is no longer available from the manufacturer, the hunt is on. Luckily it i just a belt and not a printed circuit board.


  • Production time may be lost daily due to slower start-up procedures. Depending on its complexity, a start-up program for an older robotic cell may take up to half an hour or more. Be prepared for the necessary down time.

  • Programming edits will be much more complicated, due to limited memory and less user-friendly logic.
    Modern logic speeds things up by making certain assumptions. Older logic isn’t quite as user-friendly. Be prepared to invest much more time in programming to account for the extra steps required.

    Using the 1994 robot welding cell as an example again, 10-12 steps may be required for each motion statement. Compare that to the 3-step motion statements of later models, and you begin to see how much more time is required for even the smallest modifications. With 64-128 motions required for one welding process, the programming can quickly become complex.

  • For best availability of support, purchase equipment manufactured no earlier than 2009.
    Considerable technological changes in automation occurred in the three years prior to 2009, and again in 2009, rendering many older machines almost obsolete. The older the machine the harder and more expensive becomes to find replacement parts or anyone in the industry familiar enough with the old logic to provide adequate tech support. At a minimum, you are likely to encounter the inconvenience of long wait times for answers and parts procurement.

  • You’ll need a thorough evaluation of the condition of the equipment by a knowledgeable service tech before investing in it.
    In particular, you’ll want to “kick the tires” to find potential issues such as:

    — Cracks in the electrical insulation indicating dry rot.

    — Frayed drive belts or other parts that may be difficult to replace.

    — Integrity of the positioner and axes seals. Oil and grease, for example, may indicate an expensive servo reducer will soon need to be replaced.

    If you’re considering purchasing used robotic equipment, it’s worth your time to give me a call first. My “Kick The Tires Pre-Buy Evaluation” may help you avoid some costly mistakes.


Contact Us

Iso Robotics, Inc.

1066 Grand Oaks Dr

Bessemer, AL 35022

(205) 217-3173

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Iso Robotics, Inc.

3033 Old Stone Dr,

Birmingham, AL 35242