Robots in the aluminum industry: Shaping the future of metal manufacturing

Robot Tech

Robots in the aluminum industry

Robots in the aluminum industry: Shaping the future of metal manufacturing

Catherine Bernier
Content Manager
Content for Cobot

Learn how modern manufacturers remain competitive through robotic technology for aluminum production – and what is required to do so.

The integration of robots into the aluminum industry marks a positive shift in production, efficiency, and quality control for modern manufacturers. This article explores the target applications for automation, the types of robots utilized, their advantages and drawbacks, necessary workforce skills, and provides an overview of the market size and cost implications.

Processes with high potential for automation

The aluminum industry covers a wide range of processes, many of which are ideal candidates for automation through robotics. The integration of robots into these processes not only enhances efficiency and productivity but also improves safety and quality control. Here's a closer look at the key processes in the aluminum industry that have high potential for automation.

Machine tending (milling and machining)

Robots excel at handling repetitive tasks with precision, making them perfect for machine tending in milling and machining operations. They can load and unload parts with high accuracy, maintain consistent operations around the clock, and reduce physical strain on human workers.

Surface finishing

Surface finishing processes such as grinding, polishing, and deburring can be labor-intensive and hazardous due to the dust and noise generated by these tasks. Robots equipped with the appropriate end-of-arm tooling can perform these tasks with consistent quality, improving the surface finish of aluminum parts while ensuring worker safety.

Quality inspection

With advancements in vision systems and AI, robots can now conduct quality inspections with greater accuracy and speed than human workers. They can detect defects, measure dimensions, and ensure that the final products meet strict quality standards, reducing the likelihood of errors and rework which can be incredibly costly for the aluminum industry.

Material handling

Material handling involves the movement, protection, storage, and control of materials throughout manufacturing. Robots can efficiently handle heavy loads, transport materials between processes without fatigue, and optimize storage space, leading to improved workflow and reduced labor costs.


The casting process can benefit significantly from automation. Robots can perform tasks such as pouring molten aluminum into molds, extracting cast parts, and carrying out post-casting operations. This not only speeds up the production process but also minimizes the exposure of workers to high temperatures and hazardous conditions.

Sorting and packaging

Finally, robots are increasingly used in the sorting and packaging of aluminum parts. They can sort items based on size, shape, or other criteria with high accuracy and package them for shipment. This automation step ensures that products are ready for delivery faster and with fewer errors, enhancing customer satisfaction.

The automation of these processes through robotics brings numerous benefits to the aluminum industry, including increased production speed, higher quality products, reduced costs, and enhanced worker safety. 

Which robots are used for aluminum applications?

which robots are used in the aluminum industry
Articulated arm inspecting an automotive part with a vision system for quality control


Various types of robots are employed to meet the demands of different aluminum industry processes. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of these robots can help manufacturers make informed decisions on the best automation solutions for their operations.

Articulated robots

These robots are characterized by their arm-like structure, with multiple joints that allow for a wide range of motion. Articulated robots are highly versatile and can be used for a variety of tasks, including machine tending, welding, and assembly. Their flexibility makes them suitable for complex operations, but their higher cost and space requirements can be limiting factors for some applications.

SCARA robots

Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arms (SCARA) are ideal for high-speed, precision tasks in a horizontal plane, such as assembly, picking, and placing. They offer fast and accurate positioning, making them perfect for material handling and packaging in the aluminum industry. However, their limited range of motion compared to articulated robots restricts their use to simpler, smaller tasks.

Gantry robots

Gantry robots, also known as Cartesian or linear robots, move in linear directions along the X, Y, and Z axes. Their structure allows for heavy payloads and high precision, making them excellent for material handling, palletizing, and CNC machine tending. The main drawback of gantry robots is their large footprint, which requires a significant amount of space.

Delta robots

Known for their high speed and precision, delta robots are commonly used in sorting, packaging, and material transfer applications. Their unique design allows for quick and precise movements, but their payload capacity is relatively low, making them less suitable for handling larger aluminum parts.

Collaborative robots (cobots)

Cobots are designed to work alongside human operators, offering safety features that allow for direct interaction without the need for safety barriers. They are adaptable, easy to program, and can be used for a wide range of tasks, including machine tending, inspection, and light assembly. The main advantage of cobots is their flexibility and ease of integration into existing workflows, although their lower payload and speed compared to industrial robots may limit their application in some high-throughput or high-payload processes.

Each type of robot brings distinct advantages to the aluminum industry, allowing for automation of various processes to improve efficiency, quality, and safety. The choice of robot depends on the specific needs of the manufacturing process, including the type of task, payload requirements, and space constraints. By carefully selecting the appropriate robotic technology, aluminum manufacturers can optimize their production lines for maximum productivity and profitability.

Skills required for operation

The successful integration of robotics into the aluminum industry necessitates a diverse set of skills among the workforce. As robots become more prevalent, the demand for skilled professionals capable of designing, operating, maintaining, and optimizing these automated systems increases. Below are the key skills required to ensure efficient and effective use of robotics in aluminum manufacturing.

Robot programming

Manufacturers need to be able to set up, program, and adjust robots for different tasks, ensuring that they operate efficiently and safely. This skillset includes knowledge of software used for robot control and the ability to troubleshoot and resolve operational issues. Either through trained staff or external support, company leadership should ensure access to skilled programmers.

Maintenance and troubleshooting

Robots, like any mechanical systems, require regular maintenance to operate at peak efficiency. Skills in diagnosing and fixing mechanical and electrical issues are essential to minimize downtime and maintain continuous production. This includes routine checks, replacing worn-out parts, and performing software updates. 

System integration

Integrating robotic systems into existing manufacturing processes requires a deep understanding of both the production workflow and the capabilities of different robots. Skills in system design and integration are vital for creating efficient, cohesive systems that enhance productivity and quality. System integration can be handled by experienced staff and is typically offered by suppliers.

Risk management

As robots are integrated into the workplace, ensuring the safety of human workers becomes paramount. Knowledge of safety standards and practices, including the use of safety sensors and barriers, is essential. Workers must be trained to operate robots safely and to understand the importance of coexistence between humans and machines in a shared workspace.

Data analysis

Robots generate a vast amount of data during operation. Manufacturers maximizing the value of their automation systems are leveraging the data that robots provide. Skills in data analysis are necessary to interpret this information, which can be used to optimize production processes, improve quality, and reduce waste. Understanding data analytics tools and techniques allows workers to make informed decisions based on real-time data.

Developing these skills within the workforce is essential for leveraging the full potential of robotics in the aluminum industry. Through targeted training and education programs, companies can equip their employees with the knowledge and abilities needed to thrive in an increasingly automated manufacturing environment.

Price and market size

Robot inspecting an aluminum part
Collaborative robot inspecting an aluminum part.


The adoption of robotics in the aluminum industry is influenced by factors such as price and the overall market size, which reflect the technology's accessibility and economic impact. 

Price of robotic systems

The cost of robotic systems varies widely depending on the type of robot, its capabilities, and the complexity of the application. The hardware for small collaborative robots (cobots) can be purchased for as little as $20,000 to $30,000 USD, making them accessible for small to medium-sized enterprises looking to automate simple tasks.

On the other hand, more advanced systems, such as high-capacity articulated robots with sophisticated vision systems, safety hardware, and appropriate end-effectors, can cost several hundred thousand dollars.

However, manufacturers should consider more than hardware. Several factors contribute to the total cost of implementing robotic automation, including:

  • The initial purchase price of the robot
  • Integration and setup costs
  • Software and programming expenses
  • Maintenance and operational costs
  • Training costs for staff

Investing in robotic technology often leads to significant long-term savings due to increased efficiency, reduced labor costs, and improved product quality. Like with any capital expenditures, the purchase price for these systems means that decision-makers should clearly understand the return on investment (ROI) to make an informed decision.

Market size

The global market for industrial robotics has been experiencing steady growth, driven by the increasing demand for automation across various industries, including aluminum production. According to recent reporting, the industrial robotics market for metal fabrication is estimated to be $4.6 billion USD and is expected to reach $12 billion USD by 2031 at a CAGR of 11.2%.

Integrating robotics into aluminum production applications represents a forward-thinking approach to manufacturing, offering numerous benefits in terms of productivity, safety, and quality. While costs are not insignificant, the potential for long-term savings and operational improvements makes it a worthwhile investment. As the market for industrial robotics continues to grow, it is expected that more aluminum manufacturers will embrace automation as a key component of their production strategies, driving competitiveness and safer working conditions in the sector.

What’s next?

You may be ready to take the next step towards including robots in your aluminum production operations, but where do you start?

The HowToRobot platform connects buyers of automation with a variety of suppliers in a streamlined, easy-to-use environment. 

Post your project on HowToRobot today for free, and begin receiving offers from vetted, relevant automation vendors from our supplier network.