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 Old robot systems: How old is old and are they worth it?

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April 04, 2012, 06:07:19 PM
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This is a thread to start a discussion about the old robot systems that have been coming back into circulation from out of the woodwork for a few years now.
They may cost less up front but are they financially worthwhile in the long run?

This thread is a keeper:

Does anybody know where the various manufacturers have set cut-off points for support in their country?
Do they still stock/make spare parts?

Would be interesting to hear opinions and experiences from members of this forum.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2018, 10:48:05 AM by Werner Hampel »

Today at 01:35:03 PM
Reply #1



April 04, 2012, 09:26:58 PM
Reply #1


Global Moderator
Thankyou Jim,
As a commercial operator and supplier/Integrator  of several different makes of industrial robots, for over 25years internationally. I feel that some members should be reminded that recommissioning very old models of robots for re-sale , is not going to do the industry any favours.
I have no wish to take the moral high ground , however, asking members to assist in this endeavour, probably knowing that parts are almost impossible , to get , to have serviced & have credible on going support , will not help in both the short & long term.
Over 15 years ago we looked at a similar method to give clients the feel of automation @ a first level entry price, all that happened was the continued failures and impossible support (even for us) put most of these clients off industrial robots for life.
So all I ask is, "If you ask for support in this revamp for $, please don't take offence if your posts are ignored".

April 20, 2012, 10:08:35 AM
Reply #2


After having spent my time working for a robot company and dealing with the "used" and "obsolete" robot issue, I have formed these opinions:
  • The mechanical bits, if maintained well, will last a long time.  I describe "ong time" = 7 or more years, but certainly could be more.
  • The control components have a realistic lifetime of 5 years in operation.  The computer components become obsolete through supercession of newer technology;  the software (think Windows' string of new versions) becomes obsolete;  power components age because they're handling all those watts being pushed through them.
  • The company accountants assign capital asset depreciation schedules of 20 years to systems with robots.  This is completely unrealistic, but forces operations to keep those arms deployed and on the books.
  • The robot companies are pressured by the sales force to "support our customers" and keep supporting aging & obsolete products and software.
  • Then you get the company behavior & policies to force retirement of older equipment.  Fanuc's policy is one extreme example.  Usually repair parts simply run out of inventory and support becomes impossible or prohibitively expensive.
  • And finally, entrepreneurs will try to continue supporting obsolete equipment because they perceive a market niche and a chance to make money.
Blue Technik
Virtuoso Robotics Engineering

April 21, 2012, 04:56:46 PM
Reply #3


To all,

As a guy that daily has to deal with old, ie:Windows 95 robots and has new robots as well. It's a no brainer. The old filing systems like floppy disc drives, arms with belts that need adjusting, no parts support....ect. it's just not worth the pain. To keep them running requires support and $$$. I've managed due to low volume product. However if I can buy a new robot at todays prices and improvements in software and built-in HMI I would do it. Being a welding guy since ABB S2 version the new thru-the-arm cables are much easier to program.

June 26, 2012, 05:21:14 PM
Reply #4


Evry thing You have said is truth. But thing worth to be remember is that there are markets where renewed robot will find customer even if You tell him "it will work few months, maybe a year".

For example i'm helping to start up three old kukas. And the owner is really convinced that it is worth of time and money he spend on it.
There are no impossibles, there are only possibles waiting to be found.

January 19, 2014, 12:51:05 PM
Reply #5

panic mode

Global Moderator
Does anybody know where the various manufacturers have set cut-off points for support in their country?
Do they still stock/make spare parts?

i think i heard that Kuka is stocking parts 10 years after product was discontinued.
1) http://www.robot-forum.com/robotforum/kuka-robot-forum/read-first/
2) if you want reply about robot, post it in forum
3) read 1 and 2

March 15, 2014, 09:40:30 PM
Reply #6


Hi I came to my present job from a company that had all new robots installed (fanucs) for each job as it came online, now I am fighting everyday with Abb S3 systems and older versions of fanucs and would state that new is better!! Especially if you can get involved at the installation stages and pick the brains of those installation engineers !!!!!!!!

Today at 01:35:03 PM
Reply #7



April 29, 2014, 11:06:57 AM
Reply #7


In my opinion old robots are not worthwhile nowadays mainly because of the spares availability, support, and old sofwares installed in them.

July 22, 2014, 09:59:13 PM
Reply #8


Hi Guys,

I just posted this: http://www.robot-forum.com/robotforum/general-discussion/custom-controllers-open-source-hardware/
about an idea of giving older robots a new lease of life, with some sort open-source controller project.

Be interested to know thoughts.



June 03, 2016, 02:01:05 PM
Reply #9


I've been wanting to try the Open Source ROS, but haven't had any spare machines to try. I'm not sure which models are supported, either.

September 26, 2017, 01:35:33 PM
Reply #10


Everything you say is true. But one thing to keep in mind is that there is a market for the consumer, even if you say it to the updated robot

October 23, 2018, 08:40:59 PM
Reply #11


Here is our experience with older robots.

Bought 2 Fanuc S430iW with RJ controllers for $ 3500 each plus $ 900 shipping. Boths in good working order. Approx. 13k verified hours.
Received and installed them. Couldn't find any integrators available unless we wait 3 months.
We decided to relicense those with Fanuc and get 24/7 Fanuc support access. Best $ 1,800 we ever spent.
Took us 1 months to figure out a lot of little things because we had no clue whatsoever. Never looked at a robot before.
Lots of long nights researching online and reading manuals.
Lots of trouble shooting little things to find out, NO a full size DeviceNet card cannot work together with a fullsize IO analog or digital IO in the controller slots. Fanuc needed 2 days to figure that out. No big deal. So we are using RO (arm end IO). Those things took easily 2-3 days to figure out.
Spent a lot of research to find out what we need to make a mig welding robot out of this. Got Lincoln 455r power unit, cables (expensive), torch, and many small bits and pieces and got them all hooked up AND talking. that took a months or so.
Sure, there are a few things they would be much easier with newer systems. I.e. we are using DeviceNet I/O. What a pain to set that dated technology up. Also the memory card thing. But having started on computers during the pre-windows DOS times helps to comprehend the basics. No plug and pray here.
Make a long story short. Was it easy? NO. Is it for everyone? NO. Does it take determination and a good technical background and understanding and a will to never give up? ABSOUTELY. But...does it work? Well, see for yourself as our robot puts 852 welding spots to make a louver panel here:

The programming was a challenge. But mostly because of a lack of experience and knowledge. We improved the program a lot for example by splitting a 2200 line program in 38 separate ones for each row and then call the next program. That adds adjustability and stability on the software side. In other words. Be creative. Never give up.
So what you are seeing working here cost us less then $ 20k. Will it be forever? Heck no. But we have no a low cost way to find out if we can do robotic manufacturing. Find out if it is the right thing for us to get deeper into. And YES we are always planning to upgrade to a much newer system soon. Vision guided. Probably sticking with Fanuc/ Lincoln.
Considering that Mig welding is one of the harder things to teach a robot, especially with so many spots and motion movements, I believe not too bad.
I found several small to midsize companies in our area and industry who bought new robots some years ago. Theses ended up sitting in a corner because nobody really worked through the challenges. So they spent $100k or more and abondened the robots.


Here is the video of our OLD robot in action. Some will appreciate the programming which went into it. This first program and we improved since for eefficiency and stability.

Feedback very much appreciated. We will definately make robotics a big part of our fabrication process and we want to learn as much as we can. I am sure there is a lot more we can improve. Thanks to this board btw which helped A LOT.

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