Best Programmable Robotic Arms That You Can Actually Buy

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Kids who are passionate about building things and learning about new technologies find robotic arms to be very useful. Putting together robotic arms and operating them allows students to touch upon interesting topics like programming, robotics, and automation.

Many robotic arms come with wired controllers. Some of the models can be operated wirelessly with a smartphone as well. If you think that robotic arms can only mean huge pieces of machinery costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, then we got news for you. You can get inexpensive robotic arm kits for less than $100 too. They can be quickly assembled and you can have some fun with these kits.

Budget
best-budget-robotic-arm
Pathfinders Robotic Arm
3.9/5.0
Number of Axes: 3
Rotational Capability: 90 degrees
Easy to assemble and very light weight.
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Best Value
best-value-robotic-arm
OWI Robotic Arm Edge
4.5/5.0
Number of Axes: 5
Rotational Capability: 270 degrees
Strong gripper and good range of motion.
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Top Pick
top-value-robotic-arm
SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm
4.6/5.0
Number of Axes: 6
Rotational Capability: 180 degrees
Interchangeability with Raspberry Pi Zero.
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However, if you are planning to purchase a robotic arm kit, then there are some things that you need to know first.








Let us now look at some of the best and most popular robotic arms in the market.

Robotic Arms Comparison Table

Make and ModelNumber
of Axes
Rotational
Capability
ReachWarrantyRatingPrice
Pathfinders Robotic Arm390 degreesHorizontal: 16 inches
Vertical: 13.5 inches
N/A3.9Check Price
OWI Robotic Arm Edge5270 degreesHorizontal: 12.6 inches
Vertical: 15 inches
3 months4.5Check Price
OWI Hydraulic Arm Edge6270 degreesHorizontal: 12.42 inches
Vertical: 16.35 inches
3 months4.3Check Price
HEXBUG VEX4360 degreesHorizontal: 10 inches
Vertical: 14 inches
3 months3.7Check Price
SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm6180 degreesN/A6 months4.6Check Price

1. Best Budget: Pathfinders Robotic Arm

Pathfinders Robotic ArmView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 3.9/5

If you want kids to learn about science, technology, and robotics, then the Pathfinders Robotic Arm is a very good starting point.

The Pathfinders Robotic Arm kit has only 66 parts. The instruction manual is 12 pages long. Hence, this kit has to be one of the simplest and easiest for anyone to learn about robotics.

The parts are made from lightweight wood and all the pieces are pre-cut. The glue used to join parts together is also provided in the kit. The wood is made from sustainable sources and hence the Pathfinders Robotic Arm kit is environmentally friendly.

After the kit has been assembled, the arm will extend 13.5 inches in height and 16 inches out horizontally. The arm can rotate 90 degrees from the base.

This robotic arm is operated hydraulically. Hence, children learn not only robotics, but also fluid dynamics. The Pathfinders kit includes tubings and syringes to push the fluid through. One can either use water as the operating fluid or color water using food color.

Using colored fluids can track different control commands. This is especially handy when multiple teams are using the robot and each team wants to identify their own movements. There are multiple syringes, so each syringe can be used for a particular fluid color.

The Pathfinders Robotic Arm is one of the cheapest in this guide and is value for money. It hardly weighs more than 1 pound. Overall, it is a very easy and risk-free option to learn about robotics.

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Tech Specs
Item Weight: 1.28 pounds
Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 7.6 x 2.2 inches
Item model number: SG_B0087V3N3U_US
Load Capacity: N/A
Number of Axes: 3
Reach: Horizontal: 16 inches
Vertical: 13.5 inches
Rotational Capability: 90 degrees
The Pros
Easy to assemble
Hydraulic operation adds another learning dimension
Less number of parts to deal with
Very light weight
Reasonable price
The Cons
No electronic motors or advanced functioning
No warning sensors
Possibility of spillage of colored water by over-injecting fluid
Limited range of motion

2. Best Value: OWI Robotic Arm Edge

OWI Robotic Arm EdgeView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The OWI Robotic Arm Edge is a great way for someone to have that first experience with a robot. Whether your child wants to learn more about robotics or whether you want to learn more about building a robot, the OWI Robotic Arm Edge is a great introductory option.

OWI Robotics is a well-known brand in the consumer robotic arm space. They have multiple kits meant for educational purposes. The maximum payload on the OWI Robotic Arm Edge is 100 grams. The kit also comes with an LED light which allows you to use the robotic arm in a dark environment.

The design of the parts and the user-friendly manual make it very easy to assemble the OWI Robotic Arm Edge. The ease of use ensures that the user’s attention is captured and the interest levels do not fall because of any tedious assembly procedures.

This robotic arm has 5 joints, 5 motors, and a 5-switch controller. There is a gripper at the end of the robotic arm which allows the robot to hold a variety of objects. This gripping capability can be further enhanced by using additional software and a USB cable.

The base rotation range is 270 degrees, the radial wrist nod is 120 degrees, while the elbow motion range is 300 degrees. The horizontal reach is 12.6 inches and the vertical reach is 15 inches. The base motion can do 180 degrees. So, there is plenty of movement available with the OWI Robotic Arm Edge.

The only thing that the user needs to be careful about is the absence of warning sensors. If you push the robot beyond its intended range, then you might end up damaging it because there are no sensors to warn you not to go too far. There are, however, audio warnings that come up if you move the arm in the wrong direction.

Overall, the OWI Robotic Arm Edge is a pretty decent beginner option which can be purchased for less than $50. It has a good set of features and reasonably good aesthetics as well.

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Tech Specs
Item Weight: 2.36 pounds
Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 15 x 9 inches
Item model number: OWI-535
Load Capacity: 100 grams
Number of Axes: 5
Reach: Horizontal: 12.6 inches
Vertical: 15 inches
Rotational Capability: 3 months
The Pros
Easy to assemble
Strong gripper
LED for night use
Durable quality
Good range of motion
Reasonable price
The Cons
No safety sensors
No DC adapter
Remote control buttons not user-friendly
Battery compartment difficult to open/close

3. OWI Hydraulic Arm Edge

OWI Hydraulic Arm EdgeView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.3/5

The OWI Hydraulic Arm Edge is quite similar to the OWI Robotic Arm Edge except for the way in which it operates. While the Robotic Arm Edge had motors, the Hydraulic Arm Edge runs using water (as the hydraulic fluid). There are no batteries or electronics involved. Hence, it can also work outdoors in wet weather.

The OWI Hydraulic Arm Edge is perfect for someone who wants to learn robotics and hydraulics. OWI Robotics is a well-known brand in the consumer robotic arm space. They are known for making high-quality robotic kits for educational purposes.

The design of the parts and the user-friendly manual make it very easy to assemble the OWI Hydraulic Arm Edge. The ease of use ensures that the user’s attention is captured and the interest levels do not fall because of any tedious assembly procedures.

This robotic arm has a gripper and a suction mechanism. The gripper allows the robot to hold a variety of objects. Removing the gripper allows the suction to make objects “stick” to the arm in order to lift/move them. There are multiple levers which allow the user to control the hydraulics and the arm’s functionality.

The Hydraulic Arm Edge can move along 6 axes. The base rotation range is 270 degrees, the wrist rotation is 120 degrees, the wrist mobility is 98 degrees, the shoulder motion is 45 degrees, and the elbow motion range is 44 degrees. The horizontal reach is 12.42 inches and the vertical reach is 16.35 inches. So, there is plenty of movement available with the OWI Hydraulic Arm Edge.

Overall, the OWI Hydraulic Arm Edge is a pretty decent beginner option which can be purchased for less than $50. It is non-electronic and can be a great learning tool covering robotics and hydraulics.

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Tech Specs
Item Weight: 2 pounds
Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 9.5 x 16.4 inches
Item model number: OWI-632
Load Capacity: 50 grams
Number of Axes: 6
Reach: Horizontal: 12.42 inches
Vertical: 16.35 inches
Rotational Capability: 3 months
The Pros
Easy to assemble
Choice of gripper and suction for holding objects
No electronics, can work in wet weather
Good range of motion
Reasonable price
The Cons
No electronics or safety sensors
Only 50-gram payload capacity
Recommended age is 12, whereas other kits are suitable for 8-year olds as well

4. HEXBUG VEX Motorized Robotic Arm

HEXBUG VEX Motorized Robotic ArmView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 3.7/5

The HEXBUG VEX Motorized Robotic Arm is a robotic arm under the Vex Robotics product line. It is a good option for someone who is serious about learning robotics. The robotic arm kit has about 350 parts in total. Hence, the age group is above 8 years, as the assembly of so many parts is a relatively involving experience.

However, kids who are passionate about robotics will enjoy the assembly process. If you like building LEGO sets, then you will enjoy the HEXBUG assembly. The instruction manual guides you through the entire process and every single part can be fitted by yourself without much hassle.

The only issue with assembly is that many of the gears are black in color and they have numbers imprinted on them. It may be difficult to read black numbers on a black part. The instruction manual is also a little bit complicated to follow as per some user reviews.

The HEXBUG VEX is unique in the sense that there are no motors in the regular model. You have to use two knobs to control the robotic arm. One knob controls the angle of the main arm while the other wheel makes the claws of the arm open and close. For those who want a motor function, an upgraded kit is available for purchase.

However, using the manual option is actually very educational because it allows the user to see exactly how the gears function when the knob wheel is turned. The arm can rotate 360 degrees from the base. The vertical reach of the robotic arm is 14 inches. It can lift objects 14 inches high and 10 inches out from the base.

The HEXBUG VEX is a pretty inexpensive robotic arm kit. The major reason for the price-friendliness is the fact that there are no motors or expensive parts used.

However, one problem with a simple and inexpensive design is that there are no sensors or warning mechanisms which prevent the robotic arm from over-flexing and breaking. So, as the user turns the control knobs, he/she has to be careful so as to not push the movement too far.

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Tech Specs
Item Weight: 2.15 pounds
Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 15 x 10 inches
Item model number: 406-4202
Load Capacity: 360 degrees
Number of Axes: 4
Reach: Horizontal: 10 inches
Vertical: 14 inches
Warranty: 3 months
The Pros
LEGO-like assembly
Simple design with no motors
Motor option available
Durable quality
Good range of motion
Reasonable price
The Cons
Instructions are a little complicated
Some parts are black, making it difficult to read numbers on them
Arm susceptible to over-flexing and breaking

5. Top Pick: SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm

SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic ArmView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5

If you want a really advanced robotic arm that you can control using your computer, then the SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm is a high-end option worth checking out. The company SainSmart is a leader in CNC systems, 3D printing systems, and robotic systems.

As the name of the product suggests, the SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm can move along 6 different axes. The arm operates with the help of 6 servo motors. Four of the motors are MG996’s while two are SG90’s.

The build quality of the product matches its expensive tag. Most of the body is made up of durable PVC material. The structural frame also uses bearings for smooth functioning. The user will have to screw together various parts during the assembly process.

The most unique aspect of the SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm is its controlling. The arm uses a CNC processor for its operation. Thus, users not only learn robotics, but also some powerful manufacturing technologies as well. Besides, CNC allows the user to control all aspects of the robotic arm using a computer.

A user can design various motions for the SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm. This is handy especially if repetitive tasks need to be programmed into the robotic arm’s memory. The Uno R3 controller board can also be replaced by a Raspberry Pi Zero, which is great for those users who are used to working with Raspberry Pi controls.

Even though the SainSmart 6-Axis Robotic Arm is advertised as a learning tool for children, its advanced features might make it more suitable for slightly older children or more advanced users. The price is also high. One can expect to pay north of $150 for this robotic arm.

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Tech Specs
Item Weight: 2.43 pounds
Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 8.8 x 4.6 inches
Item model number: SainSmart 6-Axis Desktop Robotic Arm
Load Capacity: N/A
Number of Axes: 6
Reach: 180 degrees
Rotational Capability: 6 months
The Pros
Excellent build quality
CNC controlling for accuracy and variety
Interchangeability with Raspberry Pi Zero
Good range of motion
180-degree rotational range
The Cons
Expensive price
Users complained that the manual is not too detailed
The advanced nature of this robot makes it unsuitable for children of younger ages

We hope you find this guide useful. We have reviewed 5 amazing robotic arms which have some of the best reviews from its users. This guide should give you a good idea of how to evaluate and short-list different robotic arms that are available in the market. Remember to compare the different features, the range of movement, the controls, and the pricing. With all the information mentioned above, you are sure to make an informed decision. Good luck!

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