Robots – Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)


Read this before purchasing an industrial robot 

When it comes to investing in a robot for your business, it’s important to carefully consider all the costs involved, also known as the “Total Cost of Ownership” or TCO, to ensure that you’re getting the greatest Return on Investment (ROI). The base or advertised price of a robot is usually the starting price, and there are many more expenses to consider. The long term operational costs are significant and you need to be aware of all these added costs and their requirements prior to comparing and purchasing your robots. Here, we’ll explore the various factors that can impact the cost of a robot, including direct and indirect costs, and why compared to other Industrial robots, the initial price of the Meca500 is much closer to the overall TCO. The Meca500 is therefore the best option for maximizing your ROI and ensuring you meet budgetary needs now and in the future.


The costs associated with acquiring and using a robot can be classified into two categories: direct and indirect.

  1. Direct costs are costs that occur upfront, when trying to procure a unit. This tends to be fixed for the most part.
  2. Indirect costs are costs that are incurred during implementation, operation and maintenance. In some cases this cost is recurring.

Some of the components of direct costs are 

  1. The robot’s base price
  2. Optional add-ons (software and/or hardware options)
  3. Peripherals (EOATs, vision, safety…)
  4. Extended warranty 
  5. Training
  6. Support packages (basic and/or premium)
  7. Logistics (lead times, shipping and installation)

Components of indirect costs

  1. Engineering costs for system setup (development and commissioning)
  2. Maintenance (consumables and spares)
  3. Downtime costs
  4. Operation costs (power consumption, machine footprint)
  5. Upgrade costs

Direct Costs

Base Price

This is the first thing buyers consider. Many industrial robots have come down in price over the last decade but robot manufacturers still charge immense amounts on spares, service and consumables, so the research should not stop here.
Collaborative robots tend to have a higher base price because  they incorporate additional safety and sensing technologies as part of their standard package.

Factors that impact the base price include: The performance envelope (repeatability, speed) reach, and payload capacity., It’s important to understand the application requirements up front to decide on robot options, instead of solely relying on a model’s advertised price.





The Meca500 offers an unparalleled precision of 5um in a compact footprint and comes at a  competitive base price that includes the controller, cables, and most features as standard. We will be exploring how it stacks up against the market standard in the next few sections.


Optional features and add-ons

Optional features and add-ons can add significantly to acquisition costs.
Specific hardware options include: Mounting, cleanroom, IP rating, Communication interface and software options, such as software libraries. Simulation and offline programming software are often offered so that the system can be tailor made to your requirements to avoid being charged for what you may not need. As an end user, you need to consider the costs associated with any options you need right now as well as  those you might need in future. We all want to maximize value and ROI, but how?

Some of the main options and their pricing structures are listed below. 





Now let’s compare these optional costs with the Meca500:

Teach Pendant Options $0  With an embedded web interface, the Meca500 eliminates the need for a Teach Pendant. All you need to get started are a laptop and a browser.
Mounting Options $0  With a smaller size and relatively light payloads, the Meca500 can be mounted in any orientation without hardware or software changes. This makes it a redeployable asset for           customers that answers today’s requirements while being flexible for future redesigns.
TCP/IP Communication $0 The Meca500 supports TCP/IP natively.
EtherCAT fieldbus Option $0               The Meca500 supports EtherCAT natively as a slave.
EtherNet/IP fieldbus Option $0 The Meca500 supports EtherNet/IP natively as an adapter. 
PROFINET fieldbus Option $0 The Meca500 supports PROFINET natively.
Cleanroom ISO Options $0* The Meca500 is clean by design with no particle generating components inside. Depending on the cleanroom ISO requirements, it could be put into use as is. 

With the Meca500 all software and firmware features are included out-of-the-box. This greatly simplifies the pricing of the Meca500. Apart from physical add-ons like the optional grippers, joystick and case, everything else is included.



Once you’ve decided on a robot and its related options, the next step is to select  the right peripherals. This includes End Of Arm Tooling, Tool Changers, a Vision system, Force Sensor, etc., 

Previously, the peripheral options were limited to specific robot brands as a closed ecosystem, but this is changing. While the cost of peripherals is not dictated by the robot vendor, choices for systems that are compatible with the robot to begin with makes a huge difference. 

Conversely,  the Meca500 offers universal compatibility as there are no restrictions on peripherals that can be used.  That’s because all the components are interfaced via the master that is controlling the robot. 




As with any sophisticated piece of equipment, robot users need specialized training. At a minimum, this would be a one-time investment that adds to capital expenditure. Most industrial robots manufacturers offer a comprehensive training for programming, operation, maintenance and troubleshooting, which would need about 3-5 days of training. Depending on the scope of a given training, the cost averages US$ 1500/day. Add to that the cost of related travel expenses, reduced productivity and project delays. And while collaborative robots require less training to work with, the time required remains significant. That’s because they typically  require learning a proprietary programming language and a custom interface.





Mecademic customers have the option of a 2 hour basic training on our robots. Once completed , attendees are able to understand the basic functionalities of our robot, namely: how to move and program the robot, and this, without any previous programming knowledge.

In addition, we provide a growing library of free start-up guides, online tutorials, and easy programming manuals that remain open and accessible to anyone. A comprehensive online video training is also in progress.

Mecademic’s open programming philosophy means our robots are language agnostic.  Our robots can be programmed using C++, C#, LabVIEW, Python, MATLAB, ST, or any other language you prefer! The choice is yours.  For instance, do you have an Allen-Bradley PLC programmer who needs to use the Meca500? The robot is controlled directly by the AB PLC, you can get our free AOIs here: https://support.mecademic.c


Are your engineers more familiar with Beckhoff and EtherCAT? 

Find an example here:

Other controller examples available here, for free:

Extended Warranty

Most robots come with a one year warranty with an option to buy a one or two year extended plan. Warranties typically cost 10-14% of the robot’s purchase price.

As for the Meca500, an additional one-year extended warranty is competitively priced at just 6% of the robot’s cost. 



Support Packages (Basic and/or Premium)

This varies significantly from one company to another. Make sure that at least a few hours of support are included with your robot in case your engineers, or programmers require quick assistance. 

Sometimes you need to buy support hours from the manufacturer or integrator prior to calling. There can be different tiers of support package options as well with each offering varying Service Level Agreements (SLAs). Basic support for the Meca500 is included with the purchase price of the robot.

Logistics (Lead times, shipping and installation)

Shipping most industrial robots costs thousands of dollars. They come on pallets and often require forklifts and a team of skilled professionals to handle the crates and packages safely. Even comparatively smaller industrial robots ship with big controllers, teach pendants and bulky cables in large packages. This is also something to consider if you ever need to move robots between factories. The cost of moving several robots between facilities can be prohibitive for larger industrial robots. These involve costs associated with shipping and handling as robots are usually packaged with crates. 

Due to its tiny footprint and embedded controller, the Meca500 ships in a small box. With insurance, the robot can be shipped for a couple of hundred dollars worldwide. Shipping is also extremely quick, overnight in the US and Canada, 2 days to Europe, and under a week everywhere else. The impact of lead times on planning can be significant. Having engineers, programmers and subcontractors on standby because of long or delayed lead times can be very expensive. Many industrial robot lead times are calculated in months. Because most components are made in-house, the Meca500 has had an average lead time of under 2 weeks over the previous years.



Indirect costs

Engineering costs for system setup (development and commissioning)

Calculating the engineering costs for a project irrespective of the scope is always tough as it involves multiple variables some of which are beyond your control. However, it is important to understand the implications of this cost as it could make or break a project. Choosing the right component and systems saves a lot of trouble and engineering costs. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Having a robot that is easy to integrate and offers flexibility in implementation can ease the burden on the engineering resources, reduce the need to redesign or redevelop modules for the application. 

Operation Costs

Maintenance (consumables and spares)

This is very important with most industrial robots. A preventative maintenance schedule is provided as standard. This indicates when you should tighten or replace the belts, how often to change (often proprietary) batteries and when to change the lubricants. In addition to these consumables, customers are advised to maintain an inventory of  critical spares as the lead times for spares can be fairly long. This becomes all the more important for downtime-critical applications. Apart from costs associated with the parts themselves and paying certified or trained technicians to perform the work, you need to consider the downtime required to perform these operations. Over the lifetime of the robot, this could easily cost thousands of dollars. The Meca500 has no belts or batteries and the oil is sealed inside the harmonic drives. Rated for 50000 hours MTBF, the Meca500 was designed for maintenance-free operation over its lifetime. 

Downtime costs

Costs associated with downtime are very important to calculate when purchasing a robot. In a manufacturing environment which runs at full capacity, like in the automotive industry for instance, an hour of downtime when the robot is not operational can easily cost the manufacturer more than the price of the robot itself.

Every Operations Manager will have their operational KPIs like Unit Cost, Units per Hour (UPH) etc., With this they can roughly calculate the loss of revenue from these downtimes

Production Losses = Unit Cost * UPH * No of Hours of downtime

The above equation is admittedly oversimplified without taking into account other costs for ex: 

  1. Over time expenses that might be incurred during maintenance and production ramp up post the downtime, 
  2. Engineering hours spent to update the robot program, test and validation before releasing it for production etc., 

The costs so far discussed would make sense for a regular planned downtime. However with unplanned downtime like a critical failure of the hardware, the cost associated becomes more complex with factors like 

  • availability of spares, 
  • lead times for RMA, 
  • cost for paying certified technicians from vendors to perform the repair on site etc., 

Some robot manufacturers and integrators provide accelerated same-day repair services but are also expensive. All of this adds to the overall cost of your robot. The Meca500’s small size and type of programming make it very easy to swap robots. If anything happens to one of our robots, the manufacturer can easily swap it out by another robot in a few minutes. Since the programmed points in most cases are stored in the Master controller, swapping the Meca500 is more akin to swapping a linear guide then exchanging a whole robot system. Most of our customers who operate multiple Meca500 lines, often have a spare robot in case something goes wrong. Unlike spare parts, this complete robot can be used for training or for proof of concepts in other projects while not in production. Because of its small size and simplicity, the Meca500 can often be repaired in under 48 hours in our facility. As mentioned previously, shipping is extremely quick and economical.

Power consumption

Special power hookups for three phase power, power consumption in the kilowatts and huge battery backups are the norm for most robots, even the smaller industrial ones. When you have tens or hundreds of these robots in your factory, this will have a big impact on your electrical bill. With more and more companies adopting ISO 50001 Energy Management Standards, it’s prudent to plan for systems that comply with these standards. The Meca500 connects to a standard power outlet and consumes under 30W of power on average –not much more than a laptop. You could have a hundred of them in your factory and they’d consume less than 1 large robot.



Upgrade costs

It is common that newer features and functionalities are made available for the robots as the industry evolves which was not available when you procured the system or it could be as simple as a firmware upgrade. You need to factor in the cost that will be incurred to buy these incremental upgrades. In other cases these costs could simply be associated with add on features that you might need to buy for any number of reasons.

Meca500 offers firmware upgrades that add capabilities and features while also fixing bugs with prior versions.  

Machine Footprint

Real estate is expensive. If you need to expand your facility to incorporate more robots, this can get very expensive very quickly especially applications which demand a specific set of working environments like a cleanroom or BSL facilities etc., The capital and operational expenses of these spaces cost in the range of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars. They cannot be scaled up at a whim. Also, in some densely populated places (like Singapore) even standard industrial space is expensive. This highlights the need to have systems that are optimally using your factory floor and leaving you with options for scalability without a need for major overhaul. 

Industrial robots, even the smaller ones, take up a huge footprint not just for themselves but also for their controllers and other peripherals. For safety reasons you would need to create a cordoned environment that encompasses the robot’s entire reach envelope. In most applications, this translates to a lot of wasted space. You could consider using some advanced collision detection and avoidance features of the robot to optimize the workspace but it once again adds to additional costs for these expensive options. While not being a direct replacement for industrial robots, collaborative robots fare a bit better in this regard with their ability to work alongside humans however there still needs to be a safety system in place with proper risk analysis. With its embedded controller, the Meca500 has the smallest footprint of any industrial robot. You can fit a dozen on a standard workbench, no special modifications needed. The Meca500 is the ideal robot for desktop factories.

Comparison Chart
Meca500 Typical Small Industrial Robot Typical Small Collaborative Robot
Purchase Price Low Low (1.2 x Meca500) High (2 x Meca500)
Lead times Days Months Months
Shipping 100-300$ Worldwide Thousands Thousands
Space Requirement Smallest Robot 5 x Meca500 with controller 5 x Meca500 with controller
Power < 30W > 500W >150W
Training Hours Weeks Days
Features All Included Costly Options Options
Maintenance No Maintenance Heavy Maintenance Low Maintenance
Downtime Minutes (with spare) Hours (with spare parts) Hours (with spare parts)
Support Included Paid Free/Paid
Extended Warranty 6% of purchase price ??? 10% of purchase price



If you are considering investing in a robot for your business, it’s crucial to take the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) into account. The initial cost of a robot is just the beginning, as ongoing operational expenses can add up significantly over time. These costs include accessories, engineering costs, maintenance costs, power consumption, and so on. To avoid incurring unnecessary costs for features you don’t need, it’s important to first define your application requirements before purchasing a robot. Depending on your needs, the Meca500 may be the most cost-effective option. Compared to its competitors, the Meca500 is more affordable in every aspect of the TCO. The Meca500’s base price is very competitive already, but compared to competitors, it includes software and firmware, compatibility with peripherals, simple programming, and an extended warranty, meaning its TCO is very close to its base price.