Robots have captivated our imagination since the invention of modern robotics in the 1950s. The idea of lifelike machines performing human tasks is intriguing for some and an uneasy thought for others.  

But, like all technology, robotics isn't about replacing humans. Rather, robots can automate basic tasks to free up our time for more meaningful activities. Breakthroughs in recent years have spurred the adoption of automation processes within organizations, and some estimates point to an acceleration in global adoption of robotics. Worldwide spending could double from 2020 to 2025 and reach nearly $210 billion. Investing in robotics company stocks could therefore be a lucrative move in the years ahead.  

Someone holding a tablet  controlling robotic industrial equipement.

Image source: Getty Images.

Investing in robotics stocks

We already benefit from robotic processes every day. E-commerce companies such as Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) automate tasks in fulfillment warehouses using intelligent machines, smart speakers in our homes play music and inform us of our daily schedule on command, and chatbots help us find the information we need on websites. Other robot applications are a little less visible.

Here are five robotics stocks to consider investing in:

Company

Market Cap

Description

Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA)

$734 billion

Advanced semiconductor design leader with a growing specialty in artificial intelligence.

Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG)

$126 billion

The pioneer of robotic-assisted surgery.

Rockwell Automation (NYSE:ROK)

$39 billion

A leader in industrial automation for auto manufacturing, food and beverage production, and more.

Zebra Technologies (NASDAQ:ZBRA)

$31 billion

Developer of mobile devices that help employees work smarter and more efficiently.

UiPath (NYSE:PATH)

$27 billion

Developer of software-based robots for enterprise use.

Teradyne (NASDAQ:TER)

$24 billion

Provider of industrial equipment that automates repetitive device-testing tasks.

PTC (NASDAQ:PTC)

$14 billion

Manufacturing and industrial software tech partner that helps businesses connect people with machines.

Data source: YCharts, as of Nov. 15, 2021.  

1. Nvidia

Semiconductors are the basic building blocks of all technology. Nvidia has risen to become a leader in this area, and its advanced circuitry designs are enabling all sorts of high-end computing processes — robots included.

Nvidia's GPUs (graphics processing units) are being used to accelerate how quickly computing units can crunch data, from data centers to personal computers to small Internet of Things (IoT) devices. For a complex system such as a robot, fast computing time is a necessity. Just one example of Nvidia's work is embodied in its aptly named "Jetson" lineup of modules. Complete with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning software, Jetson devices are being put to use in use cases spanning industrial and manufacturing machinery, healthcare devices, and self-driving vehicles.

With its advanced capabilities on the hardware and software front, Nvidia is a top play on robotics as it helps its customers unlock the power of AI.

2. Intuitive Surgical

Intuitive Surgical is a pioneer of robotic-assisted surgery. Its da Vinci system made its commercial debut in 2000 and has since expanded across the globe. Intuitive Surgical's robots help surgeons and their teams to execute more precise procedures, and patient outcomes and recovery times are greatly improved as a result.

More than two decades later, Intuitive Surgical is still in growth mode. The vast majority of surgeries performed every day are done without robotic assistance, so there's no shortage of opportunities to develop new da Vinci capabilities and new machines to address more procedures. And, once one of Intuitive's systems is installed, the business model generates ongoing revenue from disposable instrument sales, services, and support. 

This applied use of robotics technology and an ongoing revenue stream once a da Vinci robot is installed make Intuitive Surgical one of the best long-term bets in healthcare technology.

3. Rockwell Automation

Rockwell Automation is a leader in industrial-grade technology. Its systems, components, and software help manufacturers develop smarter and more efficient machines. Rockwell's services and equipment address a wide swath of the economy, from energy and chemical producers to food and beverage companies to automakers.  

The industries that Rockwell helps have been around for a long time and aren't secular growth stories anymore. However, as a leader in highly profitable robotics and related IT services, Rockwell has increased its profitability (as measured by free cash flow) at a steady pace over the past decade. As its manufacturing partners look for new ways to increase productivity, Rockwell could continue to benefit -- and reward shareholders with a rising dividend and share repurchases.  

4. Zebra Technologies

Zebra Technologies is a longtime player in the automation space. The firm develops mobile computing devices to help employees of a company work more efficiently. From retail and warehousing to healthcare to banking, Zebra's robotic-enhanced computers help workers organize and automate their workflow.

The company makes a wide array of products. Custom handhelds designed for the workplace deliver pertinent data, barcode scanners equipped with machine vision and AI help automate work processes, and interactive kiosks help streamline customer experiences. Although Zebra has been around for many years, it has been an enduring growth story. Sales and profitability continue to run higher as the company's partners in many sectors of the economy turn to Zebra for robotics-powered solutions for their workforce.

5. UiPath

Not all robots are real-life machines. Many of them dwell in the virtual world where they execute tasks on computers and within cloud computing systems. A leader in robotic process automation (RPA), UiPath builds and supports software bots that can be trained to handle virtual tasks and act as virtual assistants to the human workforce.

Although they may not be physical machines, UiPath's robots are incredibly efficient when set loose on typical office tasks such as data collection and form entry, compliance, and customer relationship management. UiPath cites a study from researcher McKinsey that says some 60% of manufacturing activities, 43% of financial services and banking processes, and 36% of healthcare tasks can be automated with software.  

UiPath is at the forefront of automation with its virtual bots. Some might fear that RPA could replace jobs, but with many organizations grappling with employee shortages in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this software firm is a top play on applied robotics.

6. Teradyne

Teradyne is a developer of industrial equipment that helps automate repetitive tasks. In the manufacturing of electronic devices, testing the products to make sure they work right is one of the most repetitive and time-intensive tasks. Teradyne's robotics help free people from this activity, speed up testing- verification time, and increase the accuracy of device-testing before a product is delivered.  

This robotics firm is a top partner of semiconductor, automotive, and aerospace and defense companies. Although it's a behind-the-scenes play on automation, all sorts of everyday devices, mission-critical machinery, and tech services (such as 5G mobile networks) benefit from Teradyne's work. The company is constantly improving its robotic equipment and is a top name in industrial automation technology.

Someone in a factory using a tablet.

Image source: Getty Images.

7. PTC

PTC is another firm operating out of the general public's view. The company has developed an augmented reality and industrial Internet of Things platform, as well as computer-aided design software that integrates with equipment to help manufacturers get more efficient and access the power of the digital economy.

PTC itself doesn't design robots, but its software products help connect and coordinate machines and people within an organization. This technology helps customers unlock the full potential of robotics, extending the capabilities of humans working on the job, and freeing up their time to handle more complex activities. Addressing a wide range of manufacturing and production throughout the economy, PTC deserves a spot for those building a robotics investment portfolio. 

Invest in robotics for the long term

Thanks to semiconductor and software innovation in recent years, robots are being applied throughout the global economy at a record pace. As the technology continuously improves, it will transform the way organizations operate and make the world a more efficient place. Bear in mind that robotics is a long-term trend, and investing in stocks in this space will require patience. But potential investment gains could be sizable for those companies making the best use of robotics technology.