Robotic EOAT (end of arm tooling) is a key component of robot systems as it gives a robot a specific functionality. EOAT are the devices or tools that allow a robot to interact with objects or parts and is attached to the end of a robot’s arm. Robotic EOAT is also commonly referred to as end-effectors and can be changed according to the application being performed. Robotic tool changers can be integrated with industrial robots to allow for automatic EOAT changes and for one robot to perform multiple applications within a production line. Advances in EOAT technology has led to the expansion of robotic applications and the adoption of robots in fields outside of the typical industrial ones.
EOAT TypesA robot’s end-effector type is typically dictated by the application being performed. There are numerous types of EOAT, but they are usually classified into two categories, grippers and tooling. Grippers are the most popular category of end-effectors since they can be utilized for a variety of applications including pick and place, packaging, palletizing, and material handling to name a few. Grippers enable a material handling robot, like the Motoman HP20D, to manipulate objects. They allow for the grabbing and releasing of workpieces and some can even mimic the dexterity of human hands and fingers. Grippers can be in the form of clamps, magnets, or the most popular vacuums. Vacuum grippers use suction cups and air pressure to pick up and move a variety of objects, even those that are extremely delicate. Grippers tend to be the most cost-effective EOAT since they can handle numerous objects and applications.
The second category of end-effectors, tooling, consists of exactly what the name indicates, different types of tools. Welding torches, cutters, drills, and sprayers are some examples of the EOAT within this category. Tooling end-effectors are more application specific than grippers. For example, a FANUC R-2000ib/165F is fitted with a weld torch to complete a spot welding application. While a Motoman MH50 is fitted with a sprayer EOAT for painting applications. Other applications that commonly use end of arm tooling from this category include: cutting, milling, drilling, material removal, and coating. The FANUC M-710ic/50 can be integrated with a spindle in order to complete deburring applications.
Power Sources for EOATWhen deciding on what type of EOAT is best for a robotic application it is also important to know the different power source options for end-effectors in order to choose the one that is the best fit for your manufacturing process. EOAT can be powdered electronically, hydraulically, or pneumatically.
An electronic EOAT power source offers extremely fast speeds but is geared toward applications only needing a moderate level of force. It also provides the greatest level of control out of the three types and is the cleanest to run. This makes it a great option for cleanroom robots, like the ABB IRB 120.
Hydraulic power sources provide end-effectors with fast speed, precision, and a high level of force to clamp onto parts. However, it can be extremely messy to run, especially if the hydraulic lines break. It is also the most expensive since large compressors are needed for the fluid.
Pneumatic power sources are the most popular option for running EOAT, especially with grippers. They are easy to integrate and offer tremendous power and speed for their size.