Robotic grippers are one of the most common types of end of arm tooling used in manufacturing. They play an integral role in robot performance since they directly handle the workpiece(s). It is essential to the success of your robotic application that you select the correct gripper. However, this is easier said than done since there are so many gripper types out on the market. Below is a guide describing the most important factors to help simplify the gripper selection process.
The first factor to consider when selecting a gripper is the application type being performed by the robot. Specifying the application to be performed will help you first determine if you actually need a gripper and what design will be best. Grippers often get confused with end-effectors when they are actually a type of end-effector. For instance, if you have a FANUC Arc Mate 100ic for an arc welding application you will need a welding torch as your end-effector and not a gripper. While if your application involves handling, tightening, grasping, and releasing of parts then a gripper is for you. Applications that typically call for grippers include material handling, packaging, palletizing, pick and place, and machine tending. Robotic gripper designs vary from clamp styles to finger-like designs, to rubber suction cups. Applications requiring the handling of delicate objects will often involve the use of a vacuum gripper integrated with a robot like the ABB IRB 4600. Palletizing applications often call for clamp style ones integrated to a FANUC M-410ib/300 since they involve the handling of heavy objects.
Specifications of the Workpiece
Once you have narrowed down your application type the next factor to consider for your robotic gripper selection are the workpiece specifications. These include part size, shape, weight, surface type, and material type. Larger, more robust objects will be better suited for clamp style robotic grippers, while smaller objects may be best for finger-like or vacuum grippers. Material type can be an important factor as not all grippers can handle all material types, as is the case with magnetic grippers. Magnetic grippers are popular amongst the automotive industry with robots like the FANUC R-2000ib/210F, since many vehicle components consist of metal. However, if your workpiece is non-ferrous such as a plastic part, a magnetic gripper would not be feasible since there would be no magnetic attraction. It is important to consider all part characteristics because selecting a gripper that is not appropriate for your part could cause damage to workpieces, slow cycle times, and increase inefficiency.
The operation environment is not only important for selecting a robot, but also for selecting the correct gripper. Grippers are not all built alike and are not all capable of handling any work environment. The power source type is one gripper component that can be greatly affected by environment. Hydraulic and pneumatic powered grippers can be integrated with robots like the Motoman MH6. However, these grippers are not suitable for cleanroom robots since they both run the risk of contaminating the work area. Hydraulic grippers can spill oil, while pneumatic grippers can introduce particles through their air-flow. The best solution for cleanroom environments would grippers powered electronically. For those operating in harsh conditions it is important to ensure the gripper selected is protected from any potential hazards. Finding the gripper’s IP rating is the best way to safeguard against potential problems.
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