Just as robot arms are an integral part of a robot’s system, grippers provide dexterity and serve an infinite number of purposes. Robot gripper technology not only empowers robot arms but also provides precision handling of complex or fragile objects. Robotic grippers are found in virtually every industry and context from cleanroom environments to food production to workshops and distribution centers. With the vast variety of capabilities and the many types of grippers on the market, there are several factors to consider when selecting the appropriate one for your end-of-arm tooling.
Visualize the Tasks
Think about the tasks the robot will be performing: Does the task need to be completed quickly? How precise does it need to be? Will the task change often? Will the gripper come into contact with other materials? What is the operational environment like? Consider the objects the gripper and robot arm will need to accommodate. What is the object’s weight and size?
When working with items intended for human consumption, there are stricter government regulations. In such cases, hydraulic grippers are often forbidden because of a potential fluid leak contaminating the product. Conversely, vacuum grippers may not be allowed in a cleanroom due to the potential for additional air flow adding contaminants into the air. It is important to understand regulations before investing in grippers not suitable to the environment in which they will be placed.
Friction vs. Encompassing
The two main types of grippers—friction and encompassing—are determined by how they pick up materials. Through force alone, friction robotic grippers hold the part while encompassing grippers surround the part. Choosing the right one all depends on the material of the part. Friction grippers work better with harder materials, and encompassing grippers are suited well for flexible or softer materials.
Use the Force
Since grippers are powered in so many ways, it is important to note that the wrong kind of force could damage or even ruin your product. After determining if the application needs friction or encompassing, there are still other factors to consider. For example, the pneumatic gripper, one of the most popular types of grippers, is compact, lightweight, and still capable of applying a significant amount of force without the bulk of motors or gears. This makes the pneumatic gripper versatile enough to fit into tight spaces. If more force is needed, a hydraulic gripper may be a better fit. Though they can deliver plenty of force, they can also be a mess due to oil, pumps, and reservoirs. A cleaner option is an electric robot gripper which is easier to maintain with the same amount of force.
Consider the Cycle Time
Cycle time is impacted by how quickly a gripper closes, securing the item, and then fully opens, releasing the item. Over time, robot arms and grippers wear down and require maintenance. In fact, cycle time affects the wear and tear as well as the force of the grip.
Why choose PFA for your Automation Solutions?
If your robot tooling needs to be able to pick up, manipulate, and place products, then you are going to need a robotic gripper. PFA offers some of the highest force-to-weight ratio grippers to make your application a success. With so many types, sizes, and configurations on the market, it can be daunting when selecting the optimum gripper for your robot tool. Let us help you get a grip on your automation system by contacting us today or calling 262-250-4410.