How to Choose the Right End of Arm Tooling?
End of Arm Tooling (EOAT), also called the End Effector, is the part of a robotic cell that handles different components and modules that help communicate with the overall system. EOAT devices vary by applications and are an essential component of a robotic cell. Selecting EOAT parts can be one of the most difficult aspects of building a robot-working cell, but can be made easier if we understand the end-users needs well.
A robot provides us with movement but the EOAT helps in achieving processes such as gripping, rotating, holding, gluing, machining, DE burring, painting, welding, etc. Sometimes two or three processes are combined in the same EOAT.
Selecting the proper EOAT to increase versatility is based on the end user’s needs and familiarity of the robot integrator. End-effectors are available in both angular and parallel style and are actuated electrically, hydraulically, mechanically or pneumatically. Pneumatic EOATs are used in the majority of the tooling and also accommodate most of the handling & packaging applications because of their weight-to-power ratio. However, they also provide less control over grip forces and are less flexible than electric EOATs. Hydraulic EOATs can generate high clamping forces and can actuate quickly. Selection of a certain type of End Effector should be done depending on power consumption, size, complexity, weight, and other requirements.
EOATs also must be versatile in the types of objects that are handled during the manufacturing or packaging process. Some objects require a light touch and must be handled delicately. Pneumatic and electric grippers can be adjusted to decrease the force of their grips and can get feedback through force torque sensors embedded in systems.
The robotics market is trending towards hybrid tooling and can run either electrically, hydraulically, or pneumatically: the end-effector can perform a wide range of tasks by using several tools. Engineers no longer have to use only one tooling technology to meet an end user's needs.
The pneumatic power source is widely used in the industry because of their weight to power ratio. They are readily available and are capable of applying powerful forces at great speeds. They are the most effective for generating force and motion simultaneously. Nowadays electric grippers are becoming more popular as our new series offer weight to performance advantage similar to pneumatic grippers but with control and flexibility. They are mostly suited for all Industry 4.0 applications.
Further, the style of tooling that best suits a particular application must be considered. And if products will change frequently, the end-effector should also be capable of changing or adding fingers to adapt different product forms. Adaptive grippers help in production & packaging of mixed products due to the automatically adjusting EOATs.
When a robot is multi-tasking it is also possible to change End Effectors using tool-changers. Tool-changers have smart connections such that all related pneumatic, power, bus and sensor contacts are provided.
Nowadays the End Effectors are becoming smarter and more powerful as machine learning software and safety features are getting integrated within the EOAT itself along with an ability to see. For example, conveyors are getting replaced by Automated Guided Vehicles along with bins containing mixed products. Random bin-picking is a typical application becoming one of the essential features of the system. Vision-guided robots are equipped with appropriate tooling to pick randomly oriented parts from a bin and place them down for the next step in the process. The tooling must be able to cover a wide range of products and processes, and advanced EOAT is making this a reality.
We recently built a pickling, machining, fixing and assembly cell with our End Effectors for woodworking OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer). This concept was very unique and recently got the German Innovation Award.
Zimmer manufactures all gripping, clamping and damping elements along with vacuum cups and back-end controls. There is a wide range of linear products, spindles and several intelligent combi-functions in our manufacturing range. We can assist you for any of such requirements in building your EOAT, using our vast experience in the field. We can consult you for selection, or if required, build a totally customised solution at a reasonable cost.
Pix1: EOAT devices vary by applications and are an essential component of a robotic cell.
Pix2: Examples of EAOT devices. Photo credit – Mouldshop, UK.