How End-of-Arm-Tooling Gives Manufacturers a Competitive Edge

Your hands are a clue on how robots in the future could get a grip around your workplace. Robots with five fingers that are run by nine servo motors are getting closer to gripping objects like any employee on the factory floor, but don't expect widespread use just yet. Other advances are helping companies in areas as diverse as plastics and ecommerce.

Soft robotics and magnetic grippers are making it easier to pick up hard-to-handle products of different sizes and shapes. Lightweight designs are improving cycle times. Food in plastic bags can be sorted with no damage.

The design of the end-of-arm tool plays an important part in industrial automation engineering. Take a closer look on how that's playing out in a few different industries.

Plastic Molding

There's a constant battle to reduce cycle time and proper end of arm tooling provides a competitive advantage. Cartesian robots with a low payload must be able to take newly formed parts from rapidly moving molds. In the article Robots, the Plastics Molder's Best Friend, nimble and lightweight designs help companies achieve up to a 30 percent boost in productivity.

Another benefit for robots are the use of servo wrists that can grip parts at any angle. They're also adaptable to various molds and machines. This helps the robots perform multiple tasks like securely gripping parts for demolding and adding components for in-mold assembly, labeling and decoration.

Sensors are now available for robot arms to prevent collisions with obstructions. The sensors are used to verify pick-and-place locations with better accuracy and detect parts that come up short.

Warehouse Distribution

In ecommerce distribution, the concept of one size fits all is ancient history. Products of all shapes and sizes are moving from the manufacturer to customers at a rapid pace.

There's such a variety of items robots must handle that it's been driving "radical change" in end of arm tooling as noted in the write up Take My Hand, Behold the Future of Robot End Effectors.

Many concepts today are simply re-using innovations that occurred in the past 10 to 15 years. The advent of robots with soft grippers is offering tremendous versatility. Soft grippers are strong. The same robot can pick up office supplies, books, and flimsy packages like dress shirts and  a completely different shape like a 10-pound kettlebell.

Magnetic grippers are another advance within an industrial automation engineering strategy. Suction cups and grippers with small magnets my have limitations with certain items, like those that have an irregular shape and little material mass. Magswitch Technology, with U.S. offices in Lafayette, Colorado, has designed a larger magnet with a deep field to handle challenging materials.

Customized Solutions

The trends in end of arm tooling give customers greater ability to match robots to specific jobs. The process takes a lot of engineering effort, especially for robot integrators trying to design industrial automated manufacturing lines.

Look for new and lower-cost, sensitive grippers to become popular on the market. Each of them can be used in quite different ways as written up in Robotics 2015 and Beyond: Collaboration, Connectivity and Convergence.

Soft robotics end effectors will make it easier to automate new processes like food, soft packaging, and textiles. The versatility helps companies remain competitive and meet customized demands in the marketplace. Getting products to market has a new look.

"Traditional logistics was once focused on moving pallets of a thousand t-shirts,” said Carl Vause, Chief Executive Officer of Soft Robotics Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Now, it’s go get me one t-shirt, a soccer ball, and a salad strainer.

“What’s changing is that we’re better at converging on the right size and force profile for the kinds of e-commerce objects that we’re targeting." He said there is "maximum versatility across all possible e-commerce objects."

Advances in industrial automation engineering can make your company more competitive by producing higher quality products while reducing expenses. Browse A3 and discover the videos and articles covering techniques and best practices that are most beneficial for you.