End-of-Arm Tool Innovations in Industrial Automation

End-of-arm tools (EOAT) are vital to industrial automation,  significantly impacting a robot's capabilities and efficiency. EOAT enables robots to execute tasks such as material handling, assembly, and welding. Additionally, they can be used in hazardous or difficult-to-reach environments for jobs dangerous to humans, such as nuclear power plant clean-up or bomb diffusion.

Our webinar, Trends, Innovations and Technologies in End-of-Arm Tools, discussed innovations in the EOAT market as of December 2021. With demand increasing in numerous industries and the EOAT market expected to reach $4.2 billion by 2028, it is an opportune time to take a fresh look at recent trends, advancements, and technologies contributing to this growth.

Robotic Gripping Mechanisms

Gripping mechanisms are a critical part of end-of-arm devices used in robotic applications. Modern gripping mechanisms come in different shapes and sizes, each designed for specific tasks. A vacuum gripper, for example, is optimal for handling flat objects, while a parallel gripper may be more appropriate for round or irregular-shaped objects.

As robotics advance, the need for gripping mechanisms capable of managing various objects has grown. For example, to administer the gentle handling of delicate objects, Schunk Inc.  introduced the EGK smart gripper. This AI-based gripper offers precise control, programmable force limitation, and real-time diagnostics. These features allow the EGK to handle fragile items with minimal risk of damage, making it suitable for industries such as electronics, pharmaceuticals, and food packaging.

Taking a cue from geckos - yes, the lizard - and in collaboration with INNOCISE, a startup company developing reversible adhesives, SCHUNK has also developed the ADHESO gripper. Microscopic hairs on the bottom of their feet allow geckos to stick to almost any surface. Similarly, using millions of tiny polymer chains, the ADHESO gripper replicates this capability without requiring external energy to do so. This greener, more efficient technology has gathered support from around the globe.

Sensing Solutions for EOAT

Sensors provide data that allow robots to execute their duties with enhanced precision and efficiency. Advances in sensor technology have allowed EOATs to accomplish complex tasks such as quality inspection, part identification, and measurement. Recent developments in EOAT sensing solutions include:

  • Force-Torque Sensors: These sensors offer robots feedback on applied force and generated torque, allowing the completion of precision tasks, such as part insertion and screw tightening.
  • Vision Sensors: Vision sensors employ cameras to capture images of objects, which are then analyzed to determine their position and orientation. This allows robots to perform tasks such as part identification and assembly.
  • Tactile Sensors: Tactile sensors give robots a sense of touch, enabling them to identify the shape, texture, and hardness of objects. This allows robots to execute tasks such as picking and placing objects.

Seeking to revolutionize robotics and automation by providing a human-like sense of touch and fostering more advanced human-machine interaction, Bebop Sensors is developing "RoboSkin," a robotic skin that mimics human touch using smart fabric sensor technology.  The innovation aims to enhance robot capabilities in interacting with their environment and handling delicate objects. Promoting seamless integration with existing robotic systems, the technology has the potential for early adoption in manufacturing, healthcare, and logistics, improving efficiency and safety.

Cooperative EOAT

Collaborative robots work in shared workspaces with humans, automating assembly activities like screw drilling and part welding. Cooperative EOATs are designed with user-friendly interfaces that enable easy programming and adjustments, ensuring seamless integration into existing workflows. Cutting-edge sensors, advances in gripper technology,  and algorithms ensure their safe behavior around humans. Recent developments in cooperative EOAT focus on features such as force-limiting technology and advanced sensing capabilities.

Destaco, a leading provider of industrial automation equipment, has introduced a line of EOAT products specifically engineered for use with collaborative robots. The goal is to boost the versatility and effectiveness of robots in diverse applications, leading to increased productivity and simplified integration processes. This comprehensive offering addresses the growing demand for collaborative robots in various sectors, empowering businesses to optimize their automation strategies for better results.

End-of-arm tools (EOAT) are indispensable in industrial automation’s rapidly evolving landscape. As technology progresses, gripping mechanisms, sensing solutions, and collaborative EOATs are becoming more advanced, enabling robots to carry out tasks with increased accuracy, flexibility, and safety. As the market promises to grow, we can expect even more groundbreaking innovations that augment robotic abilities, enhance efficiency, and refine human-machine collaboration.

Watch our free webinar, Trends, Innovations, and Technologies in End-of-Arm Tools, for an in-depth discussion of how the industry has adapted to rapid growth and what innovations are on the horizon.