Robots are an essential part of production processes and companies today. They make the day-to-day processes simpler and more effective. Robot end-effectors allow robots to function properly, however, there are so many different types. It can seem confusing at first for someone who may not be familiar with robots. To make it easier to understand, we break down some of the fundamental aspects of robot end effectors and how they operate.
What Are Robot End Effectors?
Another name for a robot end effector is the end of arm tooling (EOAT). This is because they are attached at the end of the robot arm. An end effector is joined to a robot wrist and is, therefore, the last link. Through an end effector, a robot can function and interact effectively with the environment around it. Without an end effector, a robot arm is practically useless because it is not able to perform tasks.
In essence, they are peripheral devices that can either be mechanical or electromechanical. Generally, they are inactive until stimulated by the associated software. They have a wide range of uses but they generally serve as process tools, sensors, or grippers. The tasks they perform are diverse and vary in complexity.
How Do End Effectors Work?
Usually, end effectors are customized to fit specific tasks. This is why they come in different shapes, sizes and have numerous other differences. However, the underlying processes will generally be the same for the majority of the EOATs.
Normally, the end effector is first mounted to the wrist of the robotic arm or manipulator. The right power connections are then made. The different power options include; electric, magnetic, hydraulic, and pneumatic. A force is generated by the power at the base link which in turn produces motion. The force is transferred in a continuous sequence until it finally gets to the furthest end of the periphery: this is where the end effector is attached. The force allows the EOAT to move and function, according to its purpose.
Types Of Robot End Effectors
The different types of end effectors are vast and they have many different uses.
This is the most common type of end effector. There are also more types of grippers than any other type of EOAT. Some of the most popular types of grippers are fingered grippers.
The gripping styles are different depending on the shape, size, and purpose of the effector. They have a wide number of applications and some of them include; assembly, tending machines, and picking-and-placing.
- Process Tools
These can do more than simply hold or grip objects. They are part of some of the processes. For instance, they can change work pieces accordingly. They can be used for a variety of somewhat complex processes such as; 3D printing, painting, and welding.
When the end effector attached to a robot is a sensor, it can be used as a sensor-oriented device. Using the software, the robot can be programmed to perform sensory-involved tasks such as collecting data, robotic inspections, and monitoring sensitive conditions. Some of the specific tasks that sensor EOATs are involved in include; laser scanners, infrared and ultrasonic sensors, as well as 2D and 3D cameras.
Applications Of Robot End Effectors
Robots play a vital role in many industries. They have made tedious and repetitive tasks that initially took hours and a lot of manpower, simple, fast, and effective.
Many production companies have tasks that will involve some kind of assembly. This is especially true for large objects or products. Different parts may be made in different stations within the company or some may be sourced outside the company. These parts need to be assembled for the main product to be made. This process usually requires precision and for pieces to be arranged in a specific order.
This is why end effectors are such useful tools. They don’t get tired of the monotonous tasks, they can work at incredible speeds and seldom ever make mistakes.
End effectors can handle objects of varying shapes and sizes. With the right software, processes can be automated making the need for human interactions with the processes limited.
- Pick and Place
As the name suggests, these are EOATs that pick up objects and place them somewhere else. These tasks require precision and they often involve over fragile items that must be handled with utmost care.
These tasks are most suited for fingered grippers that are adjustable or customizable. This allows them to be better suited to handle some of the more difficult tasks. Another type of gripper commonly used is the vacuum gripper.
These end effectors are preferred to human workers because they handle delicate objects safely and are less prone to accidents. They can also move many objects within a short period.
- Packaging and Palletizing
Production companies need to package their produces items. This is usually a process that requires speed, precision, and care. Human workers can handle these tasks but are not very effective because they aren’t able to work very fast which slows the entire process.
Using robots is, therefore, the better option. As companies increase production due to automated processes, there need to be packaging systems that can match the speed with precision. The added advantage is that robots don’t get bored performing repetitive tasks and they don’t get tired either which means that productivity doesn’t need to dwindle. They are also better able to pick and move heavy objects which makes the workplace safe from unnecessary injuries.
Robot end-effectors are essential tools in the production industry. They have a wide range of shapes, sizes, and even uses. When selecting an EOAT, it is important to understand its specific purpose and whether it will meet the specific needs of the production processes.
End effectors have many useful benefits. They increase the productivity of companies and reduce general losses made through human error and accidents. They can work with precision, speed and can handle fragile objects safely. It also generally reduces the cost of having to hire many employees.