The future of collaborative robot grippers

Robotic automation has become more focused on collaboration with humans, which has caused companies to improve robot grippers for safety reasons.
By Robotic Industries Association (RIA) August 7, 2018

Courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaRobot grippers are an end-of-arm tool (EOAT) responsible for grasping objects. Grippers are an essential part of robotic functionality, especially for material handling and pick and place applications where a robot must reliably pick up and put down parts. Without a proper gripper, robots could not perform these tasks.

Grasping objects, particularly in high-volume production environments, needs to be accurate and reliable in order to deliver the required efficiency. As the need for more and more efficient automation systems rises, gripper technology is advancing.

Current collaborative robot grippers

Robotic automation has become more focused around collaboration with human workers, as opposed to replacing them in an industrial environment. For this reason, the most advanced robot grippers on the market have been designed to be collaborative in nature.

Some robot grippers are now having their maximum force limited by design, based on meticulous research on human pain thresholds. These collaborative robot grippers are built to never exceed a set amount of force, thereby making them safe to work alongside human workers.

Robot grippers of the future will take safety and collaboration to new levels. Some prototypes feature a suite of advanced sensors to detect the presence and movement of human workers. These sensors relay this information and can trigger evasive movements or a system shutdown to avoid any and all dangerous work scenarios.

Tactile sensors are also being deployed in robot gripper prototypes, allowing robots to determine for themselves how much force is required to grasp an object. Other sensors can contribute to higher accuracy in gripping applications by helping locate parts, even when they’re not in the same orientation.

The robot grippers of the future will be smart devices more capable of safe collaboration with human workers. Advanced sensor systems will give these grippers a sense of touch and an advanced safety system to avoid dangerous situations.

Robot grippers are an essential aspect of robotic functionality in many applications. Robotic grasping capabilities can only advance as fast as the gripper technology that enables this process. The near future will see major innovations in robot grasping.

This article originally appeared on the Robotics Online BlogRobotic Industries Association (RIA) is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.