While modern robots are leaps and bounds beyond more dated models, it is not necessarily the actual robots causing the current sea wave of change. Rather, it is today’s advanced end-of-arm tooling, or EOAT, that empowers robots to expand their capabilities in ways not previously possible. It is the EOAT that is unleashing exciting new automation possibilities for a wider range of tasks across myriad industries.
Advanced EOAT at Work
Attached to the end of robotic arms, EOAT makes robots smarter and more versatile, which helps streamline production and maximize overall investments in robotic technology. For example, products such as OnRobot’s 6-Axis Force/Torque Sensor can enable robots to successfully carry out a range of tasks that require a light and precise touch, like polishing and sanding surfaces. This cutting-edge sensor does so via smart software capable of conveying path recording and force control commands to its collaborative application, or robot.
The RG2-FT has built-in intelligence at the fingertips that helps it mimic the manner in which humans instinctively use our sense of touch when we grab things and move them. In other words, this state-of-the-art gripper is designed to handle such delicate items as plants and lightbulbs as carefully as we do.
Businesses dealing with pick-and-place tasks for porous objects, like printed circuit boards and other electronic products, have long sought ways to reduce the amount of waste and damage due to picking slippage and an inability to use vacuum technology. The Gecko Gripper, which is inspired by its namesake lizard’s unique ability to climb anything, can help mitigate those problems. With its millions of micro-scaled fibrillar stalks that employ dynamic van der Waals forces, the gripper attaches itself to flat surfaces without using external power.
In short, it handles holed objects with grace and accuracy—standard vacuums cannot handle them at all. The Gecko Gripper does not require an external air supply either, which means lower maintenance cost and less noise on the factory floor. It also does not leave marks on surfaces like most vacuum grippers do, making it ideal for picking and placing glass or LCD panels.
New Industries Adopting Automation
When we consider automation, often we think of high-volume production in such machinery-driven industries as automotive and power tools. However, the versatility of modern EOAT, and the return on investment (ROI) they present, have spurred sectors that once only sparingly used robotics to re-evaluate their potential.
For instance, space often comes at a premium in the undersized laboratories used for quality assessments and testing in the medical industry. Small collaborative robots are proving to be ideal solutions, particularly once connected to an EOAT that help ensure precision and consistency. When it comes time to package the pharmaceutics, tools like the VG10 Vacuum Gripper, which is designed to handle high-volume picking and placing, can feed a box erector machine or place boxes on pallets.
Food is another industry increasingly exploring automation. Rosborg Greenhouse, Denmark’s largest producer of herbs, is one such company reaping the rewards of the OnRobot RG6 Gripper. “It makes a significant difference for us to move from growing plants and herbs in an old-fashioned greenhouse to state-of-the-art facilities, where the latest automation technology is in use,” says Henning Jørgensen, Rosborg Food Holding’s operation manager and partner.
At the greenhouse, the RG6 Gripper helps automate the process of packing cut herbs by precisely boxing and feeding the conveyor belt that leads to palletizing. Its easily adjustable force allows it to correctly handle products of differing size, weight, and shape on the same packing line, as well. The gripper’s impact on the greenhouse has been immediate and pronounced. “The biggest improvement we are seeing is the considerable reduction of hard manual labour hours,” says Jørgensen. “We expect the gripper and the entire application to have a quick payback time.”
New Possibilities with Breakthrough EOAT
There are numerous other examples of how present-day EOAT is transforming modern robotics use. Indeed, from squarely inserting pins into motor heads and turning gears until they fit into place, to safely and quickly changing tools, this new wave of EOAT has a wide variety of use across industries. As overall robotics use spreads, businesses must maximize the potential of these powerful tools to not only keep up, but get ahead.