There are many different kinds of robots out there in the industry performing a multitude of different tasks. All these robots have different capabilities, specialties and limitations. All that being said and done, only a limited part of the robot makes contact with the environment around it to perform a particular function – the robot end of arm tooling or the end effector.

Many different factors come into play when designing a robot end effector. The design of these tools usually starts with the specs of the robot itself. What are the types of connections (both mechanical and electrical) to the robot? What are the weight restrictions? Once these factors have been established, a survey of the robot workspace and its environment is performed to determine dimensional restrictions of the end effector.

Next, a choice is made to determine how the tooling is going to be powered and operated – usually, this choice is between all electrical, electro-pneumatic or electromagnetic. For pick and place applications different grippers, suction cups and magnets are integrated into the end effectors to perform the necessary pick and place functions. A design is then created of the end effector package in its entirety and the interaction of the end effector with the product is studied either by simulations or prototyping of the end effector. This analysis shows the ‘grip’ the robot has of the part for the particular pick and place application. Once the engineers are satisfied with the robot-product interaction, a repeatability analysis is done to make sure the end effector maintains consistency in its interaction with the product.

The effectivity of the end of arm tooling is usually a ‘make it or break it’ deal with robotic applications. In the design of big automation cells around robots, it is very easy to forget this small yet crucial part of the robot. It’s like it doesn’t matter if your car has a Bugatti Veyron engine, if your tires don’t grip the road you’re not going anywhere.