• CobotKind

End Effectors: Different types and functions

The beauty of collaborative robots is that they can be programmed to perform so many different tasks within so many different applications and industries. This versatility of cobots however, could not prevail without end effectors.


What is an end effector?


The term, end effector, refers to the device fitted to the wrist of a robot that allows it to perform a programmed task. These can be split into 3 main categories: grippers, process tools, and sensors.


Grippers


The most well-known of end effectors are grippers. Grippers can come in many forms that tailor well to different functions and uses of the cobot, these include:

  • Vacuum grippers

  • Pneumatic grippers

  • Hydraulic grippers

  • Electronic grippers

  • Magnetic grippers

Robotiq dual gripper on universal robots cobot arm

They tend to be used for pick and place applications, and depending on the part and the environment of the application, people may choose one type of gripper over another.


Process tools


Process tools are end effectors that are used for a specific function, for example:

  • Sanding

  • Polishing

  • Welding

  • Dispensing

For example, in the video below, the end effector used is a sanding tool in furniture production.



Process tools as end effectors can increase efficiency and eliminate errors or tool based injuries in the workplace, and so can be a great asset to enhance day-to-day operations.


Sensors


Sensors are used to monitor and maintain precision.


Types of sensors include:

  • Ultrasonic sensors

  • Laser scanners

  • 2D and 3D cameras

  • Infrared sensors

Robotiq force torque sensor and camera on electronic gripper
Image sourced from https://www.universal-robots.com/plus/urplus-components/accessories/ft-300-force-torque-sensor/

As well as the benefit of upholding precision, sensors can allow for reduced risk of collision, therefore increasing safety and decreasing errors when working with and around robotics. They can also be used for inspection purposes, reducing the amount of time that inspection engineers need to spend collecting data.


To finish…


End effectors are a versatile tool that when wielded, can make or break an automation solution. It is always worth having a good discussion and doing a bit of research to find out which end effectors could enhance your company’s processes the most, before taking the plunge. That being said, these tools are highly versatile and could just kickstart a huge upsurge in productivity for your company.