For many years, robots have used several types of grippers. Right now, the push for a more natural dexterity is more urgent as there is increasing demand from e-commerce for order fulfillment and other uses. The human-level manipulation of different objects is a technical challenge and robotics vendors and developers have come up with a range of solutions such as parallel, claw and rotary grippers to vacuum and magnetic grippers to meet the requirements of industries including food processing, electronics, and automotive manufacturing. With the increase in cobots and cobot arms, machine manipulation has witnessed a diversity to handle a range of objects.
Industrial robots use rotary or parallel grippers for repetitive and fast handling of identical parts. However, cobot users require safety and flexibility over throughput. Besides consumer packaged goods, markets for robotic grippers include pharmaceuticals, machine tending, agriculture, plastics, and food processing. In terms of performance needs, more specialized requirements include end-of-arm tools for hazardous material handling, telesurgery and undersea exploration. Here, are six advances in prosthetics in the development of pneumatic and electromechanical grippers.
Use of the right tool: It is important to have robot grippers of the appropriate weight, size, and rigidity as per the object that they handle. Cobot designers and users have to consider the demands for cycle time, shape, torque and force restrictions for safety. Many robotics vendors offer suites of solutions including sensors, grippers, and software. Attention in the industry is on developing end-effectors as these are easy to install and can be used as robot arms.
Nimbler fingers: As human-level dexterity is not the objective of suppliers and developers, new material and gripper types make robots more flexible and reliable than ever. There are three-finger adaptive grippers that are designed to reduce tool changes with high levels of customization. Given that all robotic grippers cannot be used as clamps or fingers, newer models with nimbler fingers are needed for robot grasping.
New suction approaches: Latest vacuum grippers do not need an external air supply for suction. Eventually, there are less noisier and more energy-efficient suction grippers with a smaller footprint. Saarland University researchers have developed artificial muscles to develop suction without vacuum with compressed air. We can see more electrical grippers in the years to come.
Combining approaches: Several companies have combined various types of grippers for reliable pick-and-place operations. Some of these include RightPick, Purple Robotics, Soft Robotics, etc.
Improved sensors, grippers: The recent developments in the field of robotic manipulation include machine learning with the help of large data sets and connection via IoT.
Mobile manipulation: The combination of cobots with that of mobile platforms has been elusive and is described as e-commerce automation’s holy grail.
Hardware and software engineers involved at robotics vendors, developers, and user organizations have more options than just picking or building a specialized tool for various tasks. The global cobot market is small but expands with industrial automation. This growth in the industry is driven by mid-size and small enterprises and demand for robots that are safer and capable of handling a wide range of items.