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Tomorrow’s Manufacturing Technologies Today

The Only Guide You Need for End-of-Arm Tooling


END OF ARM TOOLING DESIGN AND BUILD

End-of-arm tooling (EOAT), sometimes referred to as end effectors, are devices that can be installed on a robotic arm or wrist, and they’re what expands your industrial robot’s capabilities. There are three major categories, or types of end effectors: automation, process, and inspection/verification. 

In this EOAT guide, we’ll cover the various categories of EOAT, how to select the right one, and if you need to invest in custom-made tooling.

What Is End-of-Arm Tooling?

As previously mentioned, end-of-arm tooling, or EOAT, is a device, tool, or process subsystem that’s attached to a robotic arm or wrist. Their primary purpose is to help the industrial robot carry out a specific function. They can be powered by hydraulics, pneumatics, electricity, magnetic force, or vacuum.

What Are the Different Types of End Effectors?

End effectors can be split into three categories: automation, process, and inspection/verification. We’ll break it down further in the following sections.

pneumatic grippers
Pictured: Pneumatic gripper

Automation

There are several types of end effectors that are used to carry out industrial automation tasks, including grippers, magnets, and vacuum heads.

Grippers

Grippers allow industrial robots to manipulate a component at an advanced level. They are primarily used to hold components, move them, and release them accurately at a desired location. Many styles and sizes of grippers can be used to accommodate a variety of applications.

Magnets

Magnet end effectors, sometimes called magnetic grippers, use magnetic force to accurately locate, pick up, and move ferrous materials, including sheet metal.

Vacuum Heads

Vacuum head tooling is primarily used to move non-porous surface parts They can be small light plastic parts in a molding application of heavy parts like sheet metal car hoods. Just like grippers and magnets, vacuum heads can accurately locate, pick up, and move objects. Unlike magnets, vacuum heads are not limited to ferrous materials—they can be used for all types of materials and are popular in high speed applications because of reduced gripping time.

Picture of a yellow industrial robot welding a car body in an automotive manufacturing plant
Pictured: EOAT used for welding

Process

The next type of end effector category is process. This refers to devices that are used in specific manufacturing processes, including welding and painting. There are many different types of processes which can fall into this category, five popular processes for end effectors include weld tooling, drill or cutting tools, brushes, screwdrivers, adhesive dispensing, and paint spray guns. As you’ve probably guessed, the type of end effector you need will be based on the process that your robot is performing.

Photo of a yellow industrial robot with a camera/sensor attached to it. The robot is scanning an object during an expo.
Pictured: A robot with a part inspection sensor

Inspection & Verification

The last type of EOAT category are devices that are used for inspection of products or used by the robot for guidance.

Sensors for Part Inspection

Sensors can be used to detect changes in pressure, force, temperature, or other process conditions. They can also be used as inspection devices to verify that processes have been done correctly or that parts are present. Cameras are very popular to use as a means of inspecting products for conformity and process completion; they are also used in conjunction with software for reading barcodes and color identification.

In robotics, there is an increasing use of force-torque sensors mounted in end effectors. These sensors are commonly placed between the robotic arm flange and the device that touches the part. These sensors are used to measure the amount of insertion or press force the robot is applying on the part.

Typical applications for inspection sensor end effectors include cameras, touch probes, laser sensors, and force sensors. 

Sensors for Robot Vision Guidance

Some end-of-arm tooling may include the use of sensors and cameras for robot vision guidance. 

Robot vision guidance is the use of a camera, which is calibrated to the robot; it tells the robot where the part is to be picked up. This offers significant advantages to traditional robot teach point programming because the parts don’t have to be in the same location to be picked up.

Force guidance is another popular and new area in robotics. Force guidance uses a force sensor to “offset” the robot program. The robot can follow a force instruction rather than a point path. This allows the insertion of tight-slip fitting assembly and process, which are force-based such as sanding or deburring.

Benefits of Choosing the Right EOAT

Just like a technician using the wrong tool, a robot arm with the wrong EOAT can’t perform a job efficiently. Choosing the right EOAT offers the following benefits:

  • Increased Range of Applications
  • Improved Efficiency
  • Reduced Wear
  • Improved Product Quality

The right tool accelerates the efficiency of your robot arm or production line. Depending on the scope of your facility, you may have a single arm ready to arc weld components or an entire assembly line including screwdrivers, adhesive dispensing, grippers, and inspection cameras.

Selecting EOAT

Your application requirements will ultimately decide what type of end-of-arm tooling that you need. For example, if your robot is mostly used for pick-and-place applications, you’ll want an end effector from the “automation” category. Then, you’ll want to think about the types of materials and components that your robot will be locating and moving, as well as the weight of the materials and components. 

You’ll also want to consider whether you want your EOAT to be electrically, hydraulically, or pneumatically powered.

Another consideration is whether or not you need a tool changer system. These systems allow robots to rapidly switch tooling. They are essential for manufacturers who have one industrial robot responsible for carrying out different tasks. 

It’s also important to remember that most end effectors can be further split up into different subtypes. For example, grippers can be categorized as pneumatic or electric, and are split further by the number of fingers it has as well as the motion in which the fingers are moving.

In some cases, you may also need a custom end effector. Unlike standard tooling, customized tooling is designed for your specific application.

Get EOAT Solutions From Schneider & Company

Need help selecting the right type of tooling? Turn to Schneider & Company. We’re a leading manufacturer’s representative and distributor. We specialize in automation and assembly solutions, and offer a wide range of EOAT options by JRT. We can also custom-build grippers based on your unique needs. 

If you have questions about end-of-arm tooling, or are interested in learning more about our products and value-added services, please fill out our online form, and one of our experts will be in touch with you shortly.