Smarter Manufacturing

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by Kristian Hulgard 

Intelligent end-of-arm tooling for better machining

Companies require unique automation solutions for their specific production environment, but businesses can’t constantly redesign facilities for every different process and application. That’s why it’s crucial that organizations choose the optimal set of robot accessories to maximize automation value and help turn an entire production lifecycle into a seamless process, from purchase and installation to operations and redevelopment. 

End-of-arm tooling devices (EOAT), are one of those solutions. Fitted at the end of a robotic arm to perform a wide range of tasks, robot grippers, for example, can deftly handle various materials, while robust sensors generate alerts to correct a robot’s positioning and tool changers allow for quick and easy switching from one tool to another. When fitted with these advanced tools, robots become intelligent objects capable of sensing, acting and behaving within smart manufacturing environments.

Intelligent robot accessories offer the innovation, expertise and precision smart manufacturing requires. These technologies are changing the economics of manufacturing as industries increasingly leverage EOAT’s built-in technology and intelligence to considerably reduce production costs and efforts.

According to a study from Technavio on the EOAT market, from 2016-2020 EOAT is expected to grow to a $9.2 billion industry, a surge in line with the rising adoption of robotic automation, and in 2018, the International Federation of Robotics issued a report stating that about 630,000 robot units will be supplied to factories around the world in 2021, an annual growth rate of 14 per cent. 

The RG2-FT gripper is the world’s first intelligent gripper that can see and feel objects using built-in force/torque sensing. EOAT for faster and smarter automation adoption
EOAT enables businesses to take on new applications because robots are more efficient when accessorized with EOAT for custom-tailored solutions. These intelligent tools have a significant impact on the robot’s performance and flexibility. In fact, automation process efficiency is highly dependent on the grippers and other intelligent tools that interface with the robot. 

Modern grippers and force/torque sensors show that the potential of intelligent robot accessories is enormous. With collaborative applications, businesses want more than just efficient automation from machines—they also want to access the robots remotely and diagnose problems online. Intelligent EOAT with smart hardware and software helps collect and analyze data to deliver feedback and increase capabilities.

Choosing the right robot accessories
The tools and accessories fitted on and around robots make or break a robot’s effectiveness. 

EOATs communicate two-way information exchanges between tools and robots that enable efficient operations and increase production, while some high precision grippers use built-in technology that allows them to mimic human fingertips. 

EOAT pushes the limits of human interaction. In fact, modern grippers are so sophisticated they can even handle fragile silicon wafers used in manufacturing computer processors, with force/torque sensors helping to locate and detect an object’s presence for greater accuracy. These sensitive grippers are used in manufacturing processes that require the application of a precise force to achieve high quality results.

Such applications as surface finishing, packaging and palletizing, machine tending and assembly not only require precision, but also the ability to customize tasks based on batch size and subsequent necessities. This unique capability has allowed enterprises of all sizes to introduce the right EOATs into their production line. 

As technology continues driving transformation across industries, companies must consider automation to reduce costs and improve operational flexibility. To achieve this, robotic accessories need to be smarter as they are crucial in executing collaborative applications. Bringing intelligent technologies and tools to the forefront allows companies to
meet the growing demand for industrial mechanization—and with a shorter learning curve, this empowers all enterprises to dream big with automation. SMT

Kristian Hulgard, general manager Americas, OnRobot.

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