Innovation in Packaging Robotics End Effectors


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Aug 08, 2023

Innovation in Packaging Robotics End Effectors

With recent advancements in technology, the ability of packaging robotics end-of-arm tooling to perform different tasks based on programmed instructions has advanced significantly. One of the most

With recent advancements in technology, the ability of packaging robotics end-of-arm tooling to perform different tasks based on programmed instructions has advanced significantly.

One of the most important—if not the most important—component of a robot is its EOAT; without it, the robot is essentially useless. The end effector plays a vital role by enabling the robot to interact with objects by gripping, grasping, and manipulating them. With recent advancements in technology, the ability of EOAT to perform different tasks based on programmed instructions has advanced significantly.

According to a report from MarketsandMarkets, the global robot end effector market is expected to grow from $2.3 billion in 2023 to $4.3 billion by 2028, for a CAGR of 13.5%. Reads the report, “Growing demand for modular end effectors, increasing adoption of cobots, penetration of automation in SMEs, and increasing adoption in the warehousing, pharmaceutical, and food industry are the main drivers for the growth of the robot end effector market.”

Packaging Robotics: Coval’s CMS HD series of multistage vacuum pumpsOver the past year, a number of suppliers have introduced new EOAT and tooling systems that boast advanced technology that make EOAT more flexible, robust, and modular, as well as more intelligent for today’s integrated operations. Among them is Coval, which recently improved upon its range of new-generation vacuum grippers used for handling parts of various sizes, weights, and materials by adding the new CMS HD series of multistage vacuum pumps.

Coval’s new generation of vacuum grippers is based on two complementary solutions: the CVGL and the MVG. The CVGL is characterized by its lightness and adaptability and is available as standard in several lengths, power ratings, and gripping interfaces. The MVG, on the other hand, while also light, can be configured specifically for each application by determining the length, width, gripping interface, and vacuum generator. Says Coval, “It [the MVG] offers a tailored solution that integrates perfectly with handling robots.”

Now, the new grippers also incorporate the CMS HD series of vacuum pumps. The pumps have a heavy-duty design for high reliability even in harsh environments—they are IP65 rated—and are capable of ensuring 50 million cycles. Coval attributes the pump’s longevity to its modular design, which allows for specific configurations and targeted maintenance of specific parts to optimize repairability.

The multistage CMS HD vacuum pump comes in three configurations: non-piloted, piloted, and communicating. The communicating configuration, which makes the vacuum grippers easier to use and parameterize, integrates the CMS HD VX multistage pump. This pump features an I/O-Link communication interface, compliant with the international IEC 61131-9 standard, for fast and cost-effective installation, continuous diagnostics, centralized parameterization, and efficient communication with higher-level protocols, including Ethernet/IP, PROFINET, EtherCAT, and others. It can also support a Human Machine Interface (HMI) with a Near Field Communication (NFC) interface, enabling the operator to read and modify setup parameters and diagnostics from a mobile device, either Android or iOS, using the dedicated Coval Vacuum Manager app.

Packaging Robotics: Cobot Tooling Solutions from DestacoDestaco, a Dover Corp. company, has also introduced several new EOAT options, including a magnetic gripper and a vacuum gripper, in its new portfolio of Cobot Tooling Solutions, introduced in March. The tooling line was designed to simplify tool selection and eliminate integration design work for companies employing small-payload robots or cobots in their operations. Among the solutions are those designed for gripping, palletizing, machine tending, tool changing, and tool extension applications for robots/cobots with up to a 10-kg payload capacity.

“Small-payload robots are commonly found in larger industrial manufacturing facilities, but the low cost of entry into robotic automation has recently resulted in significant growth in their use across small, light industrial, and commercial shops,” says Gary Labadie, global product director for Destaco. “Small-payload robots are now a focus and a solution for both large and small facilities coping with the economic climate.”

Destaco shares that it designed its Cobot Tooling Solutions for simplicity and ease of use, with off-the-shelf availability via kits that feature all of the end-user selected accessories, along with the hardware and tools needed for installation, reducing the need to consult an application engineer. All of the tooling solutions are compatible with cobots that have an ISO 9409-1-50-4-M6 end-of-arm mounting pattern. Blank robots and tool plates are offered for those who wish to use their own mounting patterns.

According to the company, a “standout feature” in its suite of tooling solutions is its Micro-Tool End Effectors, which enable a cobot to perform palletizing functions. Users who know the length, width, and weight of the packages to be lifted and transferred can easily select the palletizing kit type and predetermined vacuum cup size necessary for the application, eliminating tool design work with off-the-shelf kits.

Other tools in the portfolio include:

· The CB-200 Quick-Move Base: Allows the cobot to be moved from one workstation to another without the need to reprogram the robot.

· The ARV-C vacuum gripper: Can pick up and move product via one air line with an auto-release vacuum generator; available in nine sizes and shapes.

· The MG magnet gripper: Allows the picking of ferrous material or components with one pneumatically actuated air line; available in two sizes.

· The Multi-Mount Tool Array: Mounts up to five different tools to the cobot wrist through various tool mounting plates and multiple extension lengths.

· The Multi-Mount Tool Extension: Extends the reach of the cobot arm; available in a variety of tool plates and multiple extension lengths.

· The TC1 Manual Tool Changer: Allows the user to change cobot tools quickly and repeatedly and offers electric and air pass-through capabilities.

· A Tool Storage Tree: Securely stores and organizes up to six cobot tools safely and securely; fully adjustable with three different tree heights.

Packaging Robotics: The Flexiv Grav Enhanced gripperFrom Flexiv, a provider of general-purpose robotics solutions, is a new EOAT designed with flexibility in mind: the new Grav Enhanced gripper, specifically engineered to eliminate the necessity for EOAT changes. According to Flexiv, the Grav Enhanced can lift nearly any object it encounters—“from basketballs and boxes to letters and lollipops”—by using its two-finger adaptive-force and super-friction grasping techniques.

Shares Hao Jiang, Flexiv’s director of product development, not only is the Grav Enhanced gripper the world’s first commercially available adaptive gripper with super-friction material, but it also eliminates the downtime related to end-of-arm tool changes. “Our customers told us that traditional grippers struggle with mixed-SKU consignments, so that’s what led us to develop the Grav Enhanced,” he explains.

Featuring industrial-grade force control and an adhesive material based on a gecko’s foot pad, the Grav Enhanced gripper can lift practically any item up to 5 kg that fits within its grasp. When manipulating objects, the gripper’s adaptive force sensing ensures an optimal grip force is maintained, while the super-friction material provides enhanced grip stability and versatile object handling. The super-friction material is said to be exceptionally strong and leaves no residue on the objects it contacts, making the gripper suitable for mixed-SKU pallet loading, where products may be sent directly to the customer.

Though specifically designed for Flexiv’s range of adaptive robots, the Grav Enhanced is compatible with any collaborative-style robot that uses a universal mounting flange.

Packaging Robotics: Piab’s piCOBOT L vacuum pump unitLifting more with less was Piab’s goal when it developed the new piCOBOT L vacuum pump unit, which can lift up to 16 kg versus the 7-kg capacity of its existing piCOBOT. Comprising a vacuum pump unit and an optional gripper unit, the piCOBOT L builds on the same technology platform as the original version. The vacuum pump unit is also scalable and can be equipped with any number of Piab’s proprietary COAX vacuum ejector cartridges.

Says Piab, “Offering a significantly higher vacuum performance, it [the piCOBOT L] enables fast movement when lifting heavier items for high productivity in packaging and palletizing, part assembly, or machine tending.”

The company notes that the pump’s high vacuum flow can facilitate the deployment of its large, Kenos-brand foam grippers, which can lift a wide variety of objects, from single large and heavy items to a multitude of small items simultaneously. The piCOBOT L can also use customized end effectors, either developed by Piab’s Custom Line specialists or by the customer or systems integrator. Due to a vacuum connection at the bottom of the pump, extra cabling is not required when attaching a different gripper unit.

Although the piCOBOT L allows for manual gripper changes and dissembling of the tool from the pump unit, Piab relates that the need to speed up tool changes when necessary drove the company to develop an automated process to ensure continuous operations and provide flexibility for the deployment of one solution for many different tasks. The result is a new optional automatic tool changer combined with a docking station for further end effectors. The tool changer is equipped with a lever to lock or unlock the adapter plate of the end effector. The lever can be opened and closed automatically by the docking station to remove a gripping unit from the cobot and pick up and connect a different one without human intervention. Alternatively, the gripper switch at the tool changer can also take place manually.

The piCOBOT L has been designed to allow for easy access to parts for cleaning and is IP65 rated for harsh environments.

Packaging Robotics: VMECA’s Magic Gripper EOATAnother producer of compressed, air-driven vacuum pumps, as well as suction cups and other accessories, South Korea-based VMECA introduced its Magic Gripper EOAT, for use with cartons, cases, or flexible packages, at PACK EXPO International last year. The Magic Gripper can be attached to either an industrial robot or a cobot and features a decentralized vacuum that allows it to use as many or as few grippers as required by an application. Comprising a mounting bracket, vacuum generator (the VMECA vacuum cartridge system), vacuum filter, and suction cup, the Magic Gripper eliminates the need to purchase separate fittings, connection hoses, filters, and suction cups. The pump also features a silencing technology that deadens some of the noise traditionally generated in compressed-air applications. PW