Get a Grip! Choosing the Right Robotic Gripper

Feb 2, 2015

A robotic gripper will help to bring the accuracy and consistency that you need for specific products or parts. End of arm tooling on automated systems will pick up, manipulate, or place your product in a specified location, bringing you consistency and accuracy. Deciding on the right gripper for your production line is important, so contact experts today to find out if you need a friction, encompassing, hydraulic, pneumatic, electric, or magnetic.


If you need robot tool­ing to pick up, manip­u­late, and place your product/​part, chances are you’re going to use a robot­ic gripper.

Arguably the most com­mon type of end-of-arm tool­ing (EOAT), robot­ic grip­pers are found in vir­tu­al­ly every indus­try and con­text from food pro­duc­tion and clean­room envi­ron­ments to foundries and dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters. These grip­pers come in a vari­ety of types, sizes, and con­fig­u­ra­tions — fric­tion, encom­pass­ing, hydraulic, pneu­mat­ic, elec­tric, mag­net­ic, etc. 

Fric­tion vs. Encompassing

There are two main types of grip­pers – fric­tion and encom­pass­ing – which are bro­ken down by the way they pick up mate­ri­als. Fric­tion robot­ic grip­pers hold the part through force alone, while encom­pass­ing grip­pers sur­round the part. Which one is right for you? It all depends on the mate­r­i­al. Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, fric­tion grip­pers are bet­ter suit­ed for hard­er mate­ri­als, and encom­pass­ing grippes are well suit­ed for flex­i­ble or soft­er mate­ri­als, like bags or boxes.

Angu­lar or Parallel?

Many grip­pers come with two or three jaws – except for vac­u­um grip­pers which often come with rows of suc­tion cups for grip­ping. Par­al­lel grip­pers, the grip­pers with two jaws, close onto either side of a prod­uct and lift it up. An angu­lar robot­ic grip­per moves more like a human hand, with the fin­gers” wrap­ping around the prod­uct. In a major­i­ty of cas­es, com­pa­nies will choose the par­al­lel design because it is eas­i­er to design for and more prac­ti­cal than the angu­lar option.

Of course, it isn’t just about how many jaws or fin­gers the robot EOAT has – it is also about the size and shape of them. The length of the jaws can have an impact on cycle speed and effec­tive­ness. Longer jaws many be nec­es­sary depend­ing on the work cell and appli­ca­tion (exam­ple: remov­ing a part from an injec­tion mold machine). In addi­tion, grip­pers are com­mon­ly con­struct­ed with two or three fin­gers (actu­a­tors) for grasp­ing an object. Inte­gra­tors con­sid­er the size and con­struc­tion of the part being manip­u­lat­ed to deter­mine how many actu­a­tors are best. 

Use of Force

Once you decide whether your appli­ca­tion needs a fric­tion or encom­pass­ing grip­per, there are sev­er­al dif­fer­ent kinds to choose from, and once again, it is all about the part mate­ri­als and weight. These grip­pers are pow­ered in many ways, and the wrong kind of force could dam­age or ruin your prod­uct. Oth­er fac­tors you could con­sid­er when choos­ing your grip­per cost and space constraints.

The most pop­u­lar type of grip­per for robot­ic sys­tems is the pneu­mat­ic grip­per. These grip­pers are com­pact, light­weight, and capa­ble of apply­ing a sig­nif­i­cant amount of force. These grip­pers do not have the bulk of motors or gears, which can make a grip­per sig­nif­i­cant­ly larg­er, so they are ver­sa­tile enough to fit into tight work cells. Some­times, pneu­mat­ic grip­pers are com­bined with oth­er ele­ments, like suc­tion cups or mag­nets, to bet­ter grip materials.

If you need more force than a pneu­mat­ic grip­per can pro­vide, it is time to move on to the hydraulic grip­per. These grip­pers can deliv­er plen­ty of force, but they can be a mess for your fac­to­ry because of their oil, pumps, and reser­voirs. Anoth­er clean­er option is an elec­tric robot grip­per, which eas­i­er to main­tain, while also pro­vid­ing the same amount of force as the hydraulic options.

These grip­pers can be larg­er than pneu­mat­ic grip­pers because they do include motors, but with the help of micro­proces­sors, they are much more adaptable.

Choos­ing Your Gripper

Robots​.com’ inte­gra­tion team works with each cus­tomer to deter­mine which robot­ic grip­pers is best suit­ed to the appli­ca­tion, work cell design, and most impor­tant­ly, the part/​product. Some prod­ucts, for exam­ple, will be dam­aged if too much force is applied while oth­ers can han­dle sig­nif­i­cant amounts of force. As men­tioned above, a num­ber of fac­tors, such as tool­ing cost, force nec­es­sary, part weight, and accel­er­a­tion /​deceleration rates are con­sid­ered when select­ing a robot­ic grip­per solu­tion. Our staff works dai­ly to ensure that you are com­plete­ly sat­is­fied with the qual­i­ty of your parts and systems.

For more infor­ma­tion about robot­ic grip­pers, call the Robots​.com Sales Depart­ment at 8777626881 or con­tact rep­re­sen­ta­tives online.

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