Automated manufacturing operations are finely tuned ecosystems in which all components must function in complete harmony. Grippers used to pick and place, orient and hold components or end products at various points along the production chain are key to this process.
Grippers come in many sizes and styles, and several considerations should be addressed before the best gripper can be chosen. Among these are the effects that dirt, grit, oil, grease, cutting fluid, temperature variation, cleanliness, and human interaction have on automation systems.
Pneumatically controlled grippers are used in a high percentage of applications and perform three basic tasks: gripping and holding a product or component while it is being transferred; part orientation; and gripping a part while work is being done. These tasks cannot be completed until the correct gripper is chosen for two general classes of operating environments:
The use of standard or custom shields can deflect debris from the internal workings in a dirty environment, or help to keep internal containments and grease contained in a clean one.
Considerations for any gripper application should include appropriate finger length, grip force, stroke, actuation time and accuracy. In this area, common jaw-support mechanisms include:
The mode of power transmission should also be contemplated. Some examples are:
There are also numerous finger designs and gripping methods to consider:
The performance of any automated manufacturing system is only as strong and reliable as its weakest link. To ensure that the weak link is not the gripper, a suitable gripper must be specified based on its design and the array of available options. Only when these areas are optimized will the operator know the best gripper for the application has been selected.