The Role of End-Of-Arm-Tools (EOATs) in Automation Systems

The Role of End-Of-Arm-Tools (EOATs) in Automation Systems

This article provides insights regarding automation systems, emphasizing end-of-arm-tools (EOATs) as the key topic of discussion. Continue reading to learn more.

What Exactly Is An Automation System?

An automation system is an interconnection of sensors, controllers, and actuators meant to carry out a function with little to no involvement from a human operator. Meanwhile, this topic focuses on a branch of engineering known as mechatronics, an interdisciplinary area that blends mechanical, electronic, and electrical system components.

Most automation systems were first developed from manual procedures like drilling, milling, cutting, welding, threading, and other similar activities. These systems manipulate the movement of the tool responsible for the original function via the employment of robotic arms.

Not only that but automation is also used for monitoring and regulating process parameters in other applications, most notably in the process control domain. To do this, heaters, pumps, motors, and compressors may be adjusted, or control valves may open or close process line sections. Even for a single function, automation systems may be configured in various ways.

What Should You Know About End-Of-Arm-Tools (EOATs)?

 The tool or operator intended to interact with the process or product is called an end-of-arm-tool (EOAT), also often referred to as an end effector. Most EOATs take the form of grippers, devices that can lift and lower items to facilitate object transfer or reorientation. Impactive grippers (those with mechanical jaws), ingressive grippers (those with needles), astrictive grippers (those that use vacuum and magnetism), and contigutive (adhesion) grippers are the four primary categories of Grippers. Tools may also be used for specific jobs, including milling or welding.

Here we discuss various types of end-of-arm tools (EOATs):

Mechanical Grippers

These are utilized for the most fundamental of robotic systems, pick-and-place. Grippers generally feature 1-3 different sets of mechanical jaws operated by either pneumatic actuators or servo motors. These jaws are made of one line attached to the wrist via a revolute or prismatic joint.

  • Feedback is provided by strain gauges or the motor current when servo motors are used. This feedback is used to modulate the gripping force.
  • Given the inherent compressibility of air, it is possible to increase the gripping power of grippers that use pneumatic actuators without causing any damage to the gripped object.

It is possible to fashion the jaws in the form of forks, fingers, parallel plates, or surfaces conforming to the contours of the payload. Furthermore, a greater grip may be created by coating the surfaces with robust materials with a high friction rating.

Vacuum or Suction Cups

These are employed to pick up things such as films, glasses, and plates that have smooth exteriors. The use of a venturi that is fed with pressurized air is a typical method utilized for the production of a vacuum. Several suction cups are employed to provide a greater overall suction force.

Vacuum EOATs are clean and may enable minor positional variation. This particular form of EOAT is not appropriate for surfaces that are rough, absorbent, or irregular in shape. In addition, if the acceleration is sufficiently great, the item may release itself from the suction cup.

Magnetic Grippers

Electromagnets are used in lifting ferromagnetic materials by these sorts of EOATs. Permanent magnets are likewise utilized because they do not always need power consumption. Nevertheless, a mechanical mechanism for extracting the accumulated item is required to function properly.

Electromagnets are popular because of the ease with which they can be operated. It can elevate or lower an item simply by giving electricity to it or turning it off. However, in addition to the restriction that it may only be used on ferromagnetic materials, it also causes the components to be magnetic. It is also impossible to accelerate it too rapidly since the object connected might slide.

Inflatable Collars and Cylinders

One way to conceptualize an inflated collar is as a tube made of looping elastomer supported by a stiff structure on its outer sheath. It secures a hold on the item by increasing the diameter of the tube while simultaneously releasing its grip by deflating. These are frequently utilized in the two-dimensional grabbing of tubular or cylindrical goods.

Needle Grippers

These varieties exert a gripping effect by penetrating the item or mass with needles or hackles. In most cases, these EOATs are immobile and do not have any moving links or joints. When working with porous or fibrous materials, such as textiles, carbon, or glass fibers, where the possibility of minor penetrations is not a concern, needle grippers are a useful tool.

Adhesive Grippers

These grippers secure their hold on the product by using surface adhesion. A specific adhesive will be applied on the surface of a pad/plate that will come into contact with the product to be lifted. The capacity of adhesive grippers to function without the need for a source of air or electricity is the primary benefit offered by these grippers. But they are only capable of manipulating light objects. With prolonged use, they often lose some of their effective gripping power.

Permanent and Changeable Tools

In place of a gripper, a tool might be attached to the knuckle that is the farthest out from the wrist. The tool may be fixed in place or removable. End effectors employ screwdrivers, wrenches, punches, cutters, laser pointers, waterjet nozzles, painting nozzles, welding electrodes, and solders.

On the other hand, inspection systems that include attached sensors are an example of another specific kind of end effector. One illustration of this would be a camera or another form of optical equipment utilized for non-contact testing and measuring three-dimensional space.

Because of their inherent repeatability, accuracy, and precision, robotic systems provide accurate measurements in the tenths of a millimeter range. In the course of time, alterations caused by new product requirements, system advancements, or component obsolescence may cause existing tools that have been put on the robotic arm to be replaced with more recent versions. Checking the following aspects is necessary before determining whether or not the new tool may be used:

  • The weight of the brand-new tool.
  • Longitudinal and transverse accuracy when synchronized with the workpiece.
  • The amount of force and torque that is generated by the tool.
  • Conditions requiring rigidity.
  • Mechanisms for the adapter, the connection, and the rapid release.
  • Control using feedback and sensors located everywhere.
  • Auxiliary system requirements.

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