What are end effectors and what is their classification
In this article, we will discover the importance of this essential component in a robot’s structure.
You have probably seen at some point a robotic arm either in YouTube videos or on TV, installed in some assembly room moving parts from one place to another or assembling parts of a vehicle. The end effectors are very important because without them a robot would not be useful to perform the tasks for which it was designed.
There are a wide variety of end effectors and while some of them may look very similar to each other, they have specific applications in a wide variety of fields.
What is an end effector?
They are tools attached to the end of a robotic arm that allows a robot to interact in an environment for the purpose of performing specific tasks according to a wide variety of job types.
The end effector is purchased or designed separately from the robot; for example, a robotic arm can use different end effectors depending on the activity it needs to perform: holding, cutting, welding, moving different objects, painting, among others.
This is connected to the robot mechanically or electromechanically, and uses energy sources that can be electric or pneumatic; at the same time they require different communication protocols and programming interfaces that demand different levels of skills.
Types of end effector
The end effectors are designed to fulfill specific tasks in a wide variety of jobs, if we need for example a gripper, we must take into account what type of part is ideal for the activity to be performed by the robot.
Let’s see the most common basic types of end effectors that we can find:
Grippers: they have the equivalent of the fingers of a person’s hand plus the opposite thumb. It is one of the most common since they allow the manipulation of objects to pick them up and place them in a specific place, as well as to assemble parts.
They can have from 2 to 5 fingers; there are also suction, magnetic, humanoid or tentacle-shaped grippers.
Mechanical tools: they have the ability to modify objects to improve their shapes and specific finishes.
Examples of these tools are: drills, cutting wheels, robotic measuring systems and sanders.
Measuring instruments: allow the robot to measure objects by measuring the length of their surface.
Laser or water cutters: either high-intensity laser beams or high-pressure water jets can cut metal sheets and fiberglass parts with precision, respectively.
Welders: these are intended to join separate parts into one; they are commonly used in the automotive industry.
Spray painting and adhesive tools: it is very common to see these tools in the automotive industry.
Sorting tools: these have an auxiliary function that helps the robot to be more useful and efficient in its tasks. They are installed at the end of the robot, between the wrist and the terminal element with the purpose of allowing the robot to interchange between different end effetors.
How to choose the ideal end effector for our task or project?
Once we know what specific task our robot is going to perform, we must take into account the following 4 steps:
– Determine the actions your robot needs to perform.
– Make a list of the types of end effectors that could help your robot to accomplish its task.
– Take into account their difficulty of use and cost.
– Choose the end effector that suits your project.
The end effectors are indispensable tools in the world of robotics, they give robots the ability to perform various types of tasks accurately, efficiently and repetitively, allowing them to pick up a simple object to modify it, cut it or merge its various elements.
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An Introduction to robotics. Dr. Bob Williams. Mechanical Engineering, Ohio University. EE/ME 4290/5290 Mechanics and Control of Robotic Manipulators © 2021 Dr. Bob Productions.