Cobot End-of-Arm Tooling Advances

With its new ClickSmart series, Rethink Robotics seeks to simplify the process of changing collaborative robotic tooling.

It’s easy to get transfixed by the capabilities of collaborative robots—often referred to as cobots—that have burst onto the industrial scene over the past few years. As flexible as these robots are, the business end of any robot remains at the end of the robot arm. That’s where everything from vacuum cups to grippers to welding tools enable the robot to perform its tasks.

The ability to quickly and easily change the various end-of-arm tooling options on a robot is a critical factor. That goes for cobots as much as it does for the industrial robot types with which most of us are more familiar. In fact, because of the more flexible duties often required of cobots, it could be argued that quick and easy end-of-arm tooling changes are more critical for cobots.

To address this issue, Rethink Robotics has developed the ClickSmart series of end-of-arm tooling that incorporates smart sensing and rapid swapping capabilities.

TheClickSmart series capabilities are enabled by the ClickSmart Plate, which Rethink Robotics describes as “an intelligent toolplate that lets users swap end effectors in seconds, by hand and without any tools.” Embedded sensors in the five new gripper kits are said to permit intelligent grasping and smarter part handling on Rethink Robotics'Sawyer robot.

The embedded memory module in the ClickSmart Plate stores the configuration of the attached end effector. This module reportedly enables the ClickSmart Plate to recognize the type of end effector attached and how to control it, with no programming needed.The actuators and sensors in the ClickSmart series gripper kits can be accessed through Rethink Robotics' Intera 5 software platform.

The ClickSmart series of gripper kits include the following options:

  • Large pneumatic—for gripping large parts as well as different sized parts. The kit includes one parallel pneumatic gripper, two sensors for open/close gripping states and air regulators for grip speed control.
  • Small pneumatic—for applications where swap time is important, such as with CNC machine tending, testing and PCB handling. The kit includes two pneumatics grippers and an aluminum extrusion, two sensors for open/closed gripping states and air regulators for grip speed control.
  • Large vacuum—for applications where large and/or multiple parts need to be picked at the same time. This kit includes an assembly for up to four G ¼ thread vacuum cups, a vacuum generator with silencer and analog vacuum sensor for intelligent behaviors.
  • Small vacuum—for applications where the pick surface may be small and the swap time is important. Includes an assembly for eight M5 thread vacuum cups, a vacuum generator with silencer and analog vacuum sensor for intelligent behaviors.
  • Vacuum foam—for applications where different sized parts need to be picked or where surfaces are uneven. The foam gripper is 80mm in diameter; only 80 percent of cavities need to be covered for gripper to function.

Explaining industry’s need for the type of end-of-arm tooling change varieties provided by the ClickSmart series, Scott Eckert, president and CEO of Rethink Robotics, says customizing an end effector can be a significant pain point for industrial robot users, as it requires specialized expertise in mechanical design, signal configuration and task flows that many manufacturers don't have on staff.

"The ClickSmart family of gripper kits will allow our customers to deploy robots faster, more intelligently, in more tasks and applications and without any time-consuming customization," says Eckert.

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