Cobots and finish effectors as an economical, versatile answer for the fashionable manufacturing unit

Collaborative robots (cobots) are on everyone's lips as they are becoming increasingly popular. SMC Corporation, a world leader in automation, has embraced this trend and manufactures components that complement these applications.

From SMC Corporation Australia New Zealand (ANZ) OEM & Key Account Manager Mikael Sandell.

Exchange of expertise and insights between cobot manufacturers and end effectors (suppliers want to improve flexibility, versatility and productivity in today's modern manufacturing environment.

Today everything revolves around efficient and high-quality production without errors. At the same time, manufacturers are considering new ways to ensure social distancing and address challenges related to shortened supply chains, stop manufacturing and reshoring.

Why cobots?

The collaborative robot market is expected to see robust and exponential growth in the coming years. A report from Interact Analysis predicts the collaborative robot market will be valued at $ 7.5 billion by 2027. This would represent approximately 29% of the global industrial robot market.

The economic advantages of cobots are particularly attractive. According to some estimates, the payback period for a typical cobot is between one and two years and, in the experience of some of our customers, can be up to six months.

End effectors – a question of symbiosis

End effectors, primarily in the form of grippers, allow the business end of the cobot to handle and manipulate parts of a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials.

The flexibility to adapt a cobot to many different applications is a great advantage. For example, a cobot used to screw screws on an assembly line can easily be fitted with a different end effector and used in a pick and place application.

It is recommended that machine builders or integrators communicate closely with their customers to ensure the union's success. Choosing the right end tool is critical to the success of the application. The size and weight optimization must also be taken into account here, since the weight of the end effector influences the total payload.

On this basis, SMC works closely with its customers to ensure maximum gripping force and maximum flow with minimum dimensions and weights.

Choosing the right end effector

First, define the task, including the part or parts to be treated (shape, weight, material).

The following questions should be considered: are they all the same or is there a mix? What is the required cycle time? Do you need precision? What about violence? Does it have to be adjusted?

SMC offers the following solutions:

Pneumatic grippers are well suited for general pick-and-place applications. Air powered solutions, by definition, offer higher force, speed, and operating frequency. If none of these parameters need to be controlled or precise, a pneumatic gripper is the best solution.

Vacuum gripper are usually in the form of suction cups. Holding suction is usually recommended for moving and transferring delicate or weak workpieces. They are available in many unusual shapes and are made from a variety of high quality materials such as silicone, NBR, urethane, and fluorine, or those that meet FDA standards.

Electric grippers – If there is a need to control position, force or speed, you need to choose electric grippers. For example, they enable partial closing and opening. This is extremely helpful in some processes as it does not affect the cycle time. By controlling grip strength and speed, they are ideal for handling sensitive parts such as printed circuit boards (PCB) or when the process involves handling different parts.

Magnetic gripper – For applications in which suction cups and grippers do not work optimally due to uneven or porous surfaces, magnetic gripping is the answer. With a holding force of up to 120 N, it is a versatile solution with a wide variety of applications for handling ferrous metals.

SMC offers all of these gripping technologies and develops plug-and-play grippers and gripper systems for all cobot and robot suppliers. They are based on energy efficiency and performance, with an emphasis on optimizing size and weight. The consideration of weight, overall dimensions and ergonomics supports the movements of the machine wrist and prevents its performance from being restricted.

However, if SMC can really make a difference, we can combine a 360 degree approach to automation requirements such as electrical solutions that support cobot mobility with technical support to customize automation solutions that adapt perfectly to production processes and ensure optimal flexibility.

A groundbreaking technology for the cobot market is the use of wireless technology (EX600-W from SMC) to control pneumatic, digital and analog signals. This reduces or eliminates cabling, especially in mobile device applications where problems such as broken wires arise. This can lead to major machine failures and lead to downtime or lost production.

The alliance between cobot and end effector realizes the flexibility that industry and end users demand today. World Robotics 2020 new report on industrial robots released in September 2020 said collaborative robots saw an 11% increase. Of course, the cobot market is in the early stages of adoption, but SMC is very excited to be part of this thriving and exciting industry.

Adapted by Andrea Trifone, cobot project manager at SMC Corporation Italy Cobot.

SMC components on cobots – in action!

Additional references:

About SMC

SMC was founded 60 years ago and operates in 83 countries. The company employs 19,000 people worldwide. The company has a research and development team of 1,450 and 8,200 sales people who are experts in their fields and who work closely with SMC's customers. In order to provide automation solutions for its diverse customer base, SMC offers more than 12,000 basic products with over 700,000 variations. SMC is the world's leading pneumatics supplier and has been voted one of the world's most innovative companies by leading business magazine Forbes for three consecutive years. FORBES Global 2000 is listed as one of the world's largest listed companies.


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