How different grippers can help with your palletization needs
- What is a gripper? A gripper is an end effector that’s designed to grasp items. They can be used to hold items still or pick them up and move them as part of the palletizing process.
- How do grippers help with palletizing? The right gripper will allow you to pack and palletize goods more efficiently, reducing the manual strain on your workers and streamlining the palletizing process.
There are lots of different ways to use a cobot for palletizing in your business. And one of the simplest ways to customize your palletizing is to choose a gripper that is designed for a specific function. Whether you’re moving bulky goods, delicate items or hazardous substances, there’s a palletizing gripper out there for almost every operation.
What is a gripper?
A gripper is one of the most common end effectors used in conjunction with a collaborative robot, or cobot arm. As the name suggests, it gives a cobot the ability to grip items and move them from place to place. Grippers can also be used to hold items steady for manufacturing, packing or palletizing.
Why are grippers important to palletizing?
The right palletizing robot gripper is one of the most important pieces of hardware. Second only to the palletizing robot arms, which are the central part of any cobot, these end effectors (also known as end of arm tooling) give a collaborative robot the ability to pick up items in a certain way.
Typically, a cobot equipped with the right gripper can carry out a palletizing task more efficiently, with more predictable force or more quickly than a human. Using a gripper for palletizing will also take a very tedious task off your people’s to-do lists, allowing them to focus on more fulfilling activities.
What types of grippers are there?
There are a number of different categories of grippers. Each type is suited to different jobs, but most have an important role to play in the palletizing process.
If you’re moving metal items, a magnetic gripper allows you to quickly grab multiple products or components and place them into boxes or containers for palletizing. Most have variable field output (VFO), allowing you to dial the magnet’s strength up or down based on the items you’re moving. These grippers are also useful for picking and packing tasks with metal objects, which could otherwise be incredibly laborious and time-consuming.
Rather than having to pick up something like a screw or bolt by hand, a magnetic gripper can pick up potentially hundreds of items in one go, saving time and the stress for your workers.
Vacuum grippers are a versatile option for a broad range of palletizing operations. Most are adjustable, allowing you to dial the suction up or down based on the size, shape and weight of the items you’re moving. Vacuum grippers allow you to easily move unusually shaped items that would be tricky for a gripper with “jaws” to grab. You can also move multiple items at once, as long as they’re within your chosen cobot’s payload range.
Lightweight pneumatic grippers use compressed air to control “jaws” or “fingers” – a pincer-like tool that can grab and hold items with great precision. It’s a great option if you’re moving minute items around or are completing another task related to palletizing, such as stacking flat or small objects.
A fork gripper plays an important role in the palletizing process. It’s designed to clamp and hold open bags for products such as paper, maintaining complete alignment throughout so the products are packed correctly. Once this is complete, the items can be moved to a pallet for transportation.
Fork grippers can also help with depalletization as they will hold a box or bag steady while the goods inside are unloaded. While fork grippers are more commonly used with heavy-duty industrial robots, they can also be used with a cobot during the palletizing process.
Some tasks in the palletizing process require a more careful approach. The right gripper allows you to pick small products for palletizing or handle items that need a gentler touch. If you’re working with particularly delicate items and need a gripper that can handle them with an appropriately light touch, “soft grippers” can do just that. For example, qb’s SoftHand Industry gripper uses an anthropomorphic design that allows it to handle delicate products and interact with humans with minimal risk of damage or injury.
There are other grippers designed for delicate or precise tasks in different designs, from pincer-style tools to silicon-molded cups. No matter what you choose, you’ll have complete confidence that your cobot is able to handle even the most delicate items without leaving a single mark behind.
How do I choose the right gripper?
The “right” gripper will depend entirely on your business’s needs and the role your cobot will play within your manufacturing or packaging line. If your cobot will be stacking items onto pallets, a gripper that’s designed to handle multiple items at once will be the best option. If you’re going to utilize your cobot a little earlier to support the palletizing process, a more precise gripper is best.
Are there accessories to help me get more out of my cobot?
As palletizing can be a heavy task, you can boost the capabilities of your robotic arm by adding a component that increases the payloads it can handle. A cobot lift, for example, can boost your cobot’s payload to 20kg, allowing you to move more items or heavier goods without investing in a bulky industrial robot.
If you’d like to find out more about how cobots can help improve your business’s palletizing process, get in touch with one of our robotics experts today.