Human Collaboration a Focus for New Grippers Across Industry
Isaac Maw posted on June 22, 2018 |

Automatica is in in full swing in Munich this week, and we’re seeing a ton of new product releases, especially from robotics accessories companies Robotiq and OnRobot.

Robotiq has launched Hand-E, which is reportedly the first electric gripper ready for the new generation of Universal Robots, the e-SERIES. (For an in-depth analysis of the technical specifications of the new e-SERIES robots, check out this article.) OnRobot has announced new collaborative grippers and force/torque sensor upgrades.

Robotiq’s New Electric Gripper: Hand-E

Courtesy of Robotiq

Courtesy of Robotiq

Hand-E is, according to Robotiq, the first electric gripper ready for the e-SERIES, the new generation of Universal Robots. Hand-E features high accuracy and 50 mm parallel stroke for precision assembly tasks. The gripper has two fingers and has a sealed design.

Along with the 2F-85 and 2F-140, Hand-E completes Robotiq’s line of Adaptive Gripper products, all of which connect to the e-SERIES wrist. They all operate with the same programming software, which gives the user full control over the gripper’s position, force, and speed. Hand-E integrates with the Robotiq Wrist Camera and FT 300 Force Torque Sensor, unlocking many industrial applications.  

“Hand-E is the result of Robotiq’s decade of experience in grippers for collaborative robots,” explains Jean-Philippe Jobin, CTO and co-founder of Robotiq. “We engineered a product that simplifies collaborative robot applications for factories, so they can start production faster. Hand-E comes with three different fingertip kits, so automation engineers can easily integrate the gripper. Its compact and ergonomic shape makes collaborative robot hand-guiding safe and easy.”

The product’s technical details are available here.

New Collaborative Grippers from OnRobot

Left to right: Gecko Gripper, Polyskin Tactile Gripper, RG2-FT (Courtesy of OnRobot
Left to right: Gecko Gripper, Polyskin Tactile Gripper, RG2-FT (Courtesy of OnRobot)

Automatica is a big show for OnRobot, and even more so in 2018, as this is the company’s first new product presentation since the merger between OnRobot, Optoforce and Perception Robotics. The three end-of-arm tooling companies announced the merger in early June 2018. The three entities will continue their individual operations and development. The new OnRobot, led by former Universal Robots CEO Enrico Krog Iversen, will be headquartered in Denmark. According to Iversen, the company is betting on the rise of collaborative technology in the competitive robotics market.

The aim is to build a world-leading organization in development and production of end-of-arm tooling,” Iversen said. “Through further acquisitions and collaborations, we expect to reach a revenue exceeding one hundred million dollars in a few years. Safe, cost-effective and versatile cobots are becoming increasingly common because they offer sophisticated and intuitive programming that enables them to be easily deployed and redeployed. Easy-to-integrate end-of-arm tooling, such as grippers and sensors, become vital elements in adapting these powerful automation tools for a wide range of applications.”

"Collaborative robots have the potential to become the comprehensive standard in industrial automation," says Iversen. "We want to unleash this potential by making collaborative applications even easier to implement and to carry them into completely new applications - that is the idea behind all our new products that we are presenting here at automatica."

OnRobot Gecko Gripper: Vacuum-like Gripping with No Air

The Gecko Gripper, developed by Perception Robotics, was inspired by nature and uses the same adhesive system for gripping as the feet of a gecko, with millions of fine fibers that adhere to the surface of the workpiece and generate strong van der Waals forces. For the Gecko Gripper technology, OnRobot licensed a concept originally developed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

How the Gecko Gripper Works

According to the NASA research report on the original gecko gripper experiment, which can be found here, “Gecko adhesives use microscopic angled hairs to stick to surfaces using van der Waals forces. Adhesion can be turned ON and OFF based on a slight sliding motion due to the geometry of the microstructure. The adhesives are reusable for thousands of cycles without losing their effectiveness, and do not damage the surface, leave a residue, or produce fibers and particles as pressure sensitive adhesives, glues, and Velcro do.”

The gecko gripper was originally designed to provide an alternative to pneumatic gripper technology in space. It was proposed, for example, as a possible method of grappling large pieces of orbital debris.

According to OnRobot, their Gecko Gripper is a solution for handling large, flat objects. In contrast to vacuum grippers, the Gecko Gripper can also handle perforated or porous workpieces such as printed circuit boards without any problems. The gripper is compatible with Universal Robots and Kawasaki robotic arms. The high degree of innovation has led to the system being among the three finalists of this year's renowned IERA Award for innovation and entrepreneurship, which will be awarded at Automatica. Another of the top 3 finalists is KUKA Deutschland GmbH for the LBR Med, which is ostensibly a modified LBR iiwa for medical applications. I wrote an article about the LBR Med’s certification journey, which you can read here. The other finalist is Lely International for their Discovery 120 Collector, a robot designed for cleaning manure off solid barn floors.

Sensitive Gripping: Polyskin Tactile Gripper

The Polyskin Tactile Gripper also comes from Perception Robotics, which is now part of OnRobot. The solution specializes in sensitive gripping: Both fingers can be individually aligned and have integrated tactile sensors at the fingertips. This allows the gripper to precisely measure the condition of the surface of workpieces and align its gripping processes accordingly. These properties aim to improve tactile handling of sensitive or irregular workpieces. The Polyskin Tactile Gripper is also compatible with Universal Robots and Kawasaki.

Gripper with Integrated Sensors for Precision Tasks: RG2-FT

OnRobot is launching a variation of its established RG2 gripper, the RG2-FT with integrated force-torque sensors and a proximity sensor, which detects the condition of objects. The gripper detects the danger of objects slipping off before it happens, making handling safer – for workers as well as for the workpiece. This gripper model is suitable for use in precision assembly and is compatible with lightweight robots from Universal Robots and KUKA.

For more robotics news, follow me on twitter @engcom_automate.

Recommended For You