Carbon Fibre Gripper Systems Developed for Improved Automation

23 September 2005

SAS Automation of Ohio USA, developer of light weight Robotic-End-of-Arm-Tooling for handling plastic moulded parts, has introduced a new line of robotic gripper fingers with lighter weight carbon fibre bodies.

The company have designed the grippers using carbon fibre to make the overall workpiece gripper as lightweight as possible so that maximum speed and lowest automation cost can be achieved.

Gripper weight impacts on the speed and accelerations of robot and other automation systems. It also determines, along with the workpiece weight, the required load capacity of the robot. So the lighter the gripper the faster the process, plus lower cost, smaller capacity robots can often be employed for a given task.

Robot grippers used in automotive body shops can be huge, sometimes carrying complete body side assemblies and Tunkers Maschinenbau of Germany is at the forefront of gripper technology development for this industry.

Traditional body shop grippers are manufactured from steel or aluminium, either rigid structures or of modular construction with the most common type being a modular system of aluminium tubes connected by aluminium joints to provide a flexible but rigid structure.

In one product comparison, the carbon fibre unit was 41% lighter than the aluminium unit and meant that a smaller capacity robot could be utilised at much lower capital investment.

Reducing the weight of robot grippers also reduces robot wear and tear in applications for handling moulded plastic parts where an extremely light weight gripper is needed. Typically these grippers are mounted onto robots or dedicated un-loaders which service injection moulding machines.

The SAS gripper system comprises extruded alloy profiles in seven sizes which are secured by a standard range of connectors and clamps to provide the basic gripper frame. To this frame a selection of mountings are available to secure grippers, vacuum cups, sprue pliers and sensors etc. Further elements such as air nippers and static eliminators can also be incorporated to perform additional functions during the handling process, making the gripper a working tool.

Since the introduction of lighter weight carbon fibre gripper arms, SAS has incorporated this technology into its standard pneumatic finger gripper components. The strength of components is actually increased and now the complete range of standard gripper fingers is available with carbon fibre bodies.

The company add that a huge benefit of the modular gripper systems using standard parts is that the components can be re-used when new or re-designed workpieces are introduced. This means that grippers can be quickly re-built and costs are significantly reduced over the lifetime of the systems.

The SAS grippers are distributed by Romheld Australia who are a specialist distributor of workholding equipment, automation systems and machine tool accessories.

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