Considerations When Selecting a Gripper for Your Application | Automation Insights
Hello, everybody - my name is Darren Greene. I'm the Director of Marketing Communications for Destaco. I will be your moderator today for today's topic which will be “gripping options available today and things to consider when selecting a gripper for your application.” I'd like to let everybody know that this is a pre-recorded session, but we do have experts available to chat with you right now to answer any questions you may have during the conversations or even after. Let me first introduce our panelist Gary Labadie, the Global Product Director of Automation for Destaco. Jason Dove, East Coast Sales Manager for Destaco. Scott Sickles, Automation Products and Value-added Sales Manager for Controlled Motion Solutions. And Raymond Baker, Automation Applications Specialist for Controlled Motion Solutions.
So guys - manufacturers today are continuing to look for ways to automate their processes we. We see a large increase in the number of industrial robots being used. It has pretty much nearly doubled in the last five years. There are over three million robots in use today, and this trend looks to continue over the next five years, with growth of about 10% annually. So I know grippers play a big role in automation and robotics and I wanted to get your guys’ take on how grippers are utilized in the market today. So let's start-off and talk about the different types of grippers out there and some of the things that people should look at when they're looking for grippers for their application. So is there anybody who would like to talk about the different types of grippers?
I'll take the lead on it. So to start with, there's several different types of grippers. The first is, you have a two jaw gripper or three jaw gripper, and with inside that, within the two jaw gripper arena, typically, you're going to have either an angular or a parallel style gripper. So with inside that, in using those grippers, there's several different ways to actually use a gripper - where you're going to pick something up, you're going to grip on the outside of the part or you're going to pick-up on the inside. So you can either do an OD grip or an ID grip, so with inside that - when you're looking the different types of grips, when you're looking at this, you want to distinguish on which type of grip you want to do. So there's typically about three different types of grips that most people use. The first one is a friction grip, so typically when you're grabbing the part, you're squeezing it with the gripper and you're pretty much using just the coefficient of friction for the gripper to actually keep the part inside the fingers.
Next - you're going to have more like a cradle-style grip, so this is whenever you have the profile of the part, and your grippers are kind of matching that profile. Next is going to be what we call an “encapsulation style grip” where you're basically going all the way around. If you've got a part, you're going all the way around and you're totally encapsulating it. So whenever you're picking this type of grip, whichever pick you're going with, typically when you're looking at a friction grip, you can go with a shorter stroke because you really just need the clearance to get around the part. When you're doing a cradle, typically, you're needing a little bit more stroke for your gripper then when you're doing a full encapsulation style grip. You need to have a much larger gripper because you're going to be going all the way around the part. Okay - is there any other kind of consideration people need to think about as they look at grippers? I think overall, what Jason clarified was the type of gripper, but then there's the features within the gripper.
So the customer or the user should really think about fail-safe operations. What happens if you lose air pressure? Do you want spring-closed, spring-open? What type of operating pressure you're going to work in in that environment? But there's a lot of different features. Whether you need an injector plate to eject the part to speed things up, there's all kinds of different grippers to fill any type of application. Okay, Ray or Scott - you guys have anything else? Well, yeah - I just want to add that a big part of the selection of grippers for customers, whether they're equipment manufacturers or they’re users just developing a pick-and-place system, or something like this in their own factory, is you know the overall budget. I'm not speaking just to the cost of the gripper itself right up-front - but looking over time.
What is your application? What is the frequency that the gripper is moving and gripping and placing other items? Is it very infrequent? On a very fast production line, or is it just occasional? And you want to be able to select, or use, that as a consideration. Selecting your gripper to ensure that you've got the proper gripper for the application that's going to last the longest over a period of time and give you the most ROI. Yeah - and to your point too, and to everybodys’, is one of the things that Destaco has uniquely is a direct connect system where we know what gripper can go with either another gripper, slide, or a rotary unit. So that’s when Scott mentions the cost of, not just that gripper itself, but of the application. Now you're able to take things out, where you've got transition plates or other pass-throughs, or such, as that’s where with the direct connect system - you can take those grippers, slides, and rotary units and direct connect them together, where all those mounting holes will mount up with each other.
And then of course, myself and Scott, we are at the distributor level, where we are experts within controlled motion for Destaco and Robohand parts so we can help go out there and, instead of you guys trying to find out which gripper will pick something up, that's all you got to do. There's a lot more that goes into it, so we can help you look at that kind of things and eliminate mistakes where you're going to order two or three grippers that don't work before you get to the right one. We can help you get the right one and save some money. Yeah - you guys are talking about that. On-top of that, we talk about grippers, and if you look at a portfolio, regardless of who's offering the grippers, there is a vast variety and they all perform the exact same function. They could have the same stroke. They could have the same grip.
What makes them different? A lot of that would be the environment that they could be going into - such as your high vibration, high impact environment. So you want a heavy duty gripper that can withstand an impact, or it's going into an environment where there's sandblasting or weld sludge splattering around. You want a gripper that's protected or sealed from that, but what customers got to think about is the actuator that I'm using, is it going to a contaminated environment that it's working in - such as consumer goods electronics or pharmaceuticals or is the chemicals they're using caustic to the actuator itself? The gripper work dissolves the grease or it ruins the steels that makes the gripper operate, so customers need to take that into consideration. We have grippers to suit any application, whether it's a super clean environment or it's a super dirty environment.
It's immersed. It's hard to figure-it out unless you talk to experts in that field. What about with all these different options out there, the different variables that people have to consider as they look at their application? Are there any tools out there, any things, that they can use to get at-least an idea of what would work best? Well for me, the best advice is contact your local distributor and then go from there or work with our app engineers, but Destaco, in and of itself - has developed a robo-sizer type program which allows a customer to get a selection of grippers that match their application. So if the customer spends less time focusing on the gripper, and focuses more on what am I trying to do, what is my environment, what are the impact forces going on, how fast do I need to move?
I can use a piece of software that will tell me what set of grippers are compatible with that environment. Not to mention Darren, there's a lot of us that are here locally in North America or the United States. I know Jason is on the east coast. Gary is in the middle of America. Also we're on the west coast. We've got all of the engineering and expertise right here, where a lot of the other competitors may not have the sizing program that Destaco has or that Robohand has, and that’s all of their engineering expertise. And for extra things, like you are maybe in Europe or in Japan, so the fact that you've got all of those tools right at your fingertips, but you've also got expertise even beyond that within a time zone or two - that's a big difference for customers. Okay - so you guys talked about how these grippers really can be used in many different environments, many different applications.
Do you have any examples of applications that we see grippers being used in? Well, so one big event in 2020 that opened the eyes to a lot of manufacturers, is the rift where they're at with respect to when labor shortages occur or machines go down. So robots have begun to proliferate all the markets out there-in terms of the standard machine shop, standard manufacturing, but also think about your franchisees - fast food, sporting events. Anywhere that there's high volume activity going on, so today your pizza could be made by a robot. Your french fries, made by a robot. And the small machine shops are using them for load, unload so that they can maintain maximum uptime and keep their costs under control.
Plus - I'm sure these other guys have other examples. Yeah, ones that we do for other industries and applications. As far as anything medical, the nice thing about being located in Southern California is we've got a melting pot of applications - whether it be medical or food and packaging or beverage packaging, or what have you. And these grippers are really utilized in almost everything, from like what Gary has mentioned. Your pizza might be baking, but you have solar panels in your backyard. You have a Tesla battery pack in your garage. Those are all being put together by robots and by grippers, so all that kind of stuff, you may not see it, or you may not notice it, you may not even really think about it, but all that stuff is put together by robots - and they've got to pick-and-place everything. So that's usually how it's utilized and used. It's hard to come up with an industry or an application that doesn't use it in the sense. You mentioned Tesla using it for batteries and solar.
Is there any type of examples of an unusual application that you've seen it being used in, something that you'd be like “wow, that's something I never even thought about using it.” Yeah - actually it's funny. I had an application one time where I had a customer, where it was in a nuclear application where they were actually picking up the nuclear reactor rods and they were actually inserting them into the reactor itself. What was really unique about this is that it was a one and done application, but the gripper definitely had to grip this thing but also the gripper had to go like 40 feet underwater. So our gripper had to not just be able to hold that part and hold the nuclear rod as it was being inserted, but it had to withstand the pressure of being 40 feet underwater, so that was really kind of a neat application. I never really thought about actually using the gripper, but again, it was a one and done when they used it.
It was done but it had to work. Keep in-mind, more and more robots are being used in operating rooms which of course have grippers that hold the different devices, utensils, lasers, and things - such as that. So that's a relatively unique application that has just come about in the last decade or so, but now I don't think there's a hospital that does surgery that doesn't have a robot in their emergency room. Yeah - one of those applications that we've always fulfilled is picking up a needle. So you think about how small a needle is, and how accurate or precise the gripper has to be to be able to repeatedly pick-up a needle. If it's off by a thousandth, it will drop that needle, but our solutions, and they have to be a custom one, picks it up every time - and it's been a long running application for us.
You mentioned you brought that to Mexico. My next question is, there's a lot of products that you guys have off the shelf, and everything else. What happens if a product doesn't, they can't just take a product off the shelf? What about custom products or custom solutions? Is that something that's done in the industry? Yeah - that's definitely something that we do, and I'll tell you what - we love customs. We can do anything from taking a gripper, where we may just be moving the forks on the backside of the gripper. We may be changing the mounting plates. We may be taking a standard gripper and doing a whole bunch of customization to what the customer needs, by maybe putting stainless steel parts on it - making the whole gripper out of stainless steel or a totally different material. So again, we love specials. We have that. We have a whole team of engineers that basically will work directly with you the customer.
And they can hear what you have, and again, they can recommend a certain product. If they don't have what you need exactly, they can specialize one of our current grippers. Or again, we can look at how special we want to go. Is that unique for Destaco? It means other companies offer that same kind of thing, or is that something that you'd say sets us apart? Oh, definitely – Robohand being an American manufacturer with everything built and designed in Tennessee, has a leg-up on most of the other manufacturers who are either manufactured in Asia or Europe. So I think Robohand has the unique position to be able to respond to specials very quickly, produce prototypes for OEM applications, or whatnot - much faster, much quicker turn-around and response time than the competitors.
And that's point. I'm just going to say, look, we are distributors as well, but we are experts. Destaco is worldwide as well. So we can go out there and look at it, look at that application, get involved with the customers early on in a design phase. So that way, if we know there is something special that's needed, not only do we know that, we can get that done. We know what kind of questions to ask and what we need to go forward to get that special on. Alot of the customers don't know really what they're looking for in that special until we offer-up the different items and offer up the different options. You can go on that gripper to make that gripper specific to that application, so in that sense, the experts that are out here to help - that we want to help, that is the best. That's the first kind of defense that I can think of. Yeah - the other one is from a manufacturer of those Robohand products, is the insight that we can bring to the customer.
There's a better way to do it. Maybe they have an idea, but we can look at it and say, “there's a better way to do it, at a better cost and higher performance.” So we bring that to the table. Right - our field representatives take care of that. If you have the backing of the whole company behind them, then we can provide those insights and then we can develop it for them. So a customer or a developer chooses our products or uses a gripper in the market, on their application - what kind of things can they do? What things can be done after an installation that they can use to extend the life of those products? Yeah, with respect to everything that we sell, everything has a seal kit that they can buy that will refurbish the gripper, and they can do that themselves on-site.
They don't have to send it back to Destaco. But if they do it, they must actually go back and tear it down completely, recondition it. We can do that here in Tennessee. Make it as new. One thing that we do is, with the grippers we sell, the specs that are out there are guaranteed to three million cycles on most of the products, if not more. So it's not like running for a thousand cycles or 500. The published specs are guaranteed to 3 million, typically, on most products - or higher. One of the things that is, to me, is unique as well - the support that we're able to give at a distribution level. But within certain areas, we can stock things for certain customers. We've been very successful doing that, so we can talk like what Gary is mentioning. Seal kits for certain grippers; however, if you have that gripper that you know it's ready for three million cycles, but every three months or so I got to take that thing off and rebuild it or what have you. Again, having that expertise right there locally in your area, it may not be a direct Destaco manufacturer, but one of us who's an expert can go out and re-evaluate the application.
Maybe re-evaluate how the gripper is being moved, that kind of thing. Is the pneumatic system okay for that said gripper, and help out in that area so that we can make sure that “yes” we're going to have repair parts for you, but are you using that the correct way? Are you giving up the correct information or the correct area that it needs to do that, and if not, we can help correct that going backwards from the gripper. And I think also, adding to that, speaking of our distributors - we've got a huge network of distributors across the United States that stock an incredible amount, a large amount of our products. So these guys have the stuff ready to go. It's available for you, and again, you know they can help you pick which gripper you want.
Just because you have a part, that you know a certain size, doesn't mean you have to have a stroke, a gripper with a stroke, that long. They can help you optimize which gripper, which style of gripper to use - which gripper to go with. So utilize these guys because, again, they have the knowledge, they have the expertise. Also with us, on our website, we talked about robo-sizer earlier. We have that on our website, so this is an incredible tool for the customers to go on our website and leave that data and then, very quickly, they can come-out with a gripper that's selected for you, for their application. At the end of the day, you have the generations that like to talk to people, call people - and then there's the group that grew up on the internet and lived 24/7 pulling things off of Google or whatever else they're using.
So just take what's trying to address both, so data is available in-terms of product, to the CAD downloads, to your 2D drawing, to your maintenance documents - just your preference. Being in the industry for quite some time, I would strongly urge you to call an expert. It'll save you money. Okay - you guys have given some really good insights and provided some knowledge that I think our listeners and our viewers, hopefully, can take back and think about as they look to select the right gripper for their applications. I'd like to ask our viewers, if you do have any additional questions, please again, to continue to ask them in our chat. You also can navigate over to the gripper area of this event and talk live either on video, or through audio, or even text chat with some of our experts - and of course always visit destac.com for the latest information about our products.
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