Are you aware of end effectors, types, and functions?

In robotics end effectors play a very crucial role. An end effector is a tool or a device attached to a robotic hand to perform an assigned task. It may be fixed or replaceable depending on its uses.

What are end effectors?

In robotics end effectors play a very crucial role. An end effector is a tool or a device attached to a robotic hand to perform an assigned task. It may be fixed or replaceable depending on its programming and functions. In fact, it is attached to the wrist of a robotic hand.

An end effector is an indispensable part of a robot designed to interact with the environment. Most common robots have grippers as the most functional end effectors, allowing the machine to pick up and place objects.

Types of end effectors:

Most of the end effectors are mechanical or electromechanical and used in industrial sectors for use as grippers, process tools, or sensors.

End effectors Grippers:

A gripper is a mechanical, or electromechanical End of Arm Tooling(EOAT) device that can manipulate an object. For different specific purposes, grippers are designed and programmed. such as;

Mechanical Gripper:

The mechanical gripper needs either a hydraulic, electrical, or pneumatic drive system to drive the gripper fingers. Such grippers may be the following types:

  • Parallel motion two jaw/three jaw gripper.
  • Bellow gripper.
  • O-Ring gripper.
  • Needle gripper.
  • Multi-finger and adaptive gripper.
Vacuum Gripper:

In a vacuum gripper, a vacuum is created by a miniature electrical pump or compressed air-driven pump, which ensures a cobot holds the object firmly. The vacuum source may be an internal vacuum generator type. In some cases, it may be an external blower type.

One vacuum gripper can be used for different size workpieces for good output. The vacuum may be of different types such as:

  • Mini type.
  • Heavy load type.
  • Light load type.
  • Oval type.
  • Vacuum generator type.
  • Blower type.
  • Combine type.
Bernoulli Gripper:

Bernoulli gripper is a pneumatic manipulator that siphons or seizes objects without physical contact. The gripper uses the Bernoulli principle where the gripper exploits a positive airflow to generate a pressure decrease between the gripper and the product. Such gripper is being widely utilized in automated production segments.

Electric Gripper:

The electric gripper is an advanced and accurate gripping system using an electric motor to control the gripper’s fingers. Such types of grippers are familiar for many cobot applications, which include machine tending and pick & place.

Image of three-finger electric gripper/Image credit/ Association for Advancing Automation
Capillary Gripper;

The capillary gripper works on capillary forces. In the system, the capillary forces can be adjusted between a maximum Fmax and a minimum Fmin enabling a component with any mass m between Fmax/g and Fmin/g can be picked up and released. Such types of grippers are feasible as well as reliable for handling sub-millimetric-sized objects. It provides a suitable alternative to existing gripping principles i.e vacuum gripper.

Freeze Gripper:

The freeze gripper adopts the liquid medium to perform without touching the substance. So far the working principle is concerned, an ice droplet is produced adjacent to the small part of the thing for its positioning. In the next step, the ice droplet is defrosted and mixed with the aqueous medium and the thing is released without the interference of capillary force.

Ultrasonic Gripper:

The ultrasonic gripper allows the robot to hold the object without touching it. It adopts ultrasonic sound waves to suspend an object in midair, which is done with a battery of tiny speakers. The speakers emit sound in a very carefully controlled manner and the wave frequencies can hold an object up. If the sound waves created pressure coming from multiple directions it can hold it in place or can move as per the sound waves.

Magnetic Grippers:

Magnetic gripper use magnetized surfaces to grab metal items. It had no fingers or jaw but one smooth magnetic surface for action. In assembling automotive parts such types of grippers are helpful. Magnetic grippers use either electromagnets, which need DC power, or permanent magnets which don’t need any power to operate. Such grippers can perform a wide range of tasks in the workplace.

Image of a magnetic gripper/ Image credit/Samsys Gmbh

End effectors sensors:

In the present scenario multi-sensor integrated robot end effectors are being used in the assembly line. The sensors pave the robots to get the right path for inspection. Sensors are used to detect changes in pressure, force, temperature, barcode reading, color identification, or other process conditions. Many types of sensors like ultrasonic sensors, vision sensors/cameras, proximity sensors, anti-collision sensors, and force sensors for different purposes like vision guidance, inspection, verification, etc.

robotic end effectors-part inspection sensor.
A robot with a part inspection sensor/ image credit

End effectors Process:

End effectors Process are tools used in specific manufacturing processes, which include;

  • Brushes: Brushes used to clean the required space/items.
  • Cutting tools: For cutting different metal sheets, plastics, leather, etc.
  • Drill or cutting tools: The drill or cutting tools is a key component of a flexible robotic drill system. The design of such subsystem is based on the robot and its deployment.
  • Sander: Sanders is a portable power tool used for purposes like smoothing, polishing, or cleaning surfaces of wood, plastic, or sanding a metal flat surface.
  • Screwdriver: Screwdriver for tightening nuts and bolts.
  • Spraygun: For uniform painting.
  • Welding guns: Welding guns is a portable automated tool used for welding pieces of metal.

Functions of end effectors:

The end effectors perform many tasks in industrial sectors. Different types of end effectors perform different specified tasks which include;

  • Pick and Place.
  • Machine tending- automated operation of industrial machine tools in manufacturing units.
  • Assembly.
  • Packaging and Palletizing.
  • Quality testing and inspection.
  • Surface finishing- refers to the process used to alter a metal surface.


The robotic end effectors are very vital and invincible part of the robotic arms. Different industries need different specified end effectors to suit their production lines. They are capable enough to handle macro to micro-objects or workpieces. New research and development in the area provide robotics with new opportunities to exploit. End effectors are being used in a wide range of activities starting from pick and place to quality testing and inspection which are definitely blessings of technology.

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