Grippers Take Center Stage at Rethink Robotics

A good portion of the advances in robot capabilities takes place at the end on the robot’s arm -– in the grippers.

With all the discussion about advances in robotic automation, a good portion of advances in collaborative robotics takes place at the end of the robot’s arm. The right grippers will allow the robot to pick up an egg or an orchid. Rethink Robotics has addressed this challenge with the introduction of ClickSmart, an end-of-arm toolkit that incorporates smart sensing and rapid swapping capabilities.

Rethink Robotics, grippers, collaborative robotsRethink created ClickSmart to make it easier for users to adopt robotic systems. “We’re looking at all the sources of friction in robot adoption. One of the barriers is the end effector,” Jim Lawton, chief product and marketing officer at Rethink Robotics, told Design News. “It hasn’t been easy for people to figure out what they need in grippers at the end of the arm. ClickSmart was designed to help users overcome this hurdle.”

The ClickSmart series of tools includes the ClickSmart Plate, an intelligent end-of-arm tool-plate that lets users swap end effectors quickly without any tools. Embedded sensors in the five new gripper kits enable intelligent grasping and part handling on Sawyer, Rethink’ robot powered by the Intera 5 software platform.

Lawton noted that the ClickSmart family of gripper kits contains components that allow end users to quickly construct end effectors suitable for most automatable tasks. The goal is to enable easy deployments that don’t require programming and part sourcing. The ClickSmart series includes five categories of gripper kits and the ClickSmart Plate with embedded sensing, gripper recognition, and the ability to access actuators and sensors through the Rethink Robotics software platform.

Rethink Robotics, grippers, collaborative robotsRethink developed the kits during work in the field with collaborative robot users. “We have been beta-testing these kits in customer environments. The custom toolkit helps to change the end effector from one task to the next,” said Lawton. “The system retains information about how the robot uses the end grippers. It simply clicks on to the end of the arm. There are no screws. You pop it on, and you’re ready to go.”

The ClickSmart family of gripper kits was also designed to help users reduce their sourcing efforts. Lawton noted that users no longer need to search through multiple catalogs to select components and compare prices. Instead, manufacturers can purchase the integrated ClickSmart from Rethink Robotics. The gripper kits come in large pneumatic, small pneumatic, large vacuum, small vacuum, and foam vacuum options.

The ClickSmart grippers are based on standards that support interoperability. “There are a set of standards ISO has for different tool plates. It’s based on standards just like the standards you use for attaching flat screen TVs to the wall,” said Lawton. “Most of the major gripper companies use the same standard. We use the tool plate for our smart grippers, but also for grippers from other companies. It tells the robot what gripper it has, and the robot knows all the parameters.”

Automation and robotics get smarter every day, changing the way we design and manufacture. Keep up with critical shifts by attending the panel, "The Future  of Collaborative Robots is Here. What's the Cobots Next Move?" at the

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