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5 August, 2021

Electric vacuum gripper is ‘the world’s most powerful’

11 March, 2021

The Danish robotic end-effector developer OnRobot has announced what it claims is the world’s most-powerful electric vacuum gripper. The VGP20 gripper can lift 20kg loads and can handle applications that have traditionally relied on powerful pneumatic grippers, without needing complex compressed air installations to operate. It is claimed to cut operating and maintenance costs by up to 90% compared to pneumatic systems.

OnRobot has also launched a high-performance, easy-to-use magnetic gripper that, it says, offers “unique” adjustable force and grip detection functions providing “unprecedented” levels of control.

The multi-channel VGP20 electric gripper allows cups and airflows to be customised to handle multiple items of different shapes and sizes. Built-in “intelligence”, combined with easy-to-use software, provides precise airflow control that is claimed to be beyond the capabilities of traditional pneumatic grippers. Users can vary the type of grip according to the application – soft grips for delicate items, or hard grips for bulky cardboard boxes with porous surfaces.

“Our customers asked for a cost-effective, easy-to-deploy vacuum gripper that can pick up bulky, heavy-duty payloads while being intelligent enough to handle a wide range of items, including those with irregular shapes and porous surfaces,” says OnRobot’s CEO, Enrico Krog Iversen. “The VGP20 combines power, intelligence and ease-of-use that competes with expensive, complex pneumatic grippers.”

OnRobot foresees many potential applications for the electric grippers in costly, labour-intensive, end-of-line operations such as palletising. In the food and beverage sector alone, the use of is automated palletising systems has been growing by an average of more than 13% a year since 2017 and is expected to reach $390m by 2022.

In the packaging sector, where carboard costs have risen by 40% since 2010 and where there are shortages as a result of pandemic-driven e-commerce demands, shippers have been turning to lower-cost options including thinner, more porous cardboard and lightweight shipping bags. These can present challenges for traditional automated packaging and palletising systems, but OnRobot says that its customisable electric grippers can handle these materials “easily”, allowing shippers to save on both automation and shipping costs.

The VGP20 gripper offers the option of continuous monitoring of the gripper airflow. If the vacuum is interrupted, the robot will stop immediately and an alert will be raised.

The new MG10 magnetic gripper is designed to tackle some of the weaknesses of existing magnetic grippers which typically provide simple on/off functions. To adjust the force they apply, you have to add rubber “feet” to create space between the magnet and the part. OnRobot describes this as “a tedious and imprecise process that doesn’t always guarantee perfect results, especially on applications that involve handling thin metal sheets and small metal parts where magnetic grippers often accidentally end up picking more than one sheet or part, as the force cannot be adjusted”.

According to Iversen, “standard magnetic grippers are a real hassle because almost every time your application or workpiece changes, you have to make manual adjustments to compensate for the gripper’s lack of functionality”. The new gripper, he adds, “eliminates all that thanks to its adjustable force features that enable you to deploy precise material-handling applications quickly and easily”.

Unlike conventional magnetic grippers, the new one has built-in sensors for detecting parts. For applications that involve handling sheet metal – such as machine-tending tasks where a robot lifts a metal sheet from a stack, places it into a press brake or bending machine, and removes it when the machine has finished – this ensures smooth, consistent and safe operation. And if the robot loses power or has to make an emergency stop while performing a task, there is no risk of it dropping a part.

OnRobot’s VGP20 electric vacuum gripper can handle loads of up to 20kg

The new gripper can handle machine tending, assembly and materials-handling tasks previously needing costly, complex pneumatic grippers. “While pneumatic systems require an external air supply, cabling and ongoing maintenance, the MG10 is ready-to-go out of the box, resulting in massively reduced deployment costs compared to its pneumatic counterparts,” says Iversen.

The gripper also provides precise handling of objects with abrasive, uneven or perforated surfaces. Its multi-magnet set-up also means that it can handle a wide range of sizes and weights, as well as parts with odd-shaped geometries.

The gripper is also suitable for applications such as multi-stage bending press tasks and handling parts with many holes, where vacuum and finger-type grippers do not have the intelligence and power to succeed.

“As the manufacturing sector moves towards low volume/high mix production, the ability to move quickly from one application set-up to another quickly is more than a ‘nice to have’. It’s essential,” says Iversen. “The MG10 is the only magnetic gripper on the market that’s sufficiently versatile, intelligent and so easy to use that it can be quickly redeployed on tasks from machine-tending and palletising to de-stacking of metal sheets – and all in one no-fuss, no-nonsense, plug-and-play package.”

Both of OnRobot’s new grippers are compatible with a wide range of industrial robots.

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The MG10 magnetic gripper tackles weaknesses with existing magnetic grippers



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