End Effectors 225

End Effectors provides an overview of the various devices used on robotic arms, their functions, and the applications for each component. End effectors accomplish the work of human hands but with increased speed, accuracy, and functionality. They can take over repetitive, tedious, and physically strenuous tasks in most manufacturing operations. There a two categories of end effectors: robotic grippers and process tooling. Each contains many types used for operations such as material handling, material removal, welding, assembly, and inspection.

After taking this class, users will be able to describe common end effectors, select the appropriate end effectors for applications, and identify the best practices for end effector safety and functionality.

  • Difficulty Intermediate

  • Format Online

  • Number of Lessons 13

  • Language English


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Course Outline
  • Robotic End Effectors
  • Categories of End Effectors
  • Mechanical Grippers
  • Review: End Effector Introduction
  • Vacuum Grippers
  • Magnetic Grippers
  • Other Grippers
  • Review: Grippers
  • End Effectors for Process Tooling
  • Tool Changers and Multi-function End Effectors
  • Sensors and Vision Systems
  • Advanced Applications
  • Review: Devices and Applications
  • Describe robotic end effectors.
  • Describe end effector categories.
  • Describe mechanical grippers.
  • Describe vacuum grippers.
  • Describe magnetic grippers.
  • Describe other types of material handling grippers.
  • Describe end effectors for process tooling.
  • Describe tool changers and multi-function end effectors.
  • Describe robotic sensors and vision systems.
  • Describe specialized end effectors used in advanced applications.
Vocabulary Term

3D scanners

A portable measuring device that uses light and sensors to measure an object's geometric shape. 3D scanners collect large amounts of surface data quickly.


A material consisting of hard particles used to remove workpiece material. Abrasives are used in both heavy and light material removal.

additive manufacturing

AM. The process of joining or solidifying materials to make an object based on a three-dimensional computer model. Additive manufacturing methods typically build up layers of material to create an object.

adhesive gripper

A material handling component that uses a sticky substance or surface tension to move lightweight objects. Adhesive grippers are used on textiles.


additive manufacturing. The process of joining or solidifying materials to make an object based on a three-dimensional computer model. AM methods typically build up layers of material to create an object.

angular grippers

A mechanical gripper with jaws that move around a rotating axis during operation. Angular grippers require more clearance space than parallel grippers for gripping parts.

arc welding

A fusion welding process that uses electricity to generate the heat needed to melt base and filler metals. Arc welding is the most commonly used welding process.


A manufacturing process in which two or more components are joined together to create a finished part. Assembly robots are fast, consistent, and effectively self-inspect their work.

automated fiber placement

AFP. An advanced method for manufacturing composites in which fibrous tape is heated and layered. Automated fiber placement is mostly used to make parts for aerospace.

bellows gripper

A material handling component that uses an inflatable bladder to move hollow objects. Bellows grippers are used on bottles.


An expandable flexible bag that can be filled with air or liquid. The bladder in an inflatable gripper expands inside of a container for handling.


A small piece of material that is removed from a workpiece. Chips are formed when a tool cuts or grinds a material.

cold metal transfer

CMT. A type of arc welding that detects a short circuit and sends a signal that retracts the welding filler material, giving the weld time to cool before each drop is placed. Cold metal transfer welding is an advanced welding process.

collaborative robotics

A subset of robotics that focuses on enabling robots to work closely with human operators. Collaborative robotics is often a cost-effective alternative to traditional automation.

collaborative robots

Cobot. A robot that can be programmed to learn a specific task in order to assist humans. A collaborative robot is designed to interact with humans in a shared workspace.


A slitted device that holds a workpiece in place as it rotates. A collet has a hole through which the workpiece passes and is designed to hold specific dimensions.

collision sensors

A type of sensor that detects an obstruction or impact before or while it occurs. Collision detectors prevent damage to the robot and its tooling.


The ability of a robot to tolerate and compensate for misaligned parts. Compliance devices make robots more accurate.

compliance devices

A type of component that allows a robot to tolerate and compensate for misaligned parts. Compliance devices in robots help improve processes and safety.


A material made by combining a binding resin with small filaments of solid material. Composites are made by combining different types of manufacturing materials, including metal, plastic, or ceramic.

compressed air

Air that has been forced into a small space at high pressure. Compressed air is often used to power tooling.


A type of sensor that detects physical contact with an object or surface. Contact sensors for robots include force torque and collision sensors.


A liquid that helps to cool and lubricate a machine during operation in the safest, most environmentally conscious way. Coolant can be used to hydraulically operate a magnetic gripper.


A material, usually liquid, that facilitates the transmission of ultrasonic energy from the transducer into the test specimen. A water couplant is used in nondestructive testing applications.


Removal of sharp projections left by a tool on a workpiece. Robots can deburr a workpiece with a high degree of accuracy.


A device that holds a liquid material and ejects the material onto a surface. Dispensers can be handheld or attached to a robot.


Distributing or applying materials into containers or onto surfaces. Dispensing also includes blasting materials at a surface for cleaning purposes.


A multi-point cutting tool used to create a round hole in a workpiece surface. Drills are common tools for holemaking operations.


A magnet that gains an attractive force only when current passes through it. Electromagnets are extremely powerful.

end effectors

A device attached to the end of the robot arm in order to interact with a part, component, or material. The end effector, also known as an end-of-arm tool (EOAT), may be a gripper that allows the robot to pick up objects and place them down, or it may be a welding torch or tool, such as a grinder, that performs a manufacturing task.

end of arm tooling

A device attached to the end of the robot arm in order to interact with a part, component, or material. The end-of-arm tool (EOAT), also known as end effector, may be a gripper that allows the robot to pick up objects and place them down, or it may be a welding torch or tool, such as a grinder, that performs a manufacturing task.

expanding gripper

A material handling component that uses mandrels to grip and move hollow, tubular objects. Expanding grippers are used for moving large rolls of material.


A molding process that forces raw material through a die opening. Extrusion is a continuous process that can create parts with a uniform cross-section.


A material or substance that is easily magnetized and exhibits a strong attraction to magnetic fields. Ferromagnetic materials are often metals, including iron, cobalt, nickel, manganese, and various alloys.


A small piece or thread of a solid substance that is longer than it is wide. The fibers in an adhesive gripper can pick up an object.


A gripper appendage with its own set of flexible joints. Fingers on a robot can move with accuracy and dexterity similar to a human finger.


A final process performed to achieve the required geometric, dimensional, and surface specifications of a manufactured part. Finishing includes material removal processes that can create tight tolerances and smooth surface finishes.


A customizable, modular workholding device created by configuring locators, supports, and clamps. Fixtures are useful when holding irregularly shaped workpieces or when holding multiple workpieces for a single operation.


A push or pull that changes an object's motion or state of rest. Forces have specific directions and magnitudes.

force torque sensors

A type of sensor that detects linear and rotational forces applied to a robot's wrist or tool. Force torque sensors allow robots to make adjustments when handling material.

fused deposition modeling

FDM. A material extrusion process that builds parts through extruding successive layers of material. Fused deposition modeling is one of the most accessible and affordable types of additive manufacturing (AM), though it creates parts with poor surface finish and has relatively low build speed.


To use an abrasive to wear away at the surface of a workpiece. Grinding is often used to clean contaminants from the surface of a workpiece.

industrial robots

A reprogrammable manipulator sometimes used in place of a person in a manufacturing setting. Industrial robots perform dangerous or repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy.

inflatable gripper

A material handling component that uses an inflatable bladder to move hollow objects. Inflatable grippers are used on bottles.


The examination of a part during or after its creation to confirm that it adheres to quality specifications. During inspection, defects may be identified and corrected.


A part on a gripper that grips and holds a workpiece. Jaws can be fixed or adjustable.

laser beam welding

LBW. A welding process which uses a laser to create a weld. Laser beam welding makes deep, strong, clean welds, but it is expensive and requires either automation or a highly trained welder.


A device that generates a coherent, collimated, single wavelength of light that can be precisely aimed and controlled. Lasers are used for cutting and welding applications as well as other thermal processing.


A term describing movement in a straight line along a single axis. Linear force applied to a robot or end effector can be detected by force torque sensors.

machine tending

Loading and unloading of materials into machinery for processing. Machine-tending robots are precise and often interact with the process using sensors to monitor the process and part quality.

magnetic grippers

A device that uses magnetism to attach to parts. Magnetic grippers allow robots to perform tasks such as handling and moving parts.


A cylindrical device used to hold hollow, or tubular, parts. Robotic mandrels can hold very large rolls of material.


A machine that uses a rotating multi-point tool to remove metal from the surface of a workpiece. Mills may be operated either manually or automated.

multi-function end effectors

A device that contains two or more robotic tools or end effectors. Multi-function end effectors allow a robot to do more than one task in a work cell.

needle gripper

A material handling component that uses intersecting needles to attach and transport material. Needle grippers are ideal for porous fabrics and composites.


A type of sensor that detects changes and objects without using physical contact. Noncontact sensors for robots include vision sensors.

nondestructive inspection

NDI. A category of inspection processes that evaluate a part's properties and performance using methods that do not damage or permanently alter the part. Nondestructive inspection methods include visual testing, liquid penetrant testing, magnetic particle testing, eddy current testing, ultrasonic testing, and radiographic testing.


Position in three-dimensional space. Orientation of a part changes if the part is rotated.


The process of placing and securing containers or objects on pallets. Palletizing robots are especially useful for moving objects that would be too difficult or too heavy for humans to move.

parallel grippers

A mechanical gripper with lateral sliding jaws that remain parallel during operation. Parallel grippers need less space than angular grippers when gripping and releasing parts.


The maximum amount of weight that a machine is able to manipulate. Payload limits vary robot to robot.

permanent magnets

A magnet that retains its attractive force after it is removed from a magnetic field. Permanent magnets have high residual magnetism.

pick and place

A robot or robotic device that moves parts from one location to another. Pick-and-place robots, sometimes called part-transfer robots, improve the precision, quality, and speed of manufacturing operations.


Powered by the controlled motion of gas, usually air, under pressure. Pneumatically controlled robotic grippers do not need electricity to function.


A natural or synthetic material group that consists of very large molecules held together by either a secondary bond or a primary bond. Polymers include silk, nylon, rayon, and plastics.


A product whose rights are owned by the company that designed it. Proprietary products can be used only with the permission of the owner.

residual magnetism

The attractive force that exists in an object or substance after it has been removed from a magnetic field. Residual magnetism is a characteristic of permanent magnets.

rigid industrial robots

A robot characterized as being stiff and inflexible. Rigid industrial robots limit vibration and can carry a large payload.

robotic grippers

A dexterous material-handling component that resembles and performs similarly to a human hand. Grippers allow robots to perform tasks such as handling small parts or assembling components.


A term describing movement in a circular path around an axis. Rotational force applied to a robot or end effector can be detected by force torque sensors.


A multi-point cutting device that is used to rough cut a part to a certain length or shape. Saws come in many forms and sizes.

selective laser sintering

SLS. An additive manufacturing process that builds a part by heating and solidifying layers of powdered material, usually a polymer. Selective laser sintering parts are strong and durable but usually have poor surface finish.


A device that detects a change in a physical stimulus and turns it into a signal that can be measured or recorded. Sensors allow robots and other devices to interact with their environment and operate with little human intervention.

short circuit

A circuit in which current takes a shorter, unintended path between two conductors, interrupting the intended flow of electricity. A short circuit causes the metal wire to be deposited into the joint.

soft gripper

A material handling component that uses polymer-based fingers to grip objects. Soft grippers allow robots to perform tasks such as handling fragile parts.

soft robotics

A subset of robotics that focuses on utilizing soft material grippers to handle fragile parts. Soft robotics is typically found in the food and beverage industry.

spot welding

A type of welding in which parts are squeezed together between two electrodes and subjected to a large amount of electric current to form a joint. Spot welding is largely used in the automotive industry.


SLA. An additive manufacturing (AM) method in which a part is built by curing layers of a photo-reactive resin with an ultraviolet (UV) laser. Stereolithography is often used for making softer parts that require a high degree of customization such as dental aligners or hearing aids.

suction cups

A polymer device, usually shaped like a disc, that sticks to smooth, nonporous surfaces. Suction cup size may determine the strength of a robot's grip.

surface finish

The degree of smoothness on a part's surface after it has been machined or otherwise shaped. Surface finish can be improved through robotic machining processes that use abrasives.


The unwanted but acceptable deviation from the desired dimension. Products must be within specified tolerances to function properly.

tool changers

A device that contains two mating parts designed to attach and detach tools. Tool changers connect the process tooling to the robot's arm.


Assorted tools used in various manufacturing processes. Robotic tooling includes material removal tools and welding torches.


A force causing rotation. Torque attempts to twist or rotate an object.


A frequency above the range of human hearing. Ultrasonic frequencies are used in non-destructive ultrasonic inspection of parts.

vacuum grippers

A device that uses flexible suction cups and vacuum-controlled airflow to attach to parts. Vacuum grippers allow robots to perform tasks such as handling and moving parts.

van der Waals forces

The weak electrical attraction of intermolecular forces between molecules. Van der Waals forces allow some objects, like tiny microscopic hairs, to adhere to smooth surfaces.


A process of visually checking that a product, part, or system meets design specifications. Verification during part inspection is critical in manufacturing.

vision systems

An advanced optical instrument that collects data and forms an image, which is interpreted by a computer to determine an appropriate position or to see an object. Vision systems can aid in the visual testing of manufactured parts.

water jets

A cutting device that uses a powerful, high velocity stream of water to cut through materials. Water jet cutting processes often use an abrasive material to increase the cutting abilities of the water jet.


A joining process that uses either pressure or heat generated by friction, electricity, or the combustion of gases to permanently fuse two materials together. Production welding is often performed by robots.