Guide to Robot Grippers (Part 1: Vacuum Grippers)

With a huge range of grippers available today, the best fit for your application can be tough to choose. To walk you through the types of robot grippers (or end effectors) available, we've broken them into three categories:
Vacuum      Mechanical      The Rest

Part 1 of our guide looks at Vacuum Grippers
A vacuum gripper can be a great option for a cheap gripper, providing it works for the product you are trying to pick up. The simplest vacuum gripper is a setup like this:
Vacuum Basic

Include some pneumatic hose, wiring to the solenoid valve from the robot and a bit of sheet-metal to hold the vacuum cup onto the end of the robot and you have a vacuum gripper for less than $350

At the other end of the scale are proprietary grippers which are available in a wide range of standard sizes. These can also be custom made to pick up almost anything you can imagine, even pick an entire layer of product off a pallet at once. A major benefit of this type of vacuum gripper is the flexibility to pick up more than one type of product. A good example of this is a de-palletising application. With a vacuum gripper you can pick the product, the layer-board and even the pallet using a single gripper.

Joulin Vacuum

To get a larger vacuum gripper up and running, you will need an equally large vacuum blower. As an example, to pick up a standard pallet of cans the vacuum blower would need to be around 7.5kW.

The price of a proprietary vacuum gripper setup varies hugely, depending on the size of the gripper, the size of the product you want to pick up and how many types of product you want to pick up. Small grippers around 300 x 300mm start around $1000 - $3000 with a pallet size gripper in the $20,000 - $30,000 region


To integrate a vacuum gripper the cups or pad have to be mechanically fitted to the end of the robot, which is fairly straight forward. Switching of the vacuum is required, which typically involves sending an analogue signal to a solenoid valve. A major part of the expense of integrating a vacuum gripper is the reticulation of the pneumatic hoses down the robot arm. Although many of the latest robots have in-built pneumatic and electrical reticulation.

Here’s an example of one of our latest vacuum grippers. This gripper erects cardboard cartons and is attached to the end of a Nachi MZ07. This robot has pneumatic and electrical reticulation built into the arm. So the only external reticulation is from the forearm to the gripper.

Vacuum Gripper Reticulation

In Summary
To wrap up, here are the pros and cons or using a vacuum gripper as a robot end effector.

Vacuum Pros & Cons
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