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Why 3D Printing is the perfect way to create End-of-Arm Tooling and robotic grippers

Introduction

Manufacturing businesses are constantly looking for ways to improve efficiency and productivity while reducing costs. One of the ways to achieve these goals is through the use of 3D printed end-of-arm tooling. End-of-arm tooling refers to the tool or accessory attached to the end of a robot arm. 3D printing has revolutionized the manufacturing industry by providing an efficient and cost-effective way to create custom end-of-arm tooling. In this article, we will explore the various advantages of 3D printed end-of-arm tooling and why it could play an important role in the future of manufacturing.

Advantages of 3D Printing for End-of-Arm Tooling

robotic gripper image
Source: robotic gripper illustration taken from Freepik

Cost-effectiveness and waste reduction.

3D printing technologies are bringing numerous advantages to manufacturing processes. One of the most notable advantage is the minimization of production costs. Traditional tooling methods often involve expensive molds and lengthy lead times, which can be expensive. With 3D printing, the need for molds is not as great, since specific models can be directly 3D printed from a modelisation, resulting in substantial cost savings. With shorter development time and faster time-to-market, it is easier to increase productivity and stay ahead of the competition. The high flexibility and low material wastage of 3D printing also significantly reduce the costs of creating such parts.

Since End-of-Arm Tooling cater to specific use-cases, being able to 3D print, on demand, different types of End-of-Arm Tooling, can be an important advantage over your competitors.

Enhanced Customization

As we’ve just said, one of the biggest advantages of using 3D printing to create your end-of-arm tooling parts is the greater ability to create customized solutions. Traditional manufacturing processes like injection molding and casting require a significant investment in time and money, and it can be difficult to create custom solutions. 

Customization is a key requirement in many manufacturing processes, and that is precisely where 3D printing excels. Indeed, manufacturers can have greatly varied needs depending on what they are producing. With 3D printing, it becomes easier to create parts catering to the manufacturer’s specific production needs, making it easier to adjust the machinery from one production series to another, without having to change the whole production line.

For instance, if you are producing small series, it would be easier and more efficient to use 3D printing to create end-of-arm-tooling accessories and grippers, since you can easily replace them every time you need to.

Additive manufacturing is great to create parts that can integrate themselves on already existing machines, or to optimize production flows. The part seen below has been designed for Bernay Automation, in an effort to help them customize their vibrating bowls and streamline their production process. You can learn more about this interesting project in the Bernay Automation Use Case.

BernayAutomationpart
Bernay Automation, source: Sculpteo

Rapid Prototyping

In the competitive manufacturing landscape, the ability to rapidly prototype and iterate is invaluable. 3D printing enables manufacturers to create prototypes quickly and make adjustments on the fly. This agility in product development accelerates innovation and improves product quality, while allowing manufacturings to keep their competitive edge.

Complex Geometries & Improved Ergonomics

Traditional manufacturing processes struggle with the production of complex geometries. 

3D printing, however, is very good at it.  Additive manufacturing can produce intricate designs with ease, allowing for innovative and highly efficient tooling solutions that were once considered impossible. This means that it is easier to design tooling and grippers with precise functions and ergonomic considerations in mind. These tools can be tailored to fit the requirements of highly specific tasks straight from the design process, starting with the 3D modelisation. 

For example, in the object pictured below, a compressed air system allows the device to delicately grab and hold, or release, the eggs. If such a part was designed through conventional production methods, the same system would have required multiple parts and a more complex design.

gripper TPU
Egg-holding device made with TPU01

Lightweight and Durable

The weight of end-of-arm tooling is an important consideration as it directly affects the robot’s payload capacity. 3D printed end-of-arm tooling can be created with lightweight materials like plastics such as PA11 or Ultrasint® TPU01, and other composite materials, reducing the overall weight of the robot arm. Moreover, 3D printing allows for the creation of end-of-arm tooling with intricate internal structures, which enables the part to be both lightweight and resistant. 

Sustainability

Sustainability is a growing concern in manufacturing. 3D printing is inherently more sustainable than traditional methods due to reduced waste and energy consumption. It aligns with eco-friendly initiatives and enhances a company’s corporate social responsibility efforts. Also, 3D Printing your end-of-arm tooling means you can change this specific part, without having to change other, more important parts.

Scalability

Whether you’re a small business or a large corporation, 3D printing offers scalability. You can start with small-scale production and easily scale up as your business grows, all without the burden of significant upfront investments in tooling. If you want to learn more about the ways in which 3D Printing can help you scale your business, don’t hesitate to read our e-book on the subject, Additive Adoption A-Z: The Scalable Manufacturing Playbook

Why choose Sculpteo's Online 3D Printing Services?

Sculpteo can assist companies in producing functional prototypes and final products with short lead times. On our website, clients can order 3D prints for their projects.

The first step involves uploading your 3D model and tweaking it to match the material and finishes you prefer. After submitting the file, the site generates a quote instantly. Upon confirmation, our team of experts proceeds to manufacture the parts in our ISO-certified factory.

We can print custom, high-quality products with complex geometries using plastic, polymers and metal. Our team at Sculpteo Studio can also assist you with designing your 3D file. Feel free to consult with us at your convenience.

Are 3D-printed End-of-Arm tools as durable as traditionally manufactured ones?

Can 3D printing be used for high-volume production?

How does 3D printing contribute to sustainability?

Is 3D printing suitable for complex tool geometries?

Can 3D-printed End-of-Arm tools be customized for specific applications?

Does 3D printing reduce lead times significantly?

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