helping manufacturers ‘get a grip’ on factory automation

in rethinking robotics by Carl Palme

The ClickSmart Vacuum Small Gripper Kit for smart, collaborative robots.

In my professional experience setting up manufacturing automation solutions, I have always believed that it is the gripper that makes the task. This is true for fully automated lines, semi-automated lines and now for lines with collaborative robots. Without the right gripper solution, you can pretty much bet that the line will not be robust and you will struggle with tweaking the task until the right end-of-arm tooling is selected. This is where the expression “get a grip” comes from.

Providing You with the Robotic Gripper Kits We Use

Since joining Rethink Robotics, I have been tasked with finding a one-size-fits-all solution for gripping technology. In that time, we have come to believe that this is nearly impossible given the wide variety of tasks that exist in the manufacturing world. We know this because the Baxter and Sawyer collaborative robots opened doors for us in many factories across many industries around the world. There just isn’t a gripper that will solve all tasks. However, we started traveling with a set of grippers and relevant sensors that we could rely on and use when deploying our collaborative robots at customer sites. These five gripper kits became essential on every trip. These were so essential they became the solution that we were looking for all along and will now be part of a family of products that we offer.

True Plug and Play: Simple as a Click

We noticed that while our cobots were meant to be flexible and used over multiple tasks, our customers were hesitant to use them this way because of what it meant to change and configure grippers for every task. Also, we had customers who had multiple robots and wanted to use them interchangeably across many tasks. These problems required us to come up with another solution that would allow our customers to use their robots in the exact manner that they wanted: interchangeably across many tasks. We created the ClickSmart Plate that is a platform where one can build a gripper, configure it, and store all the relevant information with it. This way any robot running the Intera 5 software will know what gripper it’s holding and how to control it upon connecting the gripper. Also, changing the gripper doesn’t require tools and merely requires a user to click or unclick it to/from the dock on the robot.

The ClickSmart Plate and the ClickSmart family of grippers kits are yet another way in which we at Rethink Robotics are continuously thinking about providing our customers with a total smart manufacturing solution. We strongly believe that these products will help manufacturers deploy robots faster than ever before, and help them solve for the 90% of tasks that have not yet been automated. For the remaining tasks, we are offering a ClickSmart developers kit that will allow anyone to build a gripper on top of our technology and still be able to successfully deploy their robot.

By the way, I don’t know exactly where “get a grip” comes from. However, gripper selection and design is a stressful task that does require one to control their emotions. We hope our products help you deploy robots quickly and with far less stress.



About the Author

Carl Palme

Carl has a long record of working in all aspects of manufacturing across many industries - from setting up automated lines to owning his own CNC machine shop. Now he works as a Product Manager on both the Hardware and Software sides of the smart collaborative robotics space and loves his job! He has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering, MS in Information Systems, and an MBA.

2 comments on this article

Ash Adirah May 11, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Thanks for the post. I just checked the website. I’m curious, for what kind of task can the “gripper” be used ? i’m looking for a robot that grabs gardening tools for watering and seed planting and plucking.

Jeff Green

Jeff Green May 16, 2017 at 6:06 pm

Hi Ash. If you visit and click on the individual gripper names (about half way down the page), you’ll see the recommended applications or tasks for each one. As for the specific task you mentioned above, please contact One of our automation experts will be happy to discuss how our robots can help.

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