Robotic End Effector Development

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) offers design and fabrication experience for custom end effectors and special manipulator hardware. With mechatronic design perspectives, Institute staff members -- cross-trained in mechanical, electrical, and software engineering -- produce computer-controlled hardware that can be readily incorporated into automated systems. SwRI has developed end effectors to advance manufacturing processes such as drilling, tape laying, sanding, and blasting, as well as for inspection applications using machine vision, eddy current, ultrasonic, and other techniques. Staff members have developed special manipulators for diverse applications including high-accuracy positioning, submerged operation, and clean room compatibility.

Institute engineers developed this five-axis manipulator with commercial, off-the-shelf modular motion control elements. It features a high-angular-resolution, submersible wrist assembly for ultrasonic inspection tasks.

This end effector's gripping, sensing, and transfer mechanisms handle multiple wires for an automated wire harness assembly system. Two stepper motors, numerous pneumatic actuators, and multiple compliance axes are incorporated into the device.

An SwRI-developed aircraft canopy inspection end effector uses computer-controlled strobe illumination with selectable optical filters to adjust to various lighting conditions. A companion calibration fixture provides an automated self-check of the machine vision inspection system.

This end effector is a compliant-mounted orbital sander for force-controlled wet sanding and slurry polishing. Pads are changed automatically to replace worn abrasive media.

To meet Class 1 Clean Room requirements, air bearing linear stepper motors drive this cartesian, dual-arm robot performing automated storage and retrieval functions.

As part of a large automated assembly system, SwRI developed this high-speed transfer mechanism as an interface between a wire terminal crimping machine and a storage device. Cycle time for a 250 mm transfer distance approaches one second. Defective wires are discarded automatically.

SwRI integrated machine vision guidance, computer-controlled drilling, force-controlled punching, and eddy current hole inspection into this multi-function turret. Sensing elements provide surface normality and standoff information. A companion tool changer provides automated change-out and calibration of drill bits and punches.

This brochure was published in March 1993. For more information about robotic end effector development, contact Paul Evans, Automation and Data Systems Division, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510, Phone (210) 522-2994, Fax (210) 522-5499.

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