The 5 best vacuum end-effectors for your Industrial robot

January 30, 2024
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What is a vacuum end-effector?

A vacuum end-effector, also known as a vacuum gripper or suction cup, is a tool attached to the end of a robot arm that uses suction to pick up and handle objects. 

It achieves this by creating a vacuum through compressed air, a vacuum pump, or venturi vacuum generators to suck air out of the suction cup, allowing it to grip onto smooth, non-porous surfaces.

Vacuum grippers come in many shapes and sizes depending on your chosen application. 

They also offer quite a few advantages: 

  • A smooth, gentle touch. Vacuum end-effectors are favored for their gentle handling of delicate items. They greatly reduce the risk of damage during the picking and placing process, which is crucial in industries like electronics, glass manufacturing, and others where delicateness is at a premium.
  • They go fast, but they don’t drop the ball. These tools enable very quick and precise object handling, which contributes to an overall increased efficiency and productivity in automated lines.
  • They’re capable and versatile. They can take care of handling objects of different sizes and shapes. That’s why vacuum grippers are used in a variety of applications, from packaging and palletizing to assembly lines.

What should you look for in a vacuum end-effector?

There are quite a few factors to keep in mind before you break out your credit card and buy a vacuum end-effector. 

They are: 

  • How much is the suction force? - Double-check that it's strong enough to securely hold your workpieces. The suction force is measured in newtons or pounds of force. 
  • What’s the actuation method? - End-effectors use vacuum generation methods like venturi, ejector, or vacuum pump. Each has pros and cons regarding cost, maintenance, noise, etc.
  • What’s the material? - Will it handle the operating environment? Options like silicone allow flexibility and grip on irregular surfaces, whole metal or plastic may provide rigidity.
  • Is it rigid or flexible? Rigid cups don't conform while flexible ones adapt to objects.
  • Does it have one or many suction cups? - More cups spread out the suction force.
  • How much can it lift?-  Always bear in mind the weight of parts you need to lift and the payload capacity of your robot arm. Go with an end-effector that combines with your robot's payload for the total needed.
  • Integration - Double-check that the end-effector will integrate with your robot's connector (e.g. ISO 9409-1-50-4-M5) and software controls. When in doubt, get in touch with manufacturers.
  • What about the sensors? - They help detect when a successful grip is achieved. Built-in vacuum sensors confirm successful picks and prevent drops, while proximity sensors can help with positioning.
  • Size and shape - Pick an end-effector size and shape that matches the application. Things like cup diameter, number of suction cups, and custom options matter.

Also, it’s worth noting that vacuum end-effectors need an airtight seal to function properly. So, make sure your workpieces have smooth, non-porous surfaces. 

Additionally, gaskets can help improve the seal on rough surfaces. 

How do you connect a vacuum end-effector to your Industrial robot?

To connect a vacuum end-effector, you'll need to make sure your robot arm has a way to interface with it both mechanically and electronically.

Give some thought to these factors: 

  • Mechanical connection - Most vacuum grippers will have a standard mechanical interface like an ISO 9409-1-50-4-M6, ISO 9409-1-31.5-4-M5, or a custom flange or adapter plate. Always remember that your robot will need to have a matching interface, whether that's a mating flange or an auto-tool changer system.
  • It takes power to create a vacuum - You'll need to run compressed air lines or vacuum lines to the vacuum end-effector, so always be sure your robot's controller or I/O system can switch the vacuum on and off as needed. Look for grippers with electric or pneumatic options.
  • Communication doesn’t happen in a vacuum - The end-effector may have sensors to detect that it’s actually picked up an object;  you'll need to wire those back to your robot controller. See if it uses digital I/O, analog, EtherCAT, etc.
  • Control - Your robot programming will need to integrate with the end-effector - turning suction on/off, checking sensor values, error handling, etc. See if the manufacturer has software libraries or APIs to make your life easier in this regard. 

Remember: If things get too technical or complicated, it’s never a bad idea to consult with different vendors. They tend to have their own technical teams that can answer even the trickiest questions. 

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Our picks for the top 5 end-effectors for Industrial robots

There’s no shortage of vacuum end-effectors in the market right now.

But, with that abundance also comes the chance of making a wrong turn somewhere – one that could set you back by thousands of lost dollars and productivity hours. 

So, when selecting a high-quality vacuum end-effector for your robot, you'll want one that provides enough suction and lifting capacity for your application. 

We’ve narrowed it down to these 5 great picks:

Piab Cangrip:

  • Compact and lightweight: Ideal for smaller objects.
  • Up to 30 kg payload. 
  • COAX cartridges for efficient vacuum generation.
  • Price range: $1,200 - $ 2,500.

OnRobot VGC10:

  • Vacuum gripper with adjustable suction cups.
  • 40-140 kPa holding force.
  • Designed for objects up to 10 kg.
  • Compatible with various robot brands.
  • Price range: $2,000 - $3,500.

RoboShop VEE-60:

  • Modular vacuum gripper with interchangeable suction cups.
  • Max payload of 15 kg.
  • ISO 9409-1-50-4-M6 compatible.
  • Price range: $1,500 - $3,000.

Schunk Colibri:

  • Lightweight and versatile vacuum gripper.
  • Up to 25 kg lifting capacity.
  • Ejector technology for energy efficiency.
  • Compatible with various robot brands.
  • Price range: $3,000 - $4,000.


  • Powerful vacuum gripper with flexible sealing lips.
  • Max payload of 70 kg.
  • Handles objects with uneven surfaces.
  • Wide range of suction cup options.
  • Price range: $4,000 - $7,000.


The bottom line is that picking the perfect vacuum end-effector takes a bit of homework, but we’ve done the hard part for you.

Now, it’s a matter of ensuring compatibility with your robot arm, and with the weight and texture of your workpieces. 

When you match those correctly, you’ll be well on your way to reaping the benefits of all that automation can bring to the table: productivity, speed, and huge cost-effectiveness. 


How do I choose the right vacuum gripper for my application?

The most important factors are the weight and surface of the objects you need to handle. Make sure to pick a gripper that can support at least 150% of the maximum load weight. The gripper should also be compatible with the surface type - smooth, textured, porous, etc. Work with the gripper manufacturer to find the best match.

What is the maintenance like for vacuum grippers?

Vacuum grippers require minimal maintenance - just occasional inspection and replacement of seals and filters. Make sure any electric grippers are properly grounded. Also, keep suction cups clean and replace any that become damaged or worn out.

How do I control and integrate a vacuum gripper with my robot?

Most electric grippers can be controlled via digital I/O signals from the robot controller. But, for more advanced control, choose a gripper with built-in software integration for your specific robot brand and model. Pneumatic grippers will need an external vacuum pump and valves to control suction.

Should I use electric or pneumatic vacuum grippers?

Electric grippers are simpler and more self-contained, while pneumatic ones have higher suction force potential. Keep an eye on your budget, existing robot infrastructure, and load requirements when deciding.

What safety precautions should I take with vacuum grippers?

Make sure the combined payload of the gripper and lifted objects does not exceed your robot's rated capacity to avoid tipping. Implement sensors to detect vacuum pressure and part hold/drop. Install protective screening around the gripper and incorporate emergency stops.

What type of vacuum pump do I need for a pneumatic gripper?

The pump size depends on the gripper's air consumption and desired cycle time. Consult the gripper's specifications or the pump manufacturer for guidance.

Can I use compressed air instead of a vacuum pump?

Yes, but compressed air can be less efficient and more expensive in the long run. Consider long-term costs and environmental impact when deciding.

What materials are vacuum gripper cups typically made of?

Common materials include nitrile rubber, polyurethane, and silicone. Of course, the best material depends on the object’s surface, temperature, and required grip force.

How often should I replace vacuum gripper cups?

Inspect cups regularly for wear or damage. Replace them when they lose their flexibility or gripping ability.

What are some common troubleshooting tips for vacuum grippers?

Check for leaks in the air lines or hoses. Make sure the suction cups are clean and free of debris. Verify the vacuum pump is functioning properly.

Next steps

In the market for a top-of-the-line robot arm and vacuum end-effector combination? RO1 by Standard Bots is your go-to solution. Created with flexibility in mind, RO1 seamlessly supports a wide range of mechanical grippers, including those by OnRobot. 

This adaptability makes it an ideal choice for various tasks in both sizable and compact machine shops.

Here's what RO1 has to offer:

  • Value for money: RO1 marks its place as an exceptionally economical choice in its category. It provides considerable cost advantages over other well-known brands, priced competitively at half the rate of its closest competition.
  • Best-in-class vision: RO1 is outfitted with the latest in vision technology. This system eases the complexity of operations with its straightforward, no-code programming interface, skilled in identifying even minor flaws.
  • Safety and teamwork-oriented design: With built-in safety sensors and collision detection features, RO1 guarantees a safe and collaborative atmosphere in your workspace.

Chat with our experienced solutions team. We offer a zero-cost, 30-day trial at your location. Benefit from extensive insights and all the support you need to seamlessly incorporate your first robot into your business processes.

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