The best 3-finger grippers for your robot

January 30, 2024
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What is a 3-finger robot gripper?

A 3-finger robot gripper is an end-effector attached to the end of a robot arm with three individually articulated fingers that can grab and manipulate objects.

Unlike a 2-finger gripper, a 3-finger gripper provides an extra contact point to pick up irregularly shaped items more securely.

What are the main benefits? Let’s take a look: 

  • They’re versatile and can grasp objects of any shape or size within their specifications.
  • Very dexterous, the extra finger provides more surface contact and control.
  • Higher payloads, meaning that 3-finger grippers are generally stronger than their 2-fingered counterparts. 
  • Adaptability. 3-finger grippers can wrap around even custom surfaces. 

By default, 3-finger grippers are concentric, and sometimes even angular

What should you look for in a 3-finger robot gripper?

Before you get out there and buy your first 3-finger gripper, what should you keep in mind? Several factors make a gripper good, and your chances of success will be much higher the more you consider them.

They are:

The most important is grip force - how much weight can the gripper lift and hold? The gripper needs to have enough force for the objects you want to manipulate.

You'll also want to give some thought to the method of actuation. Do you need an electric gripper or can you use pneumatic or hydraulic? Electric grippers tend to be more precise but pneumatic can handle heavier loads. 

Pay some attention to the jaw material. Softer jaws won't damage delicate objects but harder jaws can grip irregular shapes better. The ideal jaw material depends on what you're picking up.

Check the weight capacity and the weight of the gripper itself. You don't want a gripper so heavy that your robot arm struggles to lift it when empty, let alone when it's grasping an object.

Look for force sensors to provide feedback on how firmly the gripper is grasping. This helps avoid dropping or crushing objects.

Make sure the gripper is compatible with your robot and any tool changers. The gripper should easily integrate with your robot's control software too.

How will you connect your 3-finger robot gripper to your Industrial robot?

While we’d love to say connecting a 3-finger gripper to an Industrial robot is as easy as plug-and-play-call-it-a-day, it’s more complex than that. 

The main things to keep in mind are:

The power supply

How will you power your gripper? Most grippers run on 24V DC power, so you'll need a compatible power supply. 

Some gripper brands offer their own plug-and-play power supply units. Alternatively, you can wire the gripper directly to your robot controller or a separate power source

Don’t forget to check the gripper's voltage requirements first!

How does the gripper communicate with your robot? 

The gripper will need to communicate with your robot to receive open/close commands and send back data like grip force or object detection. 

Most grippers out there use some form of digital IO, analog, or field bus communication over Ethernet, CAN bus, or RS-485. Some grippers go as far as offering multiple communication options for maximum compatibility.

How do you mount the gripper to the robot arm? 

You'll need to physically attach the gripper to your robot's wrist or flange. You’ll find that most come with a standard ISO 9409-1-50-4-M6 mounting pattern to bolt directly onto the robot. 

On the other hand, you can use a quick-change adapter or tool changer to easily swap the gripper on and off.

Interfacing between the gripper and the robot

To control and monitor the gripper, you'll interface it with your robot controller. Most major robot brands offer software libraries, SDKs, or demo programs to interface with the gripper. 

The gripper manufacturer should also provide software tools and code examples to help you get started. With these, you can open and close the gripper, set grip force, read sensor data, and more.

Also, some advanced robot arms don’t require any coding, which is known as a no-code framework. Look into that if you don’t have extensive coding experience, as cutting-edge grippers can interface perfectly with these frameworks.

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Top 3-finger robot grippers

Now, it's time to choose a model. While we’d love to say they’re all created equal, they most definitely are not. But that’s why we’ve taken care of the hard part for you. 

These are the top 3-finger grippers for your robot: 

Robotiq 3-Finger Adaptive Robot Gripper

This versatile gripper can grab objects of virtually any shape. It has four grip modes with adjustable force, speed, and position control. The gripper is compatible with most Industrial robots and very easy to integrate. 

Also, its payload capacity ranges from 0.2 to 15.5 kg depending on the selected grip type. At under 1 kg, it’s a very lightweight choice that you'll be able to fit on most robot arms. 

Price: Starting at $7,990.

SCHUNK SDH-3 Gripper:

The SCHUNK SDH-3 is also a very adaptive 3-finger gripper. 

Its unique design gives it access to a massive array of gripping angles, making it ideal for complex manipulation tasks.

It's particularly suitable for tasks requiring delicate handling due to its sensitive grip, tactile feedback system, and payload of up to 4 kg (depending on the selected mode).

Also, the SCHUNK SDH-3 offers very easy integration with a broad range of robot arms. 

Price: $9,500 - $15,000 depending on its specifications.

OnRobot 3FG15

Last, but by no means least, the OnRobot 3FG15 offers impressive strength and reach, boasting a 15 kg payload, 150mm stroke, and a vise grip up to 240N.

Got custom workpieces and no gripper will fit them? The 3FG15 has customizable fingers that won’t leave you hanging. 

Also, it’s compatible with most major robot brands, such as Standard Bots.

Price: $5,257 - $6,699, depending on specifications. 


Will a 3-finger gripper work with my robot?

More than likely, yes. Most 3-finger grippers are designed to work with popular Industrial robot arms like Standard Bots, FANUC, KUKA, etc. However, double-check the gripper specifications to see if it’s compatible with your specific robot model. The gripper will need to match your robot’s tool mounting system, typically either ISO 9409-1-50-4-M4 or ISO 9409-1-50-4-M8.

How do I control and program the gripper?

Programming the gripper will depend on your robot and application. You'll need to integrate the gripper into your robot program, commanding it to open, close, move to positions, set force limits, etc. The gripper manufacturer should be able to help you out if need be. 

How much does a 3-finger gripper cost?

3-finger gripper prices range from around $3,000 up to $10,000 or more, depending on features. Basic 3-finger grippers with limited force and no sensors start around $3,000. Mid-range models with moderate force (up to 40-70 lbs) and basic sensing (open/close detection) are $5,000 to $7,000. Finally, high-end intelligent grippers with high force, speed control, and advanced sensing (force feedback, object detection) will cost you $8,000 and up.

Summing up

By now, you should have a solid understanding of 3-finger robot grippers and how to choose the right one for your chosen Industrial robot. 

Then, it’s a matter of remembering the basics: matching the gripper’s actuation, compatibility, material, strength, payload, and framework to your robot arm’s – and your shop floor. 

Next steps

Looking for a robot arm that works well with a 3-finger gripper for a wide range of tasks? RO1 from Standard Bots tops the list.

Its universal M8 connectors and is fully compatible with OnRobot's range of end-effectors, offering maximum versatility for both large and small workshops.

  • Cost-effectiveness: RO1 is an economical choice in its class, offering prices 50% lower than its closest competitors, with lease rates beginning at just $5 per hour.
  • Sophisticated vision capabilities: Equipped with advanced vision systems, RO1 excels in performing tasks with its intuitive, no-code programming. This is especially beneficial for detecting small defects and irregularities.
  • Emphasis on safety and collaboration: RO1 prioritizes safety, featuring built-in safety sensors and collision detection technology, guaranteeing safe operation in all areas of your workshop.

Contact our expert team today for a free, 30-day on-site trial. Our professionals are prepared to offer thorough support and insights on integrating your first robot efficiently.

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