The best 3 needle grippers for your Industrial robot

February 6, 2024
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What is a needle gripper, exactly?

A needle gripper is a specialized gripper that uses needles to grab objects. The needles penetrate the surface of the item to get a firm grip. 

Needle grippers are absolutely perfect for handling soft, irregularly shaped, or porous objects that would otherwise be pretty much impossible to grab.

How do they operate? By extending their needles into the object's surface, either pneumatically or electrically, ensuring a stable hold.

This mechanism:

  1. Allows for the safe and precise movement of the object by the robotic system. 
  2. Once the object reaches its destination, the needles retract to release it securely and gently.

Needle grippers are great for industries where traditional suction or claw grippers fall short, such as textile manufacturing where fabric handling requires care, or in situations where objects have surfaces that aren’t compatible with suction.

They offer a unique combination of precision, delicacy, and strength, making them a versatile solution in robotic end-of-arm tooling for a wide range of material handling challenges.

What should you look for in a great needle gripper?

Needle grippers have unique characteristics that you should pay attention to before you go online to make a purchase. 

Here are the key factors to keep in mind:

  • What’s the penetration force? Make doubly sure that the gripper has enough power to secure your workpiece. Most needle grippers will specify the maximum penetration force, measured in newtons (N). 
  • How many needles does it have? More needles mean a stronger, more stable hold. But also keep in mind the size and shape of your workpiece - too many needles could make grasping awkward. Three to six needles are typical.
  • What’s its weight capacity? Check that the gripper can handle the combined weight of your workpiece and robot payload – going overboard risks damaging the gripper or robot.
  • What’s the weight of the gripper? A heavy gripper reduces your robot's effective payload, so choose a lightweight option if possible. Some grippers weigh under 1 kg.
  • Is it compatible? Make sure the gripper matches your robot's tool changer or mounting system. The most common interfaces include ISO 9409-1-50-4-M4 and ISO 9409-1-50-4-M8.
  • What’s the control method? Most needle grippers are pneumatically actuated, using compressed air. So, make sure your robot is compatible with pneumatic grippers. 

What to keep in mind before connecting a needle gripper to your robot arm

While it may be tempting to try to plug in your gripper by ramming the business end into your new robot arm, we recommend a more measured approach.

Try going through this checklist first: 

First, determine how the gripper will connect to your robot. Most robot arms have either an M4 or M8 universal connector, but some may require a gripper specifically designed for that model. When in doubt, talk to your robot manufacturer.  

You’ll also want to keep in mind the control system for the gripper – whether through your robot’s control software or an external controller. Again, it doesn’t hurt to ask whether your robot model supports the selected gripper.

Then, think about the payload capacity of your robot and how much weight the gripper can handle. 

Remember: the combined weight of the gripper and workpiece must be within your robot’s limits.

Look for a lightweight but durable gripper for the job. Some grippers also come with built-in force sensors to prevent over gripping workpieces.

After, keep in mind the number of needles and needle configuration you need for your application. More needles typically mean a stronger, more secure grip, but may require higher penetration force.

For delicate workpieces, a gripper with adjustable needle positions can grip at optimal points.

Finally, it’s time to assess whether a pneumatic or electric gripper is better for your needs. Pneumatic grippers are often more affordable and can generate high gripping forces but require an air supply. 

On the other hand, electric grippers are powered by 24V DC and are often cleaner with more precision, but typically cost more.

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Controlling your needle gripper with robot software

Needle grippers won't do you much good if you can't control them with your robot's software. 

Therefore, before purchasing a needle gripper, double-check that it will integrate with your robot's control system

Many major manufacturers offer their own line of grippers that are plug-and-play with their robot controllers. 

But, needle grippers, being their own little niche, will pretty much mean that you’re going to go off the beaten path. 

So, when going with a third-party gripper, look for options that support common industrial communication protocols like Ethernet/IP, PROFINET, or Modbus TCP which many robot brands support.

Some robot brands also offer additional gripper packages or tool changers you can purchase to simplify gripper integration. 

With a tool changer, you can automatically switch between multiple end-effectors like grippers using your robot software. 

Do remember: before buying a needle gripper, check if your robot brand offers a gripper package or tool changer and if the gripper model you're interested in is compatible. 

If that compatibility is uncertain, check back with your manufacturer to discuss possible integration solutions. 

Also, unless you want an expensive paperweight, make sure that you’re able to program the gripper with your robot’s existing interface. But don’t fret if you’re not, because many manufacturers offer customizable programming options. 

What are the top 3 needle grippers for Industrial robots?

As we mentioned above, the needle gripper market isn’t exactly exploding with options. But, since there are excellent and not-so-great choices out there, we’ve rounded up the standouts for you

They are: 

EMI Corp Needle Grippers

  • Type: Pneumatic or Electric (depending on model)
  • Price: Starting around $500 (varies depending on model and configuration)
  • Payload: Up to 20 kg
  • Weight: 0.5 to 4 kg
  • Applications: Textiles, non-wovens, composite materials, delicate parts


  • Wide range of models and sizes to choose from (over 30 models)
  • An affordable compared to other needle grippers in its class
  • Interchangeable needles for different gripping requirements
  • Adjustable needle depth for precise control


  • Requires air supply for pneumatic models (not included in price)
  • Limited stroke adjustment on some models
  • May not be suitable for extremely heavy or bulky materials

Schmalz NGS

  • Type: Pneumatic
  • Price: 500-2000 USD (depending on model and configuration)
  • Payload: 0.5-60 kg
  • Weight: 0.5-5 kg
  • Applications: Fabrics, thin sheets, electronics


  • Affordable option for basic fabric and sheet handling
  • Wide range of sizes available to handle different material sizes
  • Manual stroke adjustment for some models


  • Requires air supply (not included in price)
  • Limited stroke adjustment compared to some other options
  • Not as versatile as some other needle grippers in terms of material handling

Zimmer GRI-E

  • Type: Electric
  • Price: 1500-2500 USD (depending on model and configuration)
  • Payload: 1-20 kg
  • Weight: 1-4 kg
  • Applications: Delicate parts, electronics


  • Lightweight and compact design
  • High precision and repeatability for delicate handling
  • ESD safe for electronics assembly
  • Programmable stroke and sensor feedback


  • Higher price compared to other options
  • Limited payload for larger parts
  • Complex setup compared to some pneumatic models


What types of needles do needle grippers use?

Needle grippers typically use hardened steel needles that come in a variety of diameters and lengths depending on your application and workpiece. The most common sizes are 0.5mm to 5mm in diameter.

How do I install and connect a needle gripper? 

The installation will depend on your specific robot and gripper model. Many can attach to standard robot tool changers or end-of-arm tooling plates. Pneumatic needle grippers will require a connection to an air supply. 

How are needle grippers controlled? 

Again, this depends on your setup but needle grippers are often controlled using the robot teach pendant, robot controller software, or an external controller. Pneumatic grippers require a valve to control the compressed air which opens and closes the gripper.

Remember that many grippers also have built-in force control and sensors to monitor grip force.

How do I program a needle gripper? 

You’ll need to program all aspects of the gripper into your robot, including installation, homing the gripper, picking up workpieces, moving, and placing workpieces.

Offline programming software can help simulate the robot and gripper motion before running on the actual robot. When in doubt, always check back with your manufacturer. 

What maintenance is required? 

Needle grippers don’t need much maintenance but should be inspected regularly for any damage or wear to the needles or other gripper parts. Pneumatic grippers will also need the air supply and any filters maintained on the reg. Grippers should be lubricated as specified in the manufacturer’s documentation. 

Summing up

At the end of the day, the right needle gripper for your application depends on your specific needs and robot setup. 

And yes, as we’ve mentioned in the article, it’s not like the market is overflowing with high-quality choices. 

But after reviewing some of the top options, we’re confident that we’ve helped you sort the wheat from the chaff. Now, it’s up to you to get started! 

Next steps 

Seeking an ideal match for an Industrial robot arm and gripper for a wide range of tasks? RO1 by Standard Bots offers extensive compatibility with numerous Industrial robot grippers.

It features universal M8 connectors and seamless integration with most major brands’ end-effectors making it a top choice for workshops of all sizes:

  • Cost-effective solution: RO1 distinguishes itself as an economical choice within its category, priced at about 50% less than competing models. Attractive leasing options are available, beginning at just $5 per hour.
  • High-end vision capabilities: Equipped with advanced vision systems, RO1 excels in task performance, thanks to its straightforward, programming-free setup. It's particularly adept at identifying the slightest flaws and inconsistencies.
  • Focus on cooperative safety: With safety as a core design principle, RO1 includes comprehensive safety sensors and collision detection technology, guaranteeing a safe and reliable operation throughout your workspace.

Contact our solutions team today to arrange a complimentary, 30-day on-site trial. Receive professional guidance on implementing your first robot effectively.

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