What is a robot jaw (And where to buy one)

February 6, 2024
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What is a robot jaw?

A robot jaw, also known as a robotic gripper, is an end-effector attached to a robotic arm that grasps and manipulates objects. 

Robot jaws typically have two or three articulated fingers that can open, close, and rotate. Those nifty digits are then powered by actuators that provide the force and movement to grab items. 

Robot jaws allow robots to pick up, move and place a variety of objects. They give robots a sense of dexterity and the ability to interact physically with their environment. 

It’s no surprise, then, that robot jaws are commonplace for tasks like material handling, assembly, packaging, and so much more.

Top brands for robot jaws include Robotiq, OnRobot, RoboShop and RobotUnits. Prices range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars (and more!) depending on features.

What to look for in a robot jaw

Not all robot jaws are made equal, and there are several things you should keep in mind before you get ready to buy one. 

They are: 

  • How much force can the jaw exert? For most lightweight tasks like picking and placing small parts, 15-30N is typically enough – and heavy-duty applications will require more.
  • What’s the actuation method? Pneumatic jaws use air pressure, electric jaws are powered by motors, and hydraulic jaws use fluid pressure. Pneumatic and electric are more common for smaller robots, while hydraulic provides the most power but requires more set-up.
  • What’s the jaw material? Softer, rubberized jaws won’t damage parts but have less grip, while stainless steel or aluminum jaws provide firm grasping but could scratch more delicate items. Some jaws even offer replaceable pads so you can switch between hard and soft.
  • How good is its bench press? Make sure the jaw is rated to securely lift the weight of the items you need to grasp, while also keeping in mind the weight limit of your robot arm. The payload is the combo of both your robot arm and the robot jaw.
  • Can it feel its way around? Force sensors in the jaw help prevent over-gripping parts. Some jaws also offer position sensors to confirm the jaws have grasped the part before lifting.
  • What’s the interface like? Check that the jaw will properly connect to your specific robot arm. Many are compatible with standard M4 or M8 mounts, but some could require a custom adapter.
  • How will you control it? Make doubly sure your robot control software can operate the jaw. Many popular models work with major robotics platforms like Standard Bots, FANUC, and ABB. Some provide their own programming interface.
  • How much does it cost? Robot jaws range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars (and yes, way more) depending on features and capability.

How do you integrate a robot jaw into your robot arm?

Integrating a robot jaw into your robot arm system will allow it to grasp and manipulate objects, opening up many new applications. 

But, here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure you set it up properly because in some cases it’s not as easy as plugging in a new set of headphones. 

First, you’ll need to provide power to the gripper. Many grippers run on 24V DC power, but you may need an additional power supply for your robot arm or a separate one for the gripper. 

Second, the gripper will need to physically attach to your robot arm's end-effector flange or tool changer, if it has one. Double-check that the bolt patterns and dimensions are compatible – the most common sizes being the M4 and M8 bolts in a square or radial pattern. 

Finally, you’ll need to integrate gripper control into your robot control software. Many (dare we say, most) robot arms and grippers use digital I/O over Ethernet/IP, Profinet, or other industrial Ethernet protocols to send open/close commands and receive gripper status feedback. 

Please, remember to check if your robot's software has built-in support for the gripper you choose. If not, the gripper supplier should provide an API or library to help you add support, if they’re cool like that.

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What are the top robot jaws on the market?

There are quite a few high-quality robot jaws out there, but very few are worthy of the top spot on this list. 

They are: 

Robotiq Hand-E 

  • This versatile robot jaw adapts to diverse object shapes with its 3 skilled fingers, offering "hand-like" capabilities for Collaborative robots.
  • Features: 50mm stroke, 4 grasping modes, intuitive control, seamless integration with Robotiq sensors, and a price of $3,990.

OnRobot RG2-FT

  • Designed for industrial tasks, this robust gripper has a very high payload capacity and integrated force/torque sensors for precise grasping and delicate handling.
  • Features: 120mm stroke, 20 kg payload, force/torque sensing, easy integration with various robots, and a price starting at $3,199.

RoboShop A1333 

  • This budget-friendly option offers wide compatibility with different robot arms and payload capacities, which makes it a flexible choice for a wide variety of applications.
  • Features: 25mm stroke, up to 5 kg payload (depending on model), multiple jaw options, easy customization, And the price? Starting at $299.


How do I power and control the robot jaw?

Most robot jaws connect to and are powered by your robot arm. They typically come with cables that plug directly into ports on the arm. As for controlling the jaw, many manufacturers offer software libraries that integrate with popular robot operating systems like Robot Operating System (ROS) or Robotics System Toolbox in Matlab. 

How much can a robot jaw lift?

Robot jaw-lifting capacities can range from a few grams to hundreds of kilograms, depending on the size and design. What you want is to choose a jaw rated for the weight of the items you need to grasp and lift. The jaw spec sheet will list its maximum grasping force and payload capacity. Also, keep in mind the total weight with your robot arm—you don’t want the combined weight to exceed your arm’s payload!

What types of robot jaws are available?

The most common types are 2-finger parallel jaws, 3-finger jaws for irregularly shaped objects, and jaw kits with multiple jaw sets for different needs. Robot jaws come in both rigid and soft, compliant materials. Rigid jaws made of aluminum or steel have high precision but can damage fragile objects. Soft, compliant jaws made of silicone or polyurethane conform to object shapes and are best for fragile items.

Are robot jaws expensive?

Robot jaw prices range from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on features and capabilities. Basic two-finger parallel jaws start around $500-$1,000, while more complex soft jaws or jaw kits with multiple sets can cost $2,000-$5,000 or more. While robot jaws do represent an investment, they can significantly expand the capabilities and productivity of your robot system.

Summing up

A high-quality robot jaw will not just augment your chosen robot arm; it will provide it with the capabilities to lift, manipulate, and correctly place objects on an assembly line or warehouse

Basically, a robot arm without a jaw, or gripper, is not worth much, so you want to carefully consider investing in a cutting-edge robot jaw to make sure you’ve got a well-equipped tool for bringing the benefits of automation to your business.  

Next steps

If you’re looking to find the perfect pairing of robot arm and robot jaw for virtually any task out there, RO1 by Standard Bots is compatible with a huge variety of robot jaws. with universal M8 connectors, and integration with OnRobot end-effectors. It’s the best choice for shop floors of any size.

  • Affordable efficiency: RO1 stands out as a budget-friendly option in its class, beginning at half the price of its competitors, with leasing models starting from $5 per hour.
  • Advanced vision system: RO1 comes equipped with superior vision technology, featuring user-friendly, no-code programming that excels in detecting even the smallest imperfections and defects.
  • Designed for collaboration: RO1 is designed with safety in mind, featuring integrated sensors and collision detection for safe and efficient operation anywhere in your workshop.

Talk to our solutions team right now to set up a free, 30-day onsite trial and get expert advice on everything you need to deploy your first robot.

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