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Robotic Tool Changers and Swivvel – Enhancing Efficiency and Flexibility in Automation

Table of Contents

Automation has transformed various industries. It has increased productivity, precision, and efficiency. One crucial component that plays a pivotal role in the automation process is the Robotic Tool Changer. This innovative technology combines the functionalities of a swivel and a tool changer, offering a wide range of benefits for robotic systems. This comprehensive guide will explore robotic tool changers’ features, advantages, and applications, highlighting their significance in modern automation.

What is a Robotic Tool Changer?

A Robotic Tool Changer is a unique combination of a swivel and a tool changer. It is designed to enhance the flexibility and productivity of robotic systems. It allows seamless switching between different end-of-arm tools, enabling robots to perform various tasks within a single automation process. By eliminating the need for manual tool changes, robotic tool changers significantly reduce downtime and increase overall efficiency.

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Evolution of Robotic Tool Changers

The increasing demand for automation in various industries has driven the development of robotic tool changers. Traditional robot systems require manual intervention to switch between different tools, resulting in time-consuming and inefficient processes. With the introduction of robotic tool changers, automation systems could achieve greater versatility and adaptability, leading to enhanced productivity and cost-effectiveness.

Importance of Robotic Tool Changers in Automation

Robotic tool changers play a critical role in automation by enabling robots to perform multiple tasks without human intervention. They offer the flexibility to seamlessly switch between different end-of-arm tools, such as grippers, welding guns, and material handling tools. This versatility allows robots to handle many applications, from assembly and packaging to welding and inspection. With the ability to adapt to different tasks, robotic tool changers optimize the utilization of robotic systems and maximize productivity.

Types of Robotic Tool Changers

Robotic tool changers come in different types, each tailored to specific application requirements. Let’s explore the most common types of robotic tool changers available in the market.


  1. Swivel Tool Changers

Swivel tool changers like the RSP Swivel Tool Changer STC100 are popular for automation systems. These tool changers combine the functionalities of a swivel and a tool changer, allowing for free rotation of axis 6 while maintaining a compact design. With the integration of patented technologies like True Connect™, swivel tool changers ensure reliable and precise tool changes throughout their lifespan.


  1. Medium Swivels with Tool Changers

Medium swivels with tool changers offer a versatile solution for applications that involve welding guns or material handling tools. These tool changers provide a wide range of robot movement and are designed with a robust and proven design, ensuring high reliability without limiting the robot’s performance or working range. Their fixed housing and slim design make it easier to reach tight positions, enhancing the flexibility of robotic systems.


  1. Swivel Brackets: Enhancing Adaptability

Swivel brackets, also known as adaptation kits, are used to enhance the functionality of swivels or swivel tool changers. These model-specific kits enable the unit’s rotation to work properly, allowing for seamless integration with different robot models. Swivel brackets provide additional adaptability, ensuring compatibility and performance optimization in automation systems.


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Key Features of Robotic Tool Changers

Robotic tool changers have several key features that make them indispensable in automation systems. Let’s explore some of these features in detail.


  1.  Robotic Swivvel Tool Changing Functions

The primary advantage of robotic tool changers is their unique combination of a swivel and a tool changer. This integration allows for the free rotation of axis 6, enabling robots to access tight positions easily. The compact design of the tool changer minimizes the extension from the robot’s tool plate, optimizing space utilization and maneuverability.


  1. True Connect™: Patented Locking Device

It is important to ensure precision and reliability when changing tools. Many robotic tool changers feature the patented locking device, True Connect™. This innovative technology reduces play to a minimum, guaranteeing absolute alignment repeatability throughout the lifespan of the tool changer. Unlike traditional tool changers, True Connect™ does not require exact alignment before docking with different tools, saving time and effort during operation.


  1. Compactness and Minimal Extension

Robotic tool changers are designed to be compact and have a minimal extension from the robot’s tool plate. This compactness allows for better space utilization within the automation system and facilitates easy integration with various robot models. The minimal extension ensures that the tool changer does not interfere with the robot’s movement, enabling smooth and uninterrupted operation.


  1. Absolute Alignment Repeatability

One of the critical factors in tool changing is maintaining precise alignment between the robot and the tool. Robotic tool changers excel in providing absolute alignment repeatability, ensuring consistent and accurate positioning of the tool. This feature is crucial for applications that require high precision, such as welding or inspection processes.


  1. Easy Docking with Different Tools

Traditional tool changers often require precise alignment before docking with different tools, which can be time-consuming and tedious. In contrast, robotic tool changers offer a user-friendly docking process, allowing easy and fast switching between tools. This feature enhances operational efficiency and reduces downtime, resulting in increased productivityRobotic Swivvels


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Technical Specifications of Robotic Tool Changers

When selecting a robotic tool changer for your automation system, it is essential to consider various technical specifications. Let’s explore some key parameters to evaluate when choosing a tool changer.

1.    Mechanical Interface

The mechanical interface of a robotic tool changer determines its compatibility with different robot models. Common mechanical interfaces include ISO standards such as ISO 9409-1-100-6-M10. Depending on the robot model and industry requirements, selecting a tool changer with the appropriate mechanical interface is crucial for seamless integration.

2.    Robot Payload Capacity

The robot payload capacity refers to the maximum weight the tool changer can handle without compromising the robot’s performance. It is essential to select a tool changer with a payload capacity that matches the specific requirements of your application. Typical payload capacities range from 100 kg (220 lb) and above.

3.    Working Temperature Range

Robotic tool changers should be able to operate within a specific temperature range to ensure optimal performance and longevity. The working temperature range typically varies between +10°C to +50°C (50 °F to 120 °F). It is advisable to consider the environmental conditions of your automation system and select a tool changer that can withstand these conditions.

4.    Force and Moment Specifications

Force and moment specifications determine the mechanical capabilities of the tool changer. These specifications include parameters such as Fz (force along the Z-axis), Mz (moment around the Z-axis), and Mx/My (moments around the X and Y axes). So, selecting a tool changer with force and moment specifications is vital. It should align with your application requirements.

5.    Weight and Dimensions

The weight and dimensions of a robotic tool changer play a significant role in its integration and compatibility with the robot. It is essential to consider the weight and dimensions of the tool changer to ensure it fits within the robot’s payload capacity and does not interfere with its movement. Typical weight ranges for tool changers are around 4.9 kg (10.8 lb), with a height of 83 mm (3.26 in).

6.    Air Channels and Connections

Robotic tool changers often require pneumatic connections to facilitate tool changes and other functionalities. The number of air channels available and their specifications, such as airflow per channel and maximum air pressure, should be considered when selecting a tool changer. It is important to ensure that the tool changer’s air channels align with the requirements of your application.

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Applications of Robotic Tool Changers

Robotic tool changers find applications in various industries. It enables automation systems to perform diverse tasks. Let’s explore some common applications where robotic tool changers excel.


  1. Welding and Material Handling

In welding applications, robotic tool changers allow robots to switch between different welding guns, ensuring precise and efficient welding processes. Similarly, in material handling applications, tool changers help robots to switch between different grippers or end effectors. It facilitates the handling of different objects with varying shapes and sizes.


  1. Assembly and Packaging

Robotic tool changers are widely used in assembly and packaging processes, where robots must handle different components or packages. By seamlessly switching between grippers, suction cups, or other specialized tools, robots can perform tasks such as picking, placing, and securing components or packages with high accuracy and efficiency.


  1. Inspection and Testing

Robotic tool changers are essential in inspection and testing applications, where robots must perform various measurement or quality control tasks. By switching between sensors or measurement devices, robots can inspect and test products or components for defects, dimensional accuracy, or other quality parameters.


  1. Collaborative Robot (Cobot) Integration

Robotic tool changers are also compatible with collaborative robots, or cobots, which work alongside human operators. Cobot toolchanger can switch between different end-of-arm tools, allowing them to perform various tasks in collaboration with human workers. This integration enhances the flexibility and adaptability of cobots in shared workspaces.

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How to Choose the Right Robotic Tool Changer

Selecting the right robotic tool changer for your automation system requires careful consideration of various factors. Before selecting a tool changer, it is crucial to analyze the specific requirements of your application. Consider factors such as the type of tasks to be performed, the payload capacity needed, and the environmental conditions in which the tool changer will operate. Consider the mechanical interface and other specifications required for seamless integration with your robots.

Evaluate the payload capacity and reach requirements of your application. Select a delta robotic tool changer that can handle the weight of your intended tools and provides sufficient reach for the tasks. Robotic tool changers should be able to withstand the demands of your application and operate reliably in various conditions. Consider factors such as the locking mechanism, build quality, and the manufacturer’s reputation when evaluating reliability and durability.

Consider the ease of integration and installation of the tool changer into your automation system. Ensure the tool changer has clear mounting and configuration guidelines and that the electrical and pneumatic connections align with your system’s requirements. Proper installation and regular maintenance are essential for maximizing the performance and longevity of robotic tool changers. Following these best practices will help extend the lifespan of the tool changer and optimize its performance.

Leading Manufacturers and Products

Several manufacturers offer reliable and innovative robotic tool changers. Here are a few leading manufacturers and their notable products.

1.    RSP Swivel Tool Changer STC100

The RSP Swivel Tool Changer STC100 is a unique combination of a swivel and a tool changer. It offers integrated swivel and tool-changing functions, providing free rotation of axis 6 while maintaining a compact design. With features like the patented TrueConnect™ locking device, the STC100 ensures precise and reliable tool changes throughout its lifespan.

2.    Catalog Excerpts: Medium Swivels with Tool Changers

Medium swivels with tool changers, featured in catalog excerpts, provide robust and reliable solutions for welding guns or material handling tools. These tool changers enable robots to achieve optimal performance and working range without compromising reliability. They offer forgiving locking devices, fast docking capabilities, and easy tool attachment for enhanced efficiency.

3.    Innovative Solutions from Probot System

Probot System offers complete and standardized media supply solutions for most robot-based automation. Their range of robotic tool changers and related products ensures seamless integration and reliable performance. Probot System’s commitment to innovation and customer satisfaction makes them a trusted provider of robotic tool changers.

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The Future of Robotic Tool Changers

The future of robotic tool changers holds exciting possibilities for automation systems. Continuous advancements in swivel and tool-changing technologies are expected to enhance the performance and capabilities of robotic tool changers. Improved locking mechanisms, faster docking processes, and increased compatibility with emerging robot models are anticipated developments in the field. Integrating robotic tool changers with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms can enhance automation and decision-making capabilities. AI-powered tool changers can optimize tool selection based on real-time data, adapt to task requirements, and learn from previous tool change experiences to improve efficiency. Collaborative robots, or cobots, are gaining prominence in various industries due to their ability to work alongside human operators. The development of tool changers specifically designed for cobots is expected to increase their versatility and adaptability. These tool changers will enable cobots to switch between different end-of-arm tools, further enhancing their collaborative capabilities.


In conclusion, robotic tool changers have revolutionized automation systems, providing enhanced flexibility, productivity, and efficiency. By seamlessly switching between different end-of-arm tools, robotic tool changers enable robots to perform a wide range of tasks within a single automation process. With advancements in technology and continuous innovation, the future of robotic tool changers looks promising, opening up new possibilities for automation in various industries.


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