Considerations for component sourcing in robotic applications

Factory 4.0 concept : View of 2 waysGripper on universal robot in smart warehouse

Digi-Key Electronics’ partnership marketing manager—strategic programs, Eric Halvorson explores key components buyers will need to consider in robot applications.

Incorporating robots and sourcing the necessary components requires planning, preparation and research. Robots are available in many shapes and sizes with each one providing different strengths depending on the application. Plus, there are components and equipment to consider. 


End-of-arm-tooling (EOAT) is a robot’s most important part. This is where the work is performed. Selecting the right components here determines the robot’s effectiveness in its application. EOAT can mean grippers, welding guns, sprayers, grinders, waterjet cutting and more. Basic EOAT products can be purchased off-the-shelf, while highly customised products can be designed by the manufacturer to customers’ specifications.  

Vision Inspection Systems In the past, robots were programmed to move from coordinate-to-coordinate without the ability to move from a programmed path and unable to adapt to products not where the robot expected them to be. Today, robots are equipped with one or more computer connected cameras, letting the robot react to products that vary in shape/size and located outside the pre-programmed location. Vision systems can detect colour, form, shape, dimensions, temperature and more. They are widely used for sorting and quality inspection with much greater accuracy than human counterparts.  

Robot vision systems are versatile and flexible, so choosing the appropriate vision system for an application can be difficult. Exploring a few basic considerations can narrow down the search:  

2D v 3D: If the application needs to simply pick up a part and move it to another location with high repeatability, then 2D is most likely the best option. However, if the robot needs to distinguish orientation and even select from an assortment of parts, then 3D is probably the best bet. Another consideration is processing speed. While some cameras can process images internally, if the robot requires fast part identification and operates quickly to move product from one place to another, an external processor is likely required.  

Camera: Different types of cameras are required based on the machine vision’s role, which might include inspections such as quantity, foreign matter, defects, dimensions or position.  

There are many safety considerations when installing a robot. The following is a sample of products available to protect workers and equipment. 

Safety Considerations

In collaborative environments, workers will be walking into and around the arc of the robot’s swing. In these instances, zones are required to determine the robot’s speed. These are frequently configured with a safety scanner, which uses a laser to detect objects within a 360deg span.  

Light curtains detect if an obstruction, such as a person’s arm or leg, has entered a field that may cause injury.  

Presence sensing devices, such as mats and operator presence triggers, determine if a person is in an area that may be dangerous and will shut down the robot to prevent injury.  

There are many considerations when sourcing robotic components. Digi-Key carries leading automation brands, robot kits and robotic components. The company is looking forward to seeing what products leading automation suppliers bring to market, as well as implementing many of these innovations in its own operations to enable future scalability and success.