ThinKing April - Gripper fingers at the push of a button thanks to a digital development chain and additive manufacturing



A CAD program, online shop and additive manufacturing – the intelligent web-tool SCHUNK eGRIP offers three convenient functions in a single application. Within 15 minutes, gripper jaws can be designed, ordered and prepared for delivery within a few days thanks to a digital intercompany production network. As an added bonus, the SCHUNK eGRIP metal fingers feature an integrated lightweight design structure that reduces their weight by up to 50 percent.

The Development Agency for Lightweighting Baden-Wuerttemberg is presenting this innovation as its ThinKing for April 2017. Leichtbau BW GmbH grants this distinction every month to innovative products and services from the lightweighting sector in the German federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg to promote new technological developments in the region.

The web-tool offered by SCHUNK as a leader in gripping systems and clamping technology is designed as a quick and easy interface. Instead of spending several hours with the product design as well as the shaping and processing of the gripper blanks, a few clicks at is all that is needed to move the order into the additive manufacturing phase. Similar to an online photo service, the user can configure the desired gripper fingers and upload a design file (STEP or STL) and set a series of variables such as material, gripper form, installation position and gripper finger length.

Weight reduction of up to 50 percent

Once the configurations are set, the tool outputs a time of delivery and the exact price. If variables such as the material a changed, the price is automatically updated allowing the user to easily compare the different materials that are available. By using a volume based pricing model, the company is able to pass the efficiency and low costs of the additive manufacturing process directly to its customers. The base price for polyamide grippers could be significantly reduced due to the streamlining effect of the fully digitized processing chain.

The gripping fingers can be manufactured not only out of nylon 12 but also out of aluminum (AlSi10Mg) and stainless steel (1.4404). While the heavy-duty polyamide gripper fingers are relatively low weight by nature, SCHUNK takes advantage of the technical potential of the selective laser melting process to create lightweight metal gripper fingers. These are crafted out of aluminum or steel as lightweight components by integrating hollow spaces or lattice structures. This process reduces the production time and amount of material required and also benefits users by producing metal fingers that weight 10 to 50 percent less than comparable components.

Only ten working days delivery time

The intelligent web-tool has a user interface available in both German and English. It can be used to custom order the SCHUNK Universal Gripper PGN-plus 40 through 125 (polyamide) or the PGN-plus 40 through 80 (aluminum and stainless steel), the pneumatically controlled SCHUNK MPG-plus 20 through 64 designed for small components as well as the electronically controlled 24V small part gripper SCHUNK EGP 20 through 50. The finished grippers can be delivered within ten working days.

The rapid turnaround is possible thanks to the completely digitized development chain which involves an intercompany network for the additive manufacturing of the gripping fingers. An approval workflow ensures that the data provided by the customer is reviewed by the SCHUNK gripping system experts to ensure that the requested product is plausible and realistic before the start of the production phase. In the next step, the product information is automatically passed on to the project partners through the system network. These partners use a specially developed algorithm to integrate the unique lightweight structure into the design and bundle individual orders into a common production batch to make optimal use of the production machines.

SCHUNK has won Hermes Award 2017 at Hannover Messe

The company itself claims to have the world’s first online shop for custom gripping fingers, and it truly offers significant value to customers. The production time for gripping fingers can be reduced by up to 97 percent. The manufacturing and delivery time is reduced by up to 88 percent not to mention a price reduction of up to 50 percent.

In 2015, the web based 3D design tool for gripping fingers produced through additive manufacturing helped make the family owned company from Lauffen am Neckar one of the top five candidates for the Hermes Award – one of the industry’s most prestigious awards. This impressive achievement was topped this year as the manufacturers was presented at the Hannover Messe with the 2017 Hermes Award for the SCHUNK Co-act Gripper JL1, an intelligent gripper system designed for human-robot collaboration. Press release