ThinKing August – Innovative vacuum gripper provides maximum suction power where it is needed



Thanks to a patented valve system, the entire gripping surface does not need to be covered. Lightweight construction and 3D printing reduce the gripper’s weight by up to two thirds.

The partial vacuum gripper manufactured by JOMATIK GmbH allows parts to be lifted with maximal suction power without requiring the entire suction surface to touch the part. A patented valve system ensure that no suction power is “lost” though the valves that do not touch the part. The young company based in Tuebingen independently developed the new gripper and manufactured the system using selective laser sintering in an additive manufacturing process. Through the production of the gripper through 3D printing it was possible to reduce weight by about 65 percent in comparison to standard manufacturing processes.

The state agency for lightweighting Baden-Württemberg presents this innovation as its ThinKing for August 2017. With this distinction, Leichtbau BW GmbH seeks to promote innovative products and services in lightweighting sector from Baden-Württemberg.

The clever lightweighting solution is a vacuum gripper that lifts parts through suction. JOMATIK GmbH based in Tuebingen was contracted by a customer to develop the product which was tested over several months. The customer has been successfully implementing the product since May. The primary advantage of the new gripper is that it allows several individual components to be lifted with full section power and passed on to further processing steps.

Patented system

Typical vacuum grippers distribute the air across the entire surface of the part being lifted. The vacuum valve system patented by JOMATIK GmbH however ensures that the maximum suction power is applied to every point at which the gripper touches a component – eliminating the requirement that the entire gripping surface touches the part. Small spherical blockers are built into the gripper which act as a check valve. If no part is touching the valve, a ball seals the air channel, preventing any suction power from being lost. The development and production of the partial vacuum gripper through additive production and 3D printing is unique for the vacuum gripper market.

JOMATIK GmbH builds the gripper out of polyamide (PA 12) through selective laser sintering (SLS) which uses lasers to meld metal powder to produce components layer by layer. This process offers manufacturers several of the advantages that additive production brings. Thanks to the SLS process and the resulting reduction of production and assembly effort, JOMATIK GmbH is able to deliver individually mounted grippers to its customers within a few short days.

Integrated functionality and reduced weight

The new lightweight manufacturing process was able to reduce weight by about 65 percent in comparison to typical production methods. In addition, a folded bellow is included in the vacuum gripper. The bellows are also produced through 3D printing. This component expands the functionality of the gripper by moving a frame which fixes the workpiece in the correct position. This accelerates the process and increases productivity.

The vacuum gripper is currently being used in textile production. The machine is being used to apply several pieces of a multipart logo to a textile base in a single production step. The gripper is able to lift the different pieces simultaneously and apply them to the base material. The bellow holds the base textile in place to allow for a secure attachment of the logo pieces. Several other applications for the vacuum gripper are also conceivable, including in the area of packaging. Thanks to the partial suction system, numerous geometries and component forms can be lifted and moved.

Highly adaptable construction

The gripper itself can also be crafted in several different shapes. The core of the vacuum gripper – its patented vacuum valve system – allows JOMATIK to manufacture the gripper according to the specifications and needs of its customers. The number of valves built into the gripper can also be varied according to the requirements of the desired application.

Presentation at MOTEK 2017

JOMATIK will be on site in Stuttgart at this year’s MOTEK – the international trade fair for automation in production and assembly – to showcase its partial vacuum gripper. The company’s stand will be on display from 9-12 October in Hall 8 at stand 8322.