Maintenance-free 3D printed grippers make bespoke packaging machines cost effective

11 February 2018

Carecos Kosmetik GmbH, a contract manufacturer of cosmetic products, has its own packaging machines and, for each new product being packaged, it needs to develop a specific gripper to pick up the lid and screw it onto the bottle.

Traditionally this was achieved using an elaborate machining process which produced the bespoke grippers from aluminium. This cost up to 10,000 euros per part, it each one took six weeks to manufacture.

In the era of Industry 4.0 it has become increasingly important to be able to economically produce even small batches. For this reasons the company initially trialled the use of a 3D printer to create the grippers using standard plastics such as ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and PLA (polylactide). However, the printing processes did not provide satisfactory results because almost all of the individual parts of the gripper are exposed to constant wear so the plastic products were not robust enough.

The company needs a more robust material and it turned to igus for help. With its tribologically-optimised iglidur i150 filament, was found to be stable and at the same time a very impact-resistant material for 3D printing and each gripper can be printed within 10 to 12 hours. This has enabled the company to save up to 85% of the cost and 70% of manufacturing time, when compared with machined aluminium parts. Compared to standard materials such as PLA, iglidur tribofilaments are said to be up to 50 times more wear-resistant and can be processed on all standard 3D printers. An additional benefit for the company is that the plastic grippers are seven times lighter than their metal counterparts.

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