Schmalz new clamping system offers more flexibility for 3D free-form surfaces
The Germany-based Schmalz is the global provider of automation, handling and clamping systems. The company supplies to customers in numerous industries innovative and efficient solutions based on vacuum technology. Schmalz products are used in a wide variety of production processes, for example, as grippers on robot arms in the production of car bodies, in CNC machining centres as clamping solutions for furniture pieces, or used by an operator to lift items ranging from boxes to solar modules. Schmalz customers can either choose from a diverse line of components or they can benefit from a complete solution that is custom-tailored to their requirements.
For more flexibility in the automated production environments, Schmalz has developed the Suction Cup Balance SSCB: A gripping and clamping system with automated conversion capability for 3D mould surfaces. With the same system, workpieces of different contours can be gripped and clamped - a great advantage in the automotive industry.
The Suction Cup Balance SSCB avoids expensive and lengthy conversion times: It adapts flexibly to different and complex shaped components. This allows for smaller lot sizes to be produced economically. The system consists of a sturdy aluminum body with a vacuum and several compressed air connections. A flexible bellows suction pad from the resistant Vulkollan polyurethane elastomer is used to grip the workpiece. Around it 8 cylindrical positioning pins are arranged with wear-resistant bearing material for optimum adaptation to the respective 3D geometries.
At the start of the gripping process, the positioning pins are adapted to the workpiece geometry. The suction cup uses a compressed air suspension to initially extend the pins and then to fix according to the desired position by interrupting the compressed air. The contour of the workpiece is obtained by the suction cup from the robot software. After a few seconds, the pins form the outline of the workpiece - it is an automatically prepared gripping system. In order to adjust a clamping system for the same workpiece contour, the pins are initially positioned in the same way. The gripper moves over the congruent built clamping system. The gripper pushes in the pins of the clamping system all at once until the negative contour of the gripping system is achieved. This way the workpiece can be gripped from above and clamped from below.
Schmalz offers 2 variants of the suction cups: First each pin can be fixed separately on a single compressed air line, and all pins together via a central compressed air line. For simple setup procedures there is the variant with centrally controlled positioning and reduced valve technology. For automated back operations there is the variant with individually controlled positioning pins to reproduce the 3D mould surface.
The Schmalz innovation offers users a number of advantages: The workpiece is always customized to the positioning pins. Conventional mechanical positioning mandrels or mould blocks are no longer required.
Expensive tooling no longer applies for fitting processes, which otherwise must be kept according to the workpiece. A single tooling with Suction Cup Balance SSCB is sufficient - the system makes an important contribution to the flexibility of automated production and assembly lines for complex components.