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Robotics Industry News

New Needle Gripper Series from Schmalz: Secure Grip for Composites, etc.

Schmalz, Inc.

The vacuum specialist J. Schmalz GmbH is expanding its needle gripper series SNG with the variants SNG-AP (pneumatic) and SNGi-AE (electrical). The new grippers are ideal for handling lightweight, thin and non-rigid materials such as composite textiles, as well as fleeces, filter materials, insulation materials and foams.

Experts estimate that the market for composites will continue to grow in the years to come, and that lightweight designs will become increasingly important. This increases the requirements for the manufacturing processes, particularly handling of composite textiles, for example in the automotive industry. According to the German Federation of Enforced Plastics (Industrievereinigung Verstärkte Kunststoffe), these challenges can only be met with increased automation. Schmalz’ newly developed needle grippers are pioneers in this field. They allow reliable, safe gripping of non-rigid and highly porous work pieces such as composites, as well as fleeces, filter materials, insulation materials and foams.

The intersecting needles on the SNG-AP and SNGi-AE needle grippers create a powerful holding force even with highly unstable work pieces. The gripper inserts several needles into the material in opposing directions, ensuring the work piece is held securely in the correct position without being damaged. Minimized effective areas mean that even very small parts can be moved reliably. When it comes to removing the work piece, the needles are retracted and a blow-off function ensures fast depositing. The grippers themselves weigh very little, thus allowing short cycle times. Available with needle strokes of 3, 10, and 20 mm and needle diameters of 0.8 or 1.2 mm, the Schmalz grippers can be adapted to the requirements of each individual work piece.

The SNGi-AE variant is an electrically driven gripper. Its needle stroke can be changed for each individual cycle, thus allowing any stroke sequence to be implemented. This ensures maximum process flexibility and makes rapidly changing automated tasks such as handling individual layers or entire stacks possible. The electrical version features an IO-Link interface, via which the gripper communicates with the higher-level controller and provides complete condition data. This not only allows continuous stroke monitoring but also comprehensive process control, which in turn enables ongoing process optimization. Furthermore, standardized plug connections simplify the installation process: The necessary cables are simply plugged in, eliminating the need for complex wiring of single conductors.

The needle gripper SNG-AP incorporates a central pneumatic drive with double-acting pneumatic cylinder. The needles are extended and retracted synchronously, reducing the need for hoses and couplings. An adjustment wheel with a scale enables continuous, simultaneous stroke adjustment, thereby ensuring minimum start of operations and set-up times. It is also possible for the SNG-AP to be fitted with a sensor to provide information on the end position of the needle.

Those new to needle grippers need not worry about extensive maintenance requirements: On both the SNGi-AE and the SNG-AP, the needles are quick to clean without the need for tools, and can be changed simply and efficiently. The housing has a lightweight design yet is extremely robust.

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