3D-Printed Robotic Grippers Help Packaging Plants Work Faster and More Efficiently
Matthew Greenwood posted on October 11, 2018 |

3D printing has significantly impacted manufacturing operations in a variety of sectors—and the packaging industry is no exception. The advent of small batching and personalized serial production has put pressure on packagers to find customizable and cost-effective solutions to increasingly complex client demands.

Packagers must use a new set of grippers customized for each new product they handle. These grippers are installed on packaging machines to perform tasks such as grip and fasten lids, and put products together and place them into shipping containers. These new parts, made with materials such as aluminum, can often be expensive. It can also be time-consuming to replace one set of grippers with another, resulting in days or even weeks of operation downtime.

igus has developed a possible solution to those pressures: 3D printing filaments specifically designed for printing parts that would normally wear out due to heavy use.

Almost every element of a gripper is flexible and is exposed to near constant wear from gliding on shafts and pins. igus claims that its Tribo-filament material is up to 50 times more resistant to wear and abrasion than materials made from conventional 3D-printed materials such as Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA). Tribo-filaments can be processed on all standard 3D printers, and a gripper can be printed within 12 hours.

Available since 2015, the filament has been tested extensively in the company’s labs—and have shown effective results for real-world companies. For example, Carecos Kosmetiks turned to igus because the company wasn’t satisfied with the performance it received from 3D-printed grippers made out of standard plastics like ABS and PLA.

After using igus’ iglide I150 Tribo-filament, Carecos Kosmetiks was able to save up to 85 percent of the cost and 70 percent of the manufacturing time compared to the aluminium-based grippers it had used previously.

The printed igus grippers are also seven times lighter than their aluminium counterparts. In addition, the material is self-lubricating and maintenance-free.

igus’ Tribo-filament for 3D printing

In an industrial sector that is becoming increasingly nimble, it is essential for manufacturers to be able to transition rapidly and economically to make small batches of products. Materials such as igus’ Tribo-filaments could significantly help packaging plants meet the demands of their clients—and their bottom lines.

Want to find out more about 3D printing? Check out GE Transportation Jumps on the 3D Printing Train.

Recommended For You