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3D printed grippers from HP 3D Printing transform manufacturing automation

CNC Würfel cuts lead times by manufacturing customized robot arm grippers with HP Multi Jet Fusion.

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Industry

Industrial: Robotics

Material

HP 3D High Reusability2 PA 12

Challenge

To improve their automation processes by finding a new way to manufacture a customized robot arm gripper and a master part repository.

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Technology

HP Multi Jet Fusion technology

HP Jet Fusion 4200 3D Printer

Results

CNC Würfel achieved more time- and cost-efficient production by replacing tooling with HP MJF 3D printed parts. 

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CHALLENGE

Problems with previous gripper production

CNC Würfel specializes in manufacturing and process automation and optimization for industries such as automotive and medical technology. 

CNC Würfel started using 3D printing in 2017, printing components that had originally been produced with a milling cutter or lathe, both of which resulted in long production lead times. By 3D printing these parts, they were able to cut production times and print prototypes to test systems operations.

CNC Würfel wanted to more quickly produce their gripper adapter, a part that picks up items from conveyor belts and requires several components and gripping systems.

With traditional manufacturing, lead times ranged from 8 to 10 weeks. CNC Würfel designed three new pairs of gripping fingers at the front of the robot so that it could grip multiple items at once.

Producing a gripping adapter with a milling cutter or lathe requires extensive knowledge and presents questions about designing for milling, the part’s ability to tolerate the CNC process, and how to prevent snapping or tearing when positioning the external tubing.

CNC Würfel also needed to integrate a master part into the system to help with inspection, or create one that is integrated and automatically conducts inspections. This part must be able to withstand both human- and weather-related external influences.

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“The contexts and ways in which 3D printing can be used are constantly expanding, and in the business world as well as the consumer world, the possibilities are practically limitless.” 

Oliver Würfel, Managing Director, CNC-Automation Würfel

SOLUTION

Designing a 3D printed gripper and customized final parts

CNC Würfel decided to produce a 3D printed gripper adapter, which would allow them to manufacture at faster speeds using a more straightforward process. 

“Ultimately it came down to three models, from round to angled,” said Lars Weiß, responsible for 3D printing and sales for CNC-Automation Würfel..

“This is then applied to the final product, which is now used in three of our automation systems. This 3D printed gripper adapter looks like an attached box section that has the screw connections, bores for pneumatic connections, and blow-off valves, and that is so flexibly designed that we almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to make it with milling.”

For their master part repository, CNC Würfel imagined a box made of metal, stainless steel, or another weather-resistant material that can house the entire part. 

Then they needed to bend, trim, weld, and somehow assemble the metal box to create a molded barrier that protects the parts within. However, design and production would lead to costs of approximately 4.500€ ($5,176) per case.

Instead, they adjusted the design for 3D printing by creating a high-quality visual of the master part case, which ultimately consisted of four parts: the cover, the base, and two brackets to hold it in place.

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RESULTS

Time and cost-efficient 3D printed gripper production

From design to finished component, producing the 3D printed gripper adapter used to take 8 to 10 weeks, but with HP MJF technology, production time decreased to only 2 days, a reduction of approximately 2 months.

HP MJF design costs for the 3D printed gripper adapter were between 1.500€ and 2.000€ ($1,725 to $2,300), with a 3D printing cost of 200€ ($230). Previous methods cost CNC Würfel up to 3 times more, allowing for cost savings of approximately 66%.

The master part repository was 3D printed and cooled in 3 days and then mounted in 3 days, for a total production time of just under 1 week. Previous methods would have taken between 8 and 10 weeks, resulting in an overall time reduction of 2 months.

Traditional manufacturing costs would have been 4.500€ ($5,176), but with HP MJF, the 3D printed part costs 150€ to 250€ ($172 and $287), not including design, for a cost reduction of 95%. The 3D printed master part repository also decreased in weight by 84%.

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  1. All images are data courtesy of CNC-AUTOMATION WÜRFEL
  2. HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solutions using HP 3D High Reusability PA 12 provide up to 80% powder reusability ratio, producing functional parts batch after batch. For testing, material is aged in real printing conditions and powder is tracked by generations (worst case for reusability). Parts are then made from each generation and tested for mechanical properties and accuracy.