January 11, 2022
Festo has announced surging interest in its electric series (E-series) of intelligent magnetic grippers from Magswitch, based in Lafayette, Colo. Festo has been a Magswitch distribution partner since 2019.
The company’s E-Series intelligent magnetic grippers are not electromagnets, nor are they electropermanent magnets (EPMs). Rather, the units contain proprietary switching technology that enables reduced energy consumption, faster actuation, intelligent magnetic gripping, part correct/incorrect feedback capabilities, and 2x to 3x the holding forces of similarly sized electromagnet or EPM, Festo said. Pole shoes that shape the magnetic field are offered in standard and custom configurations to ensure the correct grip for the application.
In addition, the grippers are smaller than electromagnets, which helps to reduce the size of end-of-arm tools. With a lower weight and size, designers can frequently use a smaller robot for applications, helping to lower capital costs as well as reduce their footprint, the company added.
Applications for magnetic grippers include stamping applications, including progressive dies. In a stamping operation, intelligent variable field output can separate a single blank from a pile, and then identify whether the blank is the correct thickness. Units cna identify and grip individual blanks down to 0.6 mm in thickness, Festo said.
In resistance spot welding applications, the E-Series units provide single-sided gripping technology, which eliminates the needs for clamps. With the clamps removed, a spot weld gun provides simpler access to the product. In addition, the E-Series can lower cycle time compared to clamps, with a rapid on/off actuation time of 250 milliseconds.
Other applications for the use of magnetic grippers include automotive assembly, white goods manufacturing, heavy industrial manufacturing, electronics assembly, bin picking, measuring, checking, ergonomic lift-assist, and collaborative cells.
“We are just at the beginning of envisioning the range of possibilities for intelligent magnetic gripping,” said Josh Bond, an automotive industry segment specialist at Festo. He gave two additional examples of the novel use of intelligent magnetic gripping. In one, an E-Series unit detects the presence of a welded bolt inside an automotive B Pillar, and sends an alert if the bolt is missing. This low-cost use helped save the manufacturer a considerable amount of rework from the early detection of missing bolts.
In the second case, E-Series units with non-marring polymer offsets are being used for safe, fast, and effective gripping of A-Class surfaces without blemishing those surfaces. The magnet uses a small amount of force to gently attach to, not bump, the surface, thus preserving the integrity of the finish. Once the part is gripped and separated from adjacent parts, the tool automatically switches to full power for maximum performance. With the E-Series proprietary switching reducing magnetism to zero in the off state, ferrous particles fall off the gripper, ensuring a clean surface, Bond said.