FIPA GmbH Vakuum- und Greifertechnik

FIPA in Automation: Flexible Vacuum Grippers for Precise Handling of Precast Concrete Units

When FIPA’s clients look for solutions, we deliver with innovative and customized products. Learn how we partnered with one of our clients to develop a customized gripper for the production of multi-layer concrete components. The entire project was nominated for the 2013 BAUMA Innovation Award - an honor presented every 3 years to top companies which showcase groundbreaking developments in machinery and equipment for construction, building materials and mining.

The Client:
A leader in conception, design and implementation of production plants for the precast concrete element industry, FIPA’s client was looking for flexible vacuum grippers to handle wall cladding components in their production plant. The client chose FIPA as a project partner because of its flexibility and expertise in the vacuum gripper and End-of-Arm-Tooling industry.

The Problem:
Multi-layer concrete components are often used in industrial and commercial buildings and in prefabricated houses to reduce construction time and building costs. Manufacturing concrete components with natural stone or plastic tile cladding involves extremely high staff costs. Manual tile application also causes the dimensional accuracy of the precast components to fluctuate.

Until now, no fully automated system on the market was capable of assembling these multi-layer concrete components with the required level of precision and flexibility. Our client was looking for flexible vacuum grippers to handle wall-cladding components in their production plant.

The Specifications:
The specifications provided by our client required tiles/bricks between 40 x 80 mm and 700 x 1600 mm to be handled using multiple single-sized vacuum grippers without changing tools. The ability to securely grip partial segments as well as whole bricks was also essential.

Due to the system dynamics, there were extremely high demands on the vacuum gripper’s holding capacity: A Cartesian robot picked up the tiles horizontally from the material feed and carried them to the concrete component, where it deposited them with a high degree of precision. The robot axes moved at speeds of up to 4 m/s and acceleration could reach up to 3 m/s.

The Solution:
To match the clients unique requirements, FIPA developed a custom vacuum gripper within a very short period of time. Comprehensive testing determined the ideal vacuum gripper for the shape and weight of the bricks. It was important to ensure, that the vacuum duct holes did not line up with the tile grooves. The ability of the gripper to function reliably with a partial load was also successfully demonstrated. This is a standard feature in all FIPA vacuum grippers which included special ball valves seal off the intake ducts in the unused suction areas.

A special feature of the FIPA design prevented the intake ducts and ball valves from becoming blocked by dust, which is extremely pervasive in construction industry applications. The large diameter of the holes and balls allowed the dust to pass through the gripper unimpeded. Highly wear-resistant and age-resistant suction mats that were tailored exactly to the requirements of the construction industry were another feature of FIPA’s custom vacuum gripper solution.