Automation for Industrial Cutting

Trade show and furniture builders, signmakers and packaging experts – they all use cutting systems to cut materials to size, whether it be twin-wall sheets, cardboard boxes, rubber or foam and textiles. Zünd Systemtechnik AG is an expert partner for such applications. During development of their latest product, a cutting table with automatic feeder and removal system, the Swiss machine builders brought the experience and expertise of Schmalz on board to design the vacuum system on the table.

The automatic feeder system with vacuum gripper spider works quickly and reliably.
A suction cup for all materials – the simplicity of the solution is a convincing argument for Zünd Systemtechnik.
Schmalz combines a bellows suction cup with an ecoPump SEP which allows for short cycle times.
Successful collaboration – Christian Landis and Oliver Zünd stand in front of the BHS 150.

The success story began in 1984 with the company's founding by Karl Zünd. In 1988, the sole proprietorship became incorporated and transformed from a dealer of flat bed plotters to a developer of custom cutting machines. Today, Zünd Systemtechnik AG is a global Swiss family business with over 300 employees and is among the leading manufacturers of modular and digital cutting systems. The company’s customers include commercial service providers and industrial companies in the graphics, packaging, clothing and leather industries as well as in the textiles and composites market. Research and development, marketing and production are based at the company’s headquarters in Altstätten. In addition to its own sales and service organizations in the USA, China, Thailand, India, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Italy, the company works with independent and established sales partners worldwide.

Oliver Zünd, Managing Director of Zünd Systemtechnik AG, focuses on innovation, quality and customer relationships to build long-term success. This enables the cutting system specialist to identify current trends at an early stage. “We are seeing robotic automation being used more and more by our customers," says Zünd. This is driven in part by the increasing simplicity and declining cost of automation options. However, he is also aware of the effects of increasing e-commerce: “We have noticed consolidation taking place, especially in the graphics and packaging industries." Company growth brings increasing workflow optimization and automation. The cutting system expert must also consider upstream and downstream processes during development. "Our core competence is mechanical engineering. The more our business expands, the more we rely on cooperation with partners with relevant expertise," explains the managing director.

High-output applications

One example is the new BHS150. The name stands for a “Board Handling System” with a stacking height of 1.50 meters and therefore longer operating times. This appeals to customers that need to economically and efficiently process large production batches. "In addition to the cutting table, the system consists of an automatic feeder with vacuum gripper spider and an automatic removal station," explains Roman Hasler, Product Manager at Zünd Systemtechnik. The suction spider moves over the pallet, picks up and then aligns the workpiece. As it moves to the cutting table, a scanner reads the QR code containing the order ID. The workpiece is then placed on the cutting table. Development of the new system was based on customer demand and is intended to meet the high output demands of a digital printing press during the cutting process. “Customers also wanted a higher level of automation in order to process the material more quickly,” explains Hasler. In addition, the system needed to be able to process an order unmanned overnight.

The new system takes various materials from the stack and brings individual sheets to the cutting machine. Vacuum technology is decisive for ensuring a reliable process. "However, we had little experience with vacuum," admits Hasler. The developers therefore turned to Stephan Wilms, system consultant at Schmalz GmbH. Together with Wilms and with the assistance of Aerne Engineering, which supplied the entire automation system, the Swiss company was able to integrate separation during destacking—a new function for Zünd—as well as select a suction cup that can safely hold both rigid and flexible materials such as corrugated board, foam, solid board, honeycomb sheets and PVC. "We even tested plastic film, which also works," recalls Hasler. "A suction cup that can handle many types of materials is advantageous for the customer. It is a series product whose simplicity is attractive to our customers," adds Oliver Zünd.

Small components, big results

In order to achieve the required short cycle times, Schmalz recommended generating the vacuum directly at the suction cup using the ecoPump SEP ejector module with silencer. The efficient vacuum generator allows for high flow rates, which ensures fast processes. The flexible, adaptable sealing lip of the bellows suction cup SPB2 optimally adapts to different surfaces and provides a sturdy seal. In addition, built-in round flat suction cups with a flat shape and small volume allow the workpiece to be gripped particularly quickly and accurately. “Schmalz immediately understood the requirements and turned them into a perfectly functioning system," summarizes Oliver Zünd. The vacuum expert also supplied the spring plungers, which compensate for height differences, protect surfaces and ensure gentle placement, as well as the necessary connection elements including aluminum profiles.

Test systems for the new BHS150 cutting table are already being operated by users on-site. “So far, everyone has been satisfied with the solution," reports Oliver Zünd. For him, the concept of profitably supplementing his core competence in constructing digital cutting systems through cooperation with competent partners such as Schmalz and Aerne Engineering has worked.
 In this way, he can present customer-oriented solutions with more automation on the market and still remain true to his motto: “We do not react to price wars. We focus on quality combined with a high degree of innovation.”

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