From its humble beginnings as a mechanical engineering firm in Langenthal, Canton of Bern, Güdel AG has grown to become a global player with more than 1100 employees. It first started taking a greater interest in handling and material flow solutions for a variety of industrial sectors back in the 1990s, and press automation is an important part of this field. "Based on a modular system of linear, drive and system components that we have developed ourselves, we produce docking-ready subsystems and complete solutions including control systems, so our customers can get everything they need from a single source," explains Adrian Stauffer, General Manager for Press Automation. Güdel plants carry out the unstacking and feeding of unmachined metal sheets, the handling between the presses and the output of sheet metal parts.
Goal: Short cycle times and high process reliability
When it comes to the machining of metal sheets, speed is also essential. In order to achieve short cycle times and high process reliability, the sheet metal parts must be gripped quickly and securely, transported reliably and positioned precisely. These requirements also apply to systems such as the Güdel roboSpeed, which has proven successful in sectors such as the automotive industry. It can move parts weighing up to 100 kg with high acceleration – a feat that places special demands on vacuum technology elements such as vacuum generators and grippers. Güdel works closely with vacuum specialist Schmalz in order to overcome these challenges.
"Our vacuum technology products are tailored to the requirements of the sheet metal handling sector," explains Christian Landis, Managing Director of Schmalz Switzerland. "For example, our SXMPi compact ejectors are specially designed for handling airtight workpieces under extreme conditions. They generate the necessary vacuum quickly and precisely, and are perfect for applications that require short cycle times." The ejectors are equipped with a range of functions for energy and process control, allowing the user to monitor and optimize the process at any time. For example, one particular preventive maintenance function measures the flow resistance and air-tightness in the gripping system. It thus detects changes in the conditions, such as leakages and dirt, at an early stage so that potential causes of faults can be identified in good time. This allows maintenance to be performed before unscheduled downtime occurs, which would otherwise entail high costs. As such, it provides great added value for Güdel's customers.
The condition and energy monitoring functions are also worth their weight in gold to Güdel customers. The latter optimizes the energy balance of vacuum systems: The ejector improves efficiency right from the start of operations, recording the current consumption as a real value. The system then indicates when this level gets too high so that the user can introduce countermeasures in plenty of time. Meanwhile, the condition monitoring function improves plant availability. The ejectors constantly monitor function-related process parameters, such as air-tightness and operating pressure. Detailed condition analyses then provide early warning of fault sources.
Another factor that is crucial to ensuring that the sheets are transported reliably is the vacuum gripper. "Our vacuum grippers provide high holding forces, even on oily surfaces," reports Christian Landis. "They act as the interface between the handling system and the sheet metal part." The SAXM vacuum grippers stand out due to their impressive holding forces, and can move even heavy sheets with speed and precision. They have a very high suction cup stroke and can adapt to different workpiece contours. Thanks to their sturdy design and the hard-wearing Elastodur material used to make them, they come with a very long service life. The unique texture on the inside of the suction cups and a special friction disc ensure optimum absorption of shear forces, even when the metal sheets in question have been oiled.
Intelligent functions for reliable machining
Güdel is highly satisfied with its Schmalz products. "We can achieve fast cycles and reliable positioning with good repeatability, even for very heavy metal sheets," says Adrian Stauffer. He is also pleased with the diagnostic options: "These functions give our customers a greater sense of business security and protect them from unwanted—and expensive—surprises, such as plant downtimes.
Güdel sees itself as a technological pioneer, and is very exacting in its choice of project partners. "Schmalz is one of the market leaders in vacuum technology—particularly in the field of comprehensive plant monitoring using intelligent diagnostic functions—and this is of huge benefit to us," Stauffer explains. If a problem occurs, Schmalz reacts very quickly and provides a highly capable contact person to handle the situation. "We always operate on equal footing, because we are familiar with the wishes and requirements of our customers," the MD concludes.