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Smart Investments: Cost-Saving End of Arm Tooling for Food Production Lines

Updated: May 2

3D printing end effectors and mould tools is a cost-effective way to achieve bespoke fit grip or suction cup end of arm tooling (EOAT).


In the Food & Beverage manufacturing industry, being able to produce exact fit, soft grip or suction tooling is invaluable, in particular for product protection. The gentle handling of food products is essential to reduce the risk of damage or deformation during packaging or transportation. For delicate items like confectionery, maintaining the product's shape and appearance is essential for quality control and customer satisfaction.


What we designed

3D printed end of arm tooling

Our team of engineers designed a bespoke end of arm tool to fit a pneumatic system (air) vacuum with soft suction cups for pick and place of items.


The end effector arm is designed to be easily interchangeable, with an embedded thread in the top to change the EOAT easily. It is also curved for minimal space occupancy and light weighting = longer life span of machinery.


The suction cups are produced from a 3D printed mould, where we cold-poured a non-platinum based silicone.


Our engineers designed this tool to be used in 2 different ways:

  1. To use on the production line (not in direct food contact)

  2. For final prototyping testing and validation before injection moulding


The best-fit applications for this are:

  • Pick and place (non-direct food contact)

  • Movement of packaged food, consumer goods and finished products

  • Sorting of products before labelling


How did we make it?

We used a combination of Additive technologies to produce the various components


For the end effector we used a combination of technologies; Markforged composite 3D printer to produce the high strength arm in Onyx (Nylon with micro carbon fibres) with the connecter and thread embedded during the print process; and the Formlabs resin 3D printers to produce the curved effector, printed in Tough 2000 resin (properties similar to ABS).


The mould tool was printed on the Formlabs resin 3D printers in a grey resin.


The suction cups were cold poured using a non-platinum based silicone (with a 6 hour set time).



Why use Additive Manufacturing?

Using Additive Manufacturing, you are able to produce exact fit, soft grip tooling and suction cups, at very fast turnaround times (1-2 days) and low cost. What's more;


There are no MOQs.

Whether used for one-offs, or low volume runs, there is no minimum order quantity. This also means your teams can test a range of prototypes easily and at low cost.


Customised shapes to grip products.

The design is only limited by imagination and machinery compatibility. With Additive Manufacturing, you have freedom of geometry in design to accommodate various and irregular shapes, curves, grooves and channels so you can achieve an exact fit to the end product, minimising damage or risk of failure.


Placeholder and legacy parts to keep the production line running.

Using Additive enables fast turnaround on missing parts, either a permanent replacement part or a placeholder part. What's more, if the part in question is legacy or end of line, re-designing and 3D printing the EOAT will be more cost-effective for short run use.

 

Interested in applying Additive Manufacturing? Contact our team

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