Maintenance free 3D printed grippers make packaging machines effective

When an eagle grasps prey, it adapts its grip to the respective size in a lightning fast move. The packaging industry can only dream of this flexibility. Their metal grippers, which for example put the lid on cream jars, are usually limited to a single format. Therefore it often takes weeks for a product change, until the right gripper is made. It is 85 percent cheaper and 70 percent faster with robust and lightweight plastic grippers made of igus tribo-filaments. They come directly from the 3D printing process.

Since 2015 igus has been offering tribologically optimised 3D print filaments for 3D printing. If the CAD data of a product are available, it is easy to fabricate it in an additive process - and indeed made of self-lubricating iglidur high-performance plastics that are optimised for wear and friction. Many companies have already used the tribo-filaments from igus. Among the customers was Carecos Kosmetik GmbH, which faced the following problem: if a product had to be changed, it had to have new grippers made for the packaging machines, which would grip the lids and screw onto cans.

Here, the customer previously selected the elaborate machining of a gripper made from aluminium. Not only did that cost up to 10,000 euros per part, it also took six weeks. That is too long a wait in an industrial sector, where in the beginning of the Industry 4.0 era it is increasingly important to be able to economically produce even small batches. The solution: With the tribologically-optimised iglidur I150 filament, the packer has found an extremely stable and at the same time very impact-resistant material for 3D printing, with which a gripper can be printed within 10 to 12 hours.

50 times more wear-resistant than standard materials: igus printing filaments

Due to the high costs and the long production time of the metal grippers, the company initially tried to 3D print the grippers with standard plastics such as ABS and PLA. However, the printing processes did not provide satisfactory results. For this reason, Carecos Kosmetik GmbH turned to igus and with iglidur I150 it now has a lubrication-free and maintenance-free tribo-filament optimised for friction and wear.

Because almost every element of a gripper is flexible and glides in this movement on surfaces and shafts and pins, so that the individual parts are exposed to constant wear. Metallic parts must often be provided with separate bearings or lubricated in the application. The use of iglidur I150 in 3D printing enabled the company to save up to 85 percent of the cost and 70 percent of the manufacturing time compared to the previously selected aluminium formats.

But, not only that. In addition, plastic grippers are seven times lighter than metal grippers. igus also offers five other filaments for the printing of wear-resistant parts in a wide variety of application scenarios. Compared to standard materials such as polylactide (PLA), the high-performance plastics from igus are up to 50 times more wear-resistant and can be processed on all standard 3D printers.

For more details write to Ravikumar Alloli, Product Manager - chainflex® at email

igus GmbH is a globally leading manufacturer of energy chain systems and polymer plain bearings. The Cologne-based family business has offices in 35 countries and employs around 3,180 people around the world. In 2016, igus generated a turnover of 592 million euros with motion plastics, plastic components for moving applications. igus operates the largest test laboratories and factories in its sector to offer customers quick turnaround times on innovative products and solutions tailored to their needs.


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