Cosmetics firm turns to 3D printed grippers

Louise Smyth

Carecos Kosmetik, a contract manufacturer of cosmetic products, has its own packaging machines and for each new product being packaged, develops a specific gripper to pick up the lid and screw it onto the bottle. Previously an elaborate machining process was used to make the gripper from aluminium. Not only did that cost up to 10,000 euros per part, it also took six weeks to manufacture.

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. For these reasons the company initially tried to 3D print the grippers with standard plastics such as ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and PLA (polylactide). However, the printing processes did not provide satisfactory results; this is because almost all of the individual parts of the gripper are exposed to constant wear.
Carecos Kosmetik turned to igus for help and advice. With the tribologically-optimised iglidur i150 filament, the company 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. This has enabled the company to save up to 85% of the cost and 70% of the manufacturing time compared machined aluminium parts. Compared to standard materials such as PLA, iglidur tribofilaments are up to 50 times more wear-resistant and can be processed on all standard 3D printers. An additional benefit for the company is that the plastic grippers are seven times lighter than their metal counterparts.

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