FIPA develops custom gripper system for removing hot plastic parts from injection molding machines


FIPA Inc. recently developed a custom gripper system for an injection molding machine dedicated to making automotive lighting reflectors. Designed for ZEIBINA Kunststoff-Technik GmbH, a renowned German plastics processing company, FIPA’s latest custom gripper system automates what had been a manual demolding process to protect employees from handling hot (120°C) plastic parts and improve quality by ensuring that parts are removed from their molds free of any marks or paint-wetting impairment substances (PWIS) that could potentially interfere with subsequent coating processes. The new gripper system also successfully reduces cycle times to a succinct 33 seconds, considerably increasing factory throughput.

Developed at FIPA’s main manufacturing facility in Germany, this custom gripper system is exclusively comprised of components from FIPA’s modular construction kit, including: sprue grippers that combine a high closing force for secure gripping with a soft, heat-resistant HBNR elastomer coating for blemish-free handling, finger grippers that prevent parts from laterally slipping, and sensor-enabled grippers that monitor and inform the success of the overall handling sequence.

“After the lighting reflector blanks are removed from the injection molding machine, they’re transported to another system that coats the plastic parts with vaporized aluminum and other metals to ensure high surface stability, but for this process to be a success, the parts must be absolutely pristine, which proved too challenging for off-the-shelf solutions,” said Dirk Zeibig, managing director at ZEIBINA. “FIPA has helped us master several other complicated handling challenges over the last few years, so there was no question that we would once again entrust them with the design, development, and installation of our latest custom gripper solution. The combination of their robust, reliable components, technical expertise, approachable pricing, and attentive customer service allows us to further enhance both our quality and competitiveness.”

“Due to the shape of ZEIBINA’s injection-molded parts and the force required to remove them from the mold, it was clear that a standard vacuum cup solution would not suffice. So, after a close and open exchange with the ZEIBINA team, our engineers used several components from our modular gripper kit to customize an automated handling system to their lighting reflector manufacturing process,” said Rainer Mehrer, president of FIPA. “The application-specific gripper system not only satisfied their two primary goals: protecting employees from handling hot plastic parts and ensuring that they’re removed from the mold without any marks or residues, but also reduced cycle times down to 33 seconds, allowing them to significantly increase production.”

FIPA components used to assemble the custom gripper system for ZEIBINA’s injection-molded reflector process include:

  • GR04.103 sprue grippers, which feature a high-strength, anodized aluminum body and actuator jaws with both gap-free closing capabilities for small sprues and a 10mm clamping diameter to accommodate larger parts;
  • GR04.103-4 interchangeable sprue gripper jaws coated with extremely soft hydrogenated nitrile butadiene rubber (HNBR), which enable the mark-free gripping of delicate components;
  • GR04.101A single-acting sprue grippers with direct part detection and large area sensor activation capabilities, regardless of sprue position;
  • GR04.045 35° angle stroke gripper fingers with single-action, spring return design;
  • LT10 compact reflective sensors, which enable the long-range optical monitoring of workpieces, can accommodate any mounting position, and feature a small footprint, adjustable sensitivity, an LED display, and lightweight body; furthermore a variety of clamping elements, extrusions, and profiles.