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Composites Europe 2012 - Electrostatic gripper automates handling of carbon fiber materials

The Fraunhofer IPT is presenting an automated, highly flexible electrostatic gripper system which is capable of lifting semi-finished textile products made of carbon fibers and other materials and putting them down again with pin-point accuracy, without damaging them. The demonstration is part of the joint Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft booth, Hall 8a, Booth A11.
Picking up and depositing carbon-fiber materials automatically

Handling non-rigid, semi-finished products such as woven carbon-fiber mats is technologically a challenging task. So far, the human hand can pick up and deposit a semi-finished textile at a given point, more efficiently than any machine. Accordingly, the manufacture of semi-finished textile goods has traditionally been labor intensive and costly.

The Fraunhofer IPT has therefore developed a gripper system capable of picking up the semi-finished textile product automatically and depositing it as required – more reliably, reproducibly and accurately than a human operative and without damaging the delicate textiles. Electrostatic phenomena are the key. An electric charge is applied to the material. This causes an attraction between the material and the gripper which is sufficiently strong to lift the semi-finished product. Now, for the first time, the electrostatic gripper is also capable of positioning the object in its grasp accurately when it puts it down.
Modular gripper system for a range of manufacturing processes

The gripper can also be constructed in modular fashion. Consequently, it can be adapted to suit virtually any manufacturing process. In conjunction with an adaptive gripper arm and the facility to activate gripper elements individually, it is possible to pick up blanks from a cutting table and lay them down on a curved tool mold, for example. This enables the gripper to handle sheet materials and other flat semi-finished goods as well as carbon fiber materials.

During Composites Europe, The Fraunhofer IPT will present a gripper prototype which will demonstrate the capabilities of the system. The business unit “Lightweight Production Technology” will also present new scope for designing the manufacture of three-dimensional parts in automated tape laying operations as well as fiber-composite product development for medical engineering.


Dr.-Ing. Michael Emonts
Fraunhofer-Institute for
Production Technology IPT
Steinbachstr. 17
52074 Aachen
Telephone +49 241 8904-150
Fax +49 241 8904-6150

Joachim Riegel | Fraunhofer-Institut
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