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3D Printing by EMI

Since 2013, EMI’s engineers have been researching and utilizing Additive Manufacturing (AM) in robotic handling applications for the automotive, medical, consumer good and plastic injection molding industry. As an industry leader in robotic End-of-Arm-Tooling (EOAT), we have found new, innovative ways to approach the traditional EOAT application. From custom nests to advanced gripper fingers, EMI is continually pushing the limits of 3D printing to support automation in the plastic injection molding industry.

History of Additive Manufacturing at EMI

EMI first used 3D printing to prototype gripper fingers for insert-load applications back in 2013. We quickly adopted Additive Manufacturing and successfully applied it to our custom EOAT applications. Reduced cost coupled with the fast turnaround time of AM streamlined our design process and enabled us to explore new implementations of the technology.

We began by developing our own in-house test pieces to validate the performance of different printing methods and materials to find which would be the best fit for EMI.

After years of research, field-testing and customer feedback, we found that Multi-Jet Fusion (MJF) was the best solution for EMI’s end-use, production components. For proto-typing, internal use and non-critical components, our engineers have been using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).

EMI’s Equipment

EMI currently owns two pieces of Additive Manufacturing equipment. The first is a Mark Forged – Mark Two FDM printer that has the ability to print with a base nylon material and incorporate a continuous strand composite filament (carbon fiber, fiber glass, Kevlar or high-temp fiberglass) into the workpiece for added strength.

Our main printer is the HP Multi-Jet Fusion 4200. The MJF printer is a powder based machine that has the ability to print components in PA-12 (nylon) and provide functional components with isotropic mechanical properties.

3D printed Nest for pneumatic magnet gripper

Magnet Gripper Part Nest

Small metal molding inserts can be tough to orient and handle. Pictured is a magnet gripper/nest setup that can precisely place a special insert into a mold cavity. Using a magnet gripper with a nest specifically designed to grip an insert in a complex orientation can simplify the insert loading process.

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3D printed Nest with Soft fabric

Fiber Lined Parts for Soft Touch

Fiber lined parts are used as a soft-touch interface for injection molded components that require a gentle interacting surfaces. This soft touch surface can be applied to custom nests (pictured), fingers, pins, and fixtures broadening the applications that additive manufacturing can benefit. Fiber lined parts are being tested for the durability and endurance that the injection molding industry requires.

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3d printed pneumatic finger gripper

SGP-S Lightweight Finger Blanks

Components that require very specific geometries can be quickly prototyped using FDM (left finger pictured) and validated before a tool is finished giving ample time for design changes to improve performance. When a final geometry is chosen, the parts can be manufactured (either traditional machining or through additive manufacturing) knowing that they will work perfectly (right finger pictured).

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3d printed gripper finger

HNBR Padded Gripper Finger Stops

Custom angled paddle gripper fingers with HNBR pad mechanically fastened. Pads create a soft touch surface and can be replaced easier than glued pads.

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3d printed fingers for electric grippers

3D Printed Fingers for Electric Grippers

EMI has a range of electric grippers available. We can supply the gripper, custom fingers, and mounting interface for your robotic application.

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Material Specs

The nylon (PA12) that our components are printed in is a suitable material for end of arm tooling in the injection molding industry. Heat deflection temperature gives a good look at the temperature that our parts can withstand, keeping in mind that these values are measured when the entire plastic sample is saturated at the tested temperature. Tensile strength and elongation values help quantify that the material is both strong and to some degree flexible, these are beneficial properties for gripper fingers that have to withstand many cycles and still retain their precision. Strength and flexibility are assets that can be tuned through design, this becomes appropriate when creating rigid nests or fixtures that have to be precise and stable to hold parts in the exact orientation desired.

Melting Point 187°C / 369°F
Part Density 1.01 g/cm^3
Tensile strength, XY 48 MPa/6960 psi
Tensile strength, Z 48 MPa/6960 psi
Elongation at break, XY 20%
Elongation at break, Z 15%
Heat deflection temperature (@ 0.45 MPa, 66 psi), XY 175°C/347°F
Heat deflection temperature (@ 0.45 MPa, 66 psi), Z 175°C/347°F
Heat deflection temperature (@ 1.82 MPa, 264 psi), XY 95°C/203°F
Heat deflection temperature (@ 1.82 MPa, 264 psi), Z 106°C/223°F

Take a Closer Look! Compare the CAD rendering with the Printed Part!

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