Festo and Magswitch Forge Cooperation in Magnetic Workholding Solutions

Festo now offers Magswitch switchable magnetic gripping and clamping solutions to automotive and original equipment manufacturers through a new distribution agreement. The arrangement was announced by Festo in December from its US office in Islandia, NY, and it also noted that the two companies have joint research and development projects underway. 

“The technology is a natural complement to the Festo range of products and global customer base,” said Ian Cleaver, Festo industry segment director. The single sided gripping systems feature true on-and-off magnetic technology that can simplify and lower costs of automation systems in OEM assembled lines in such applications as robotic welding, pick-and-place, and body-in-white. The components integrate seamlessly into the Festo electric and pneumatic automated motion architecture. 

Examples cited include press lines and stamping operations where switchable magnets can handle lubricated sheet metal blanks more effectively than suction cups by gripping through lubrication. In assembly and body-in-white applications, switchable magnets offer the versatility and simplicity of suction cups while maintaining the reliability and safety of traditional power clamps. With single sided clamping, the tools can facilitate higher speed and quality while welding, and when integrated with vision systems the tools streamline bin picking and handling randomly arranged components. In machine tending and pick-and-place applications, operations can be performed significantly faster with switchable magnetic end-of-arm tools compared to mechanical grippers, power clamps, and suction cups. Separating ferromagnetic sheets with Magswitch sheet fanners and variable flux systems decreases downtime significantly and enables double blank detection. 

“Switchable magnetics from Magswitch is an important addition to the Festo range of pneumatic and electric grippers and clamps,” said Darren O’Driscoll, product manager with Festo. “The fact these components integrate seamlessly within the Festo motion architecture adds additional value.” Magswitch offers custom-pole-shoe accessories that can securely grip components with various geometries. Applications in I-beam handling, fixture tooling, and ergonomic lift assistance can deliver efficiency gains while reducing downtime and capital costs.  

“Festo technology is incorporated within our switchable magnetic components,” said Joseph Cyrek, Magswitch president of automation. “In addition, we have joint research and development projects underway. Extending our relationship to include Festo being a supplier and distributor benefits the numerous companies that will now have access to Festo and Magswitch integrated solutions.” 

Basically, a magnetic switch is a device that allows a magnetic field to be turned on and off mechanically like an electromagnet but without the need for ongoing power to sustain a strong magnetic field. Often, they utilize two permanent magnets housed in discs which swivel on a common axis to manage polarity of the top and bottom magnets. When the polarity of the top and bottom magnets align, the magnet is switched on. Swiveling one disc can take them out of alignment. This puts the opposing fields in line with each other, canceling out the powerful combined pull of all the magnets and releasing the item being held. 

Based in Lafayette, Colorado, Magswitch specializes in developing products using switchable magnetics and has more than 65 patents and patents pending involving the technology. It partners with OEMs such as Festo on many of its products, a business model that has enabled it to grow by leveraging its technology and products through established global industrial and automation manufacturers. 

Festo is a manufacturer of pneumatic and electromechanical systems, components and controls for process and industrial automation that is based in Esslingen, Germany. Many of its products utilize magnetic technologies and, lately, the company has been developing new concepts with superconductor technology for future products. 

For more info see www.festo.com and www.magswitch.com