Manufacturers also offer many suction pads designed for specific applications. These include flat and bellows pads for handling sheet metal, tubing, wood, cardboard, packages, paper, and CDs and DVDs. Here’s a look at some recent innovations from Schmalz.

Sheet metal — Metal stamping and automobile assembly operations are growing more complex as automation processes deal with quicker cycle times and a wider variety of part shapes and sizes. A new type of round, bell-shaped suction pad (called the SAXM), with a flexible sealing lip, a reinforced structure, and special oil grooves, is built for high-speed operations handling sheet metal and car-body parts, loading CNC and laser-cutting machines, and handling blanks at destackers. A long vacuum pad stroke lets it adjust to contoured workpieces, and it’s made of wear-resistant material that gives triple the life of standard NBR pads.

Structural shapes —SAOK suction pads grip structural sheet metal components with round edges and small radii, including pipes, stiffening plates, and frame parts. A soft sealing lip ensures secure holding in fast-cycling machines. The pads are available in NBR and a high-temperature material for handling parts at up to 250° C.

Chocolates —The SPG suction pad has an extremely thin and supple sealing lip that seals against smooth, glazed chocolates. It is manufactured from FDA-approved silicone for direct contact with food. It can also be steam sterilized and washed using standard cleaning agents.

Soft packaging —Automated handling of flexible-form packaging is one of the biggest challenges in handling technology. This is due to the broad spectrum of different bag designs and materials, and to the non-rigid nature of the packaging and loose contents. A bellows suction pad with 4½ corrugations, the new SPB4 Series reliably handles such packages at process speeds up to 100 cycles/min. The long, stable bellows has a thin and flexible sealing lip with integrated flow vanes. This lets the pad adjust to the bag and hold it with maximum surface coverage. Large nominal diameters ensure high-volume flows and accommodate any air leakage between the pads and product. The series uses food-safe silicone and conforms to FDA guidelines.

Package handling — A new series of vacuum pads has adaptable lips for sealing on porous surfaces like cardboard and plastic boxes and high-gloss printed packages. Made of proprietary Elastodur material, the wear-resistant pads give triple the life of NBR. They include flat (SPF), round (SPB1), and oval (SPOB1) bellows vacuum pads with 1½ corrugations.

High temperature — Pads made with fluorocarbon-based materials resist temperatures up to 400°C for short periods, with little marking of workpieces — making them well suited for the glass industry. The vacuum pad attaches to a large metal base for good heat dissipation and quick cooling. A special version (SPL-HT), with a stainless steel body and textile seal, withstands temperatures to 600°C.

Modular end effectors — A new modular system lets machine builders quickly configure vacuum end effectors. VEE elements include a wide selection of vacuum feeds, connection elements, and vacuum pads. CAD models of all the modular elements can be downloaded from the company’s website and quickly combined into the required configuration. Users can construct a system with up to 12 vacuum pads that handles loads to 2 kg and process accelerations to 10 G. All VEE elements are made of FDA-approved polysulfone.

For more information on Schmalz suction pads and vacuum-handling systems, visit