Market for clamping micro-workpieces grows bigger

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Kostner cited the consequences for Schunk: “We are reacting to the increased demand with a special programme for micro-machining.” The target is said to be the expansion of the standard program so that as many tasks as possible would be covered.

Erowa, with its Fine Tooling System (FTS), has a standard solution for small dimensions. Werner Meier, an Erowa product manager, sees the firm as thoroughly “armed for projects in the field of micro-clamping technology”. However, the need for customer-specific solutions is growing. In fact, the company is developing a project group of its own for this. Because despite all the euphoria and prognoses, micro-clamping technology continues to be a niche market, according to manufacturers. Their evaluation ranged at best between “very interesting” and “extremely interesting”.

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Mario Baur, who works in marketing at Röhm in Sontheim, Germany, said “this market has become much more dynamic recently”. Manufacturers attributed this largely to the fact that the switchover from manual production to automated processes is taking place on a large scale. One or two manufacturers are convinced that the niche business has an effect on the standard business as a whole. A point to note: micro-clamping solutions are hardly ever available off the shelf.

The smaller the workpiece, the larger the flow of information has to be between manufacturers of machines, tool and clamping equipment and end users. Erowa’s Meier said, “Ultimately, this makes forceful demands on product development, making the matter interesting for us and resulting in progress for us and for our customers.”

Clamping equipment to date has been of only limited use. Clamping accuracy is insufficient and the necessary run-out accuracy has not been achieved. Furthermore, very small, filigree workpieces demand clean, careful working, and limits have been reached in handling as well. Kostner said, “A frequent reason for changing to our precision clamping system is deficits in process security.” In micro-applications, users are said to depend on high process stability from start to finish.