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‘Vacuum technology is not always the best solution’

‘Ours is a niche market: people don't necessarily always think of magnetism when considering alternatives to vacuum technology.’ Erik Nabben is Technical Specialist Magnetic Handling at Goudsmit Magnetics. He loves his job and is enthusiastic about magnets in general: ‘I enjoy tackling problems customers may have that are difficult to solve in other ways. This includes situations where products have to be picked up that are difficult to grab with a hook or chain, or when it must be done quickly. It's always a kick when we can find a magnetic solution that gets the job done.’ An interview about magnets.

 

Magnets versus vacuum technology: the pros and cons

"Vacuum technology is actually relatively expensive; it requires a lot of energy. Our permanent magnets are pneumatically operated and only require a pulse of air. Then they stay on and no more energy is required. This also makes them safer: the product never falls off if the power is interrupted. With vacuum technology you have to use a backup system to ensure the product stays on the gripper during a power outage.’ 



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Maintenance-free

‘The suction cup used for vacuum technology must also seal tightly to the material, while with magnets an air gap is no problem. When suction cups are used, a magnetic gripper is often used too.’ Are these convincing reasons? ‘The total cost of ownership for vacuum technology is also higher: energy, pump... the list goes on. Suction cups also wear out rather quickly: they only last about four months, while our magnetic gripper is maintenance-free. The purchase price may be higher, but the long-term savings more than make up for that.’

‘The big downside of the magnet is naturally that the product must be made of steel. But combinations are also possible, in which vacuum technology is used for sheets of aluminium while magnets are used for steel.’

 

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Magnetic grippers in the field

‘Our magnetic solution is mainly used for light sheet material, in the automotive section for example. Many of the car manufacturers use our magnetic gripper: Opel, Daimler and Renault, for example. Renault even has a number of specials based on our gripper: we offered them a solution for something they originally used two systems to do. We created a custom solution for them that combines two systems in one.’


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‘I am officially a Technical Specialist in the area of handling and conveying, and I have responsibility for the Benelux. Together with inside sales, I am also the point of contact  for questions about handling and transport. This includes all countries except those where we have a local office; for them I am the go-to person if they are unable to come up with a solution on their own. The challenge with magnetism is that many companies are unaware that it can be a good solution for them. I see it as my task to explain this to them and show them where opportunities lie.’

 

Erik Nabben