Mechatronics and Innovation to Keep On Playing a Key Role

Since October 2018, Gimatic has been part of the US-based Barnes Group, a global manufacturer of high-tech components and systems. However, the governance of the Brescia-based company, founded 34 years ago by Giuseppe Bellandi, does not change, nor does the desire to focus on innovation and the key role of the engineering department. As proved by the features of some of the new mechatronic products that will be on display at Motek in Stuttgart and K in Düsseldorf.

by Giorgia Stella

“For the Barnes Group, Gimatic was an attractive company for two key reasons: it is a very innovative company and works in two strategic sectors, namely plastics and industrial automation. The acquisition has certainly made us stronger, but it does not change our core business”.
These words were spoken by Giuseppe Bellandi, founder and CEO of Gimatic, at the beginning of July during the press event held at the company’s headquarters in Brescia.
But let’s take a step back: the Barnes Group – American, almost 6,000 employees worldwide and a turnover of 1.5 billion dollars – has been producing high-tech components and systems since 1857, mainly for the aerospace sector but also for many other industries. Last October, the Group acquired Gimatic, a very familiar name for the readers of our magazine: a primary manufacturer of mechatronic and pneumatic automation components that Mr Bellandi himself founded 34 years ago. The company has basically never stopped growing and, last year, recorded a turnover of 48.6 million euro.
The COO Guerino Rosso, who did the honors during the event, has pitted the updated numbers that help to frame the moment and the potential of the company. 19 sales branches, plus 3 on the way, including Bulgaria and the UK; more than 30 distributors; 2 competence centres in Serbia and China; more than 300 employees around the world; more than 2 million products manufactured each year, 200 customized solutions, 2,000 EOATs (end-of-arm tools) installed yearly and, above all, more than 180 patents registered, the result of the R&D investments that have been Gimatic’s strength so far.

Reference markets and the importance of automotive
“Here in Roncadelle we assemble and test the components. The design and implementation of customized solutions – i.e. the integration of Gimatic components in tailor-made products for customers – are in charge of our subsidiaries (such as Gimatrade, active in Italy, ed.). There is a very close collaboration between the engineering department, the quality control department and the external suppliers. This means that every single batch is 100% controlled and subjected to very strict validation tests; we also ensure our customers the full traceability of our products”, explained Guerino Rosso. “In addition, we are working to harmonize operational procedures across all the Group’s subsidiaries”.
In order to have an even more controlled production chain, the Gimatic Group has recently incorporated MTM, a company with a turnover of over 10 million euro, based in Bagnolo Mella (BS), which produces the semi-finished products that will be part of the automation components, starting from aluminium and steel extrusions. The latter products are aimed both at more traditional markets – automotive, electronics, factory automation, machine tools, food & beverage – and at sectors that offer interesting prospects, such as healthcare (projects in partnership with some robot manufacturers have led to the development of cleanroom grippers) or farming. Even in this case, through partnerships with manufacturers and integrators, it has been possible to create gripping systems, for example, for advanced fruit harvesting devices.
The automotive industry deserves some additional words, because, as confirmed by Gimatic’s COO, “it still absorbs about half of Gimatic’s turnover on its own. The slowdown in production in this sector, especially in Europe, is generating uncertainty regarding sales right now. We believe, however, that the trends for the future, which imply increasingly electrified, lightweight and connected vehicles, will closely affect not only mechatronics but also the use of plastic, a key material for reducing the overall weight of cars, for example”.

From the RFID recognition system to the Capacitor Box that reduces wiring
Plastics, handling, mechatronics and sensors are the well-established Gimatic divisions, which communicate and contribute to each other’s product and system development. Among these, in terms of enabling solutions for Industry 4.0, the RFID system for contactless recognition, also tested in the Gimatic production department, is based on the use of a dedicated app, available on the Android store. The information collected from the field can be stored in the Gimatic web service, available exclusively to customers, who are free to check data from all their production sites in the world. Another new product introduced during the event in Roncadelle is, as far as EOATs are concerned, the Capacitor Box device which, thanks to the embedded supercapacitors, makes it possible for the Gimatic electric grippers to work properly in all the cases where there is no power supply. The Capbox circuit, which provides both input and output connections, thus eliminates the need for wiring along the robot. The long-lasting charge ensures the execution of more than 20 cycles, with a recharge process requiring less than 2,5 seconds.
An eye on the evolution of robots, either collaborative or industrial
Listening to COO Guerino Rosso, it is quite clear that Gimatic is paying increasing attention to the evolution of collaborative robotics, without neglecting the segment of so-called traditional robots, the industrial ones, which today are undoubtedly more widespread. The partnership with Universal Robots for the inclusion of some Gimatic kits within the UR+ platform is just one example: projects and collaborations are also underway with other global cobot manufacturers.
In this regard, one of the new products that the Brescia-based company will be presenting at Motek in Stuttgart, the RPF brake-clutch gripping system, is designed for cobots. “The system – explained Guerino Rosso – is intrinsically certified as it relies on the strength of the robot, and also the programming of the grippers, whose assembly is purely mechanical, is done using the software of the robot. The gripping fingers can be diversified according to the application requirements”.
Another new product on display in Stuttgart is the electric tool changer designed for being used with collaborative robots, but also applicable to industrial robots. The EQC models are, in fact, designed without sharp edges for maximum operator safety and, in the electric version, they are available for payloads of 5, 20 and 100 kg. The system is strictly plug & play, equipped with a tag for RFID recognition and provides up to 6 pneumatic connections, as well as electrical connections.