igus presents 168 motion plastics innovations

CEO Frank Blase presenting the revolutionary TRX robotic energy supply system at the renewed trade show stand in Cologne, winner of “iF Communication Design Award 2021”.
(Source: igus GmbH)

A difficult environment has driven more innovations than before – from an integrated robot drive to a ball bearing with 21 times its service life, igus increases the pace of innovation despite the pandemic: high investments in digitalisation, logistics and remote consulting increased online sales by 30% in 2020 and mitigated the decline in sales by 4.8%. The motion plastics specialist is also breaking new ground in terms of sustainability and product innovation, presenting 168 tribo-polymer products in spring 2021.

Last year, turnover of the motion plastics specialist igus fell by 4.8% to 727 million euros in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to a significant increase in orders, the company is optimistic about the current year. In addition, the pandemic has led to a surge in innovation as a result of work-from-home measures, culminating in 168 new products, product extensions and digital offers this spring.

In addition, igus will be giving a sneak preview at the Hannover Messe Digital Edition, presenting all its spring products at its own physical-virtual trade show. It has also just been awarded the “iF Design Award” and will be completely revamped for visitors starting 5th May.

ReBeL accelerates cost-effective automation

After two years of development, the ReBeL, a new robot drive element, will finally be seen at the exhibition. Customers can construct their own robot arms quickly and cost-effectively using the modular kit. The core of the ReBeL is a much-improved plastic gearbox. An integrated BLDC electric motor with power electronics can be connected with various controls. In addition, a low-cost control system is available to download free of charge so that automation can be simulated in advance. Within the field of “large” industrial robotics, igus is launching the TRX energy supply system, a solution that rethinks robot hose packs. It twists, lengthens and shortens in a spiral. Subsequently, cables are inserted in the form of a spiral, which enables a weight saving of 83% on the 3rd axis, occupying less than half the space.

Dry-operating ball bearings with 21 times the service life

Igus will also be presenting news in lubrication-free and maintenance-free bearing technology. In the case of ball bearings, engineers at igus have achieved a breakthrough in service life. Application cases of low loads and high speeds, normally found in fans or centrifuges, have increased by a factor of 21. “What used to last one month now lasts almost two years,” explained Lena Woelke, development manager for Xiros ball bearings.

Plastic becomes a sustainable resource

Not only do these lubrication-free plastic products have less impact on the environment, but they are also produced in a CO2-neutral manner and recycled afterwards, a central part of the company’s mission. The new factory building will be entirely climate-neutral by the year 2025.

To further reduce emissions, igus invests in modern technologies e.g. extraction systems, filters, and injection moulding machines that save up to 40%energy and are barely audible. They are now purchased en masse. In addition to mechanical recycling in the chain product range, igus also relies on new types of chemical recycling. Thus, the company has increased its investment in Mura Technology to 5 million euros. Mura’s HydroPRS technology converts plastic waste back into oil, allowing investments to increase up to 29% last year.

Digital investments and capabilities help customers

A significant part of investments went into online shops and tools. All webshops were renewed and made more informative for customers. New online tools for the configuration and calculation of gears, rollers, linear modules and stepper motors became accessible on the Internet gratis and without prior registration. At the same time, igus expanded its stockpile at every location.

In addition to 23,000 individual parts from the United States and 88,000 from Europe, 21,000 parts are now available from China in 24 to 48 hours. They are assembled into millions of models. The simple online configuration and order placement, together with a shortened delivery time was welcomed by global customers. Online sales increased by 30% worldwide. The early expansion of machine and raw material warehouse capacities from the third quarter of 2020 hence ensured quicker delivery times in a phase of rapid economic growth.  

Change as both duty and opportunity

Expressing his satisfaction at how colleagues have applied, changed and improved themselves in these times, CEO Frank Blasé expressed the hope that they continue to be “active shapers” amidst a changing political, technological, leisure, climate, and health landscape.

The teams have been working predominantly from home since 13th March, and the self-determined quota of home office days with few rules and provided measurability will last until at least the end of 2022. At the same time, the company is experimenting with new work spaces and forms of on-site collaboration.

“For our industry, the fact that everything is changing, absolutely everything, means everyone is making new products, and everyone needs new machines. This can trigger an enormous boom for our customers and us in the next few years,” Blasé added.