Founded in 1844 and headquartered in Marktleugast, in the region of Germany known as Franconia, Löffler makes a wide range of products, from parts for seating and upholstered furniture to toys, from beds for children to tables and chairs. The company markets certain products, such as deluxe deck chairs and solid-wood tables, itself. It makes other products for other companies, such as toys for HABA. A family-run business for four generations now, Löffler places great value on sustainability. In its manufacturing hall, which covers 3,000 square meters (approx. 32,000 square feet), only local wood is worked. The nearby Franconian Forest provides plenty of raw material. Löffler eschews working with plastics and varnishes. When a finish is necessary, they instead use quality, environmentally friendly oils.
These experts on wood are as progressive in the technology they employ as they are down-to-earth in the materials they choose to work with. “Our highly trained employees use only state-of-the-art CNC machinery. This allows us to manufacture competitively, with a strict quality control system to guarantee high product quality,” explains CEO Josef Löffler. The latest addition to their machinery pool is a modern five-axis CNC machining center – for which they were looking for a suitable clamping solution.
Decision to buy made at the trade show booth
J. Schmalz GmbH from Glatten, Germany, was their first choice in the search for a suitable partner for the clamping system. Since Löffler has already been using Schmalz suction cups with other machines for years, the two companies already enjoy a business relationship of reliability and trust. It was at a trade show that the question was settled; Löffler was still at the Schmalz booth when they decided in favor of vacuum block suction cups and for the VCMC-K1 mechanical clamps with fixing flaps.
Schmalz developed the VCMC-K1 for a wide range of applications. These grippers are an effective alternative when the contact area is insufficient for clamping with vacuum. They allow secure fixing of narrow parts, such as window frames, up to 100 millimeters (approx. 4 inches) thick.
No compressed air necessary
Neither the vacuum blocks nor the clamps require compressed air. Both components are controlled using vacuum. The mechanical clamp sits on the machine table, fixed to the console by its own vacuum connection. The clamping mechanism of the VCMC-K1 is also controlled by means of vacuum. The clamping discs drop down and reliably hold the workpiece. Löffler decided to retrofit using the Schmalz system with a fixing flap. This variant can take extra lateral force. Since the counterpart of the fixing flap remains firmly mounted on the console, these clamps remain precisely in position with no re-measuring necessary.
For Löffler, the decision to invest in the solution from Schmalz paid off in full. “We are perfectly satisfied with the performance of the VCMC-K1. Our employees particularly appreciate its ease of use,” says Josef Löffler. Even with great lateral forces like those that arise during side milling operations, the workpiece always stays in position. The fixing flap helps to reinforce the clamp, making the work even more secure.
The day-to-day work of a furniture maker involves workpieces of all different sizes and surfaces, which is a particular challenge for the handling technology. Thin parts often provide insufficient area for reliable vacuum gripping. That’s when the mechanical clamp comes into play. “Being easy to adjust to varying dimensions, it can be used flexibly. That’s particularly important in our business,” says Josef Löffler. The vacuum solution from Schmalz saves costs and is quickly amortized. Since no compressed air supply is needed, no extra connections are necessary. Switching between the vacuum block and the mechanical clamp does not require any tools, which makes a perceptible difference in the machine set-up times compared to other clamping systems.