SCHUNK Develops Brand New Grippers for Medical Applications

July 14, 2020 by Sara McCaslin

Grippers can be used for far more than industrial robotics and manufacturing, as evidenced by SCHUNK’s new grippers used to help COVID-19 patients.

SCHUNK is well known for its extensive product line of clamping and gripping solutions that are widely used to support key processes in the automotive, medical technology, aerospace, pharmaceutical, food, packaging, metal cutting, construction, and energy industries.

In particular, their product portfolio of over 2,550 standard grippers is used in more than 2,000 implemented gripping system solutions worldwide. Like other industry leaders such as Royal Circuits and Monolithic Power Systems, SCHUNK is looking for ways their technology can be used to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic while supporting process reliability and hygiene.


Grippers for Medical Applications

SCHUNK is continually looking for new applications where automation and agile working methods can be combined to replace more traditional (and often error-prone) manual processes. Included in this search are new ways to leverage clamping and gripping solutions for medical applications not just in handling and manufacturing settings but in clinical settings as well.


SCHUNK now has a patent-pending automated gripping system for use in medical ventilators. Image courtesy of SCHUNK.


Their latest innovation is a patent-pending gripper system to support automated ventilation with touch-screen control using a respirator. This has great potential for hospitals where surges in COVID-19 cases can quickly lead to life-threatening shortages of ventilators because it allows existing equipment on hand to be adapted to meet patient needs without the lead time involved in obtaining ventilators from outside sources.


Ventilator Specifications

The grippers and automation system were developed in collaboration with physicians from Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen located in Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The basic specifications for this touch-screen ventilator system were designed to cover all the critical parameters involved with artificial ventilation of patients suffering from COVID-19:


  • Pressure adjustable from 4 mbar to 50 mbar
  • Variable volume from 200 ml to 800 ml
  • Frequency range from 5 to 80 cycles per minute
  • Inspiratory time I:E of 1:2 to 4:1


The ventilator system is controlled from a touch-screen device, which protects healthcare personnel while still allowing them to provide critical care to highly contagious patients. Note that the system will signal if the sensors detect a malfunction, such as an obstruction in the ventilator hose or a possible leak. Because of the simplicity of SCHUNK's design, a healthcare provider can quickly switch between manual to automated operation.


The ability to quickly transform a respirator into a functioning ventilator could save countless lives. Image used courtesy of Pixabay.


The mechatronic grippers, eGRIP gripper fingers, and sensors are all from SCHUNK’s product line and automation is made possible through integration with an industrially established control unit. Note that the additively manufactured eGRIP fingers are designed with a custom gripping contour to ensure a solid hold.


Versatility of Grippers 

According to Timo Gessmann, Chief Technology Officer at SCHUNK, this particular application “illustrates how versatile and reliable our gripping systems components can be used in the field of medical technology and other industries.” With an increasing need for reliable, easily configured automated solutions in medical settings, solutions such as this hold great promise far beyond the current pandemic.