In 2004, Vito Rimoldi S.p.A. was asked by a leading Italian company in the field of furniture fittings to mass produce small cylindrical foam rubber items. These sponge gaskets were to be fitted in automatic lines inside devices that retard the speed of closing doors and drawers.
Blanking technology, originally used to make sponges, came with the drawback of increasing material deformation.
Although this defect was not fatal to the technology, it was evident that this problem could never be completely resolved.
Even more difficult was to maintain the dimensional consistency of pieces over time and guarantee tolerances of a few tenths.
In 2007, Vito Rimoldi SpA got in touch with other companies producing components for the furniture industry at a worldwide level. It quickly became clear that blanking was not the most suitable technology for the large production batches required by the market.
It was necessary to make use of a different technology.
Vito Rimoldi SpA decided to switch to high-pressure pure water-jet cutting, a technology that had been employed by the company for small and medium series production for years.
However, if on the one hand standard water-jet machines were very versatile, on the other they were not very productive at scale, proving unsuitable for the large production batches we wanted to run.
The company decided to involve an important Italian university centre in the project. In 2007–2008 this centre developed a new water-jet machine that was capable of guaranteeing a standard of productivity that met our needs.
We produced a design of experiments (DOE) to define the features of the nozzles for pure water-jet cutting of foam materials. Through this DOE, we were able to develop the design of a new cutting machine that would be capable of handling more cutting heads simultaneously.
Based on what was designed, we produced the first samples for our foreign customers and received positive reviews and encouragement to continue industrializing the process.
In collaboration with a manufacturer specialized in building customised machinery, in 2008 Vito Rimoldi S.p.A. built its first cutting machine specifically designed for this production: this machine had accuracy characteristics unrivalled on the market and a productivity that finally met the company’s new needs.
Continuous process improvement
Control machines for high-volume production
The production of three different sponge gasket types began in 2008. Because they are very small and light, sponge gaskets are difficult to handle.
In 2009, the company involved the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano to develop the most appropriate technology for measuring, testing, selecting, and handling the pieces.
The following year, in collaboration with a company specialized in automated production lines, Vito Rimoldi created its first 100% robotized control station. In subsequent years, new and better performing machines were added.
A raw materials cutting machine
Because the percentage of discarded sheets due to bad cutting from the raw materials blocks was very high and the supplier proved to be incapable of improving its cut quality level, in 2012 the company decided to invest in a machine equipped with rotating blades to cut the mats and foam blocks and obtain sheets of the desired thicknesses.
This was the first moment that all stages of the production process were managed internally, resulting in considerable improvement in the overall quality of the final product.
Our customers rewarded the company’s investments to improve the products and its production capacity. The constant increase in production volumes finally confirmed that the company had adopted a winning strategy.
Today the Sponge Gasket division produces several hundred million pieces a year, 100% inspected and packaged automatically.