Sponge Gasket: accuracy, flexibility and high performance.

In 2004, Vito Rimoldi S.p.A. was asked by a leading Italian company in the field of furniture fittings to mas-produce small cylindrical foam rubber items, to be fitted in automatic lines, inside the devices that limit the speed when closing doors and drawers.

The processing is done by blanking, with a multi-piece die, starting from a roll of semi-finished product.

This technology guarantees a fair productivity; nevertheless, it has some limitations due to deformation of the work piece during blanking. Although this defect is gradually limited, it is clear that it can never be completely resolved. Moreover, guaranteeing the dimensional consistency of the product over time, with tolerances of a few tenth, is even more difficult.

The Problem

The Problem

In 2007, Vito Rimoldi SpA got in touch with other companies that were producing components for the furniture sector at worldwide level. It quickly became clear that blanking is not the most suitable technology for all the products required by the market. To enter this market, it was necessary to use a different technology.

The Challenge

Vito Rimoldi SpA decided on high-pressure pure water-jet cutting, a technology with which the company was alredy familiar, as it had been using a Water Jet machine to produce soft gaskets.

However, standard water jet machines are slow and have a very limited number of tools that can work in parallel: they are very versatile and suitable for small series production and with low productivity, which makes them unsuitable for large production series such as components for the furniture sector.

The Solution

The company decided to involve an important Italian University Centre in the project. Between 2007 and 2008 it developed a new water jet machine capable of guaranteeing a suitable level of productivity that met our needs.

We conducted an experimental test campaign (DOE), aimed at defining the ideal characteristics of the cutting nozzles and of all the process parameters of pure water jet cutting applied to foam materials: we were thus able to develop the architecture of a new cutting machine, capable of simultaneously handling more cutting heads.

On the back of such work, we produced the initial samples for two foreign Customers and received positive reviews and encouragement from both to continue with the industrialization of the process.

In 2008, with the support of a manufacturer specialized in customised CNC machines, Vito Rimoldi S.p.A. built its first cutting machine specifically designed for this type of production, with accuracy characteristics unrivalled on the market and a productivity of more than twenty times that of a standard water jet machine.

A robotized control station

 A robotized control station

In 2008 the production of 3 different Sponge gaskets started. As they are small and very light, Sponge Gaskets are difficult to handle.

To develop the most appropriate technology for measuring, testing and selecting the pieces, in 2009 Vito Rimoldi SpA involved the Department of mechanical engineering of the Politecnico di Milano. In addition to selecting the appropriate equipment, the PoliMI developed and optimised the methodology for measuring and handling workpieces using a robotized system.

With the support of a company specialized in automated production lines, and integrating the contribution of PoliMI, in 2010 we created our first 100% robotized control station.

But there was still a problem to solve...

As the percentage of discarded sheets at acceptance was very high and the supplier proved to be incapable of improving their own quality level, in 2012 the company decided to invest in a machine with rotating blade to cut the mats and the foam blocks and obtain sheets of the desired thickness.

Our Customers rewarded the continuous investments to improve the product as well as the production capacity and this, together with the increase in the production volumes year after year, confirmed that the strategy adopted by the company was a winning one.

Today the production department of Sponge Gasket can produce several hundred million pieces a year, 100% inspected and packed automatically.