As a Senior Design Engineer and part of the Conceptual System Design team of the Research & Development department within the Automation Division my role in the market launch of the MX suction cup was to develop and design the cup together with the support from my colleagues in the Team. The idea for the development of the MX suction cup took off already many years ago, when I visited a rubber compound factory on Gotland producing very thin polyurethane (PU) for a customer, which let me think immediately about a suction cup lip.
However, at that time we had no concrete project. With the start of the e-commerce boom, it became clear that a versatile cup was needed that could handle plastic bags and cartons really well in the same pick. Particularly the handling of bags is becoming more and more complicated as they are made of thinner and biodegradable material. That brought back the idea of a suction cup with a very thin lip made of an extremely durable material to withstand wear of such applications – like PU.
While I laid the idea in a drawer for some time, the revival and realization started with the cooperation with another company in the Netherlands, who had a customer of a similar type as Amazon. They were working on designing a gripper for e-commerce applications but needed our support. Hence, we stepped in and helped them with the gripper design. Through that work, I realized we needed a more versatile cup in our portfolio to avoid having to change suction cups for handling different products being picked. In e-commerce everything is about speed and picking various objects This, in fact, triggered my initial thoughts of the MX suction cup development.
When we presented the initial drawings to our long-term supplier, he refused, not believing he would be able to produce the lip that thin. It took several iterations and a change in production methodology to achieve a stable process for mass production of the MX suction cup.
Having worked at Piab for eight years and looking at our 70th corporate anniversary this year, I considered the MX suction cup as a reflection of all other suction cups that were developed over the years. So, it is influenced by all these cups in terms of design and technical know-how. The compounded expertise of all of them went into this cup. Without the previous developments and experience gathered through the former suction cups, the MX cup would not have been possible.
Another important part for me in the development is the flexibility and freedom I have in how I work, which is exceptional at Piab. This of course comes with a lot of responsibility. I can solely steer how I do things and have the freedom to explore and try out new things. The Piab spirit is not to say no, but rather how can we make it happen. Everybody is open to new ideas.
For me, the product is not so important, but the company culture is. In fact, when I applied to this role, I even thought that vacuum technology sounded a bit boring. But the atmosphere we have in R&D alongside all other departments at Piab is very good and open minded – and that is what motivates me to go that extra mile – enabling the development of truly insight led innovations such as the MX suction cup.