There is growing demand for solutions with a “handmade” label and although this trend continues unabated, it is by no means a short-term phenomenon; if anything this is a long-term development. According to Prym Consumer Europe GmbH, based in Stolberg, the target group for handmade solutions is shifting and the average age of potential customers is now significantly lower than it used to be.
As part of a joint development project between Prym and the Chemnitz-based Steinbeis Research Center Automation in Lightweight Construction Processes (ALP), an elaborate automation system has been developed for producing round knitting needles. What was previously an entirely manual process is now fully automated, from fundamental material composition to component development, design, and production itself. Not only is the new process highly adaptable, it also makes it possible to address a variety of customer requirements.
The extensive experience of the experts at the ALP research center played a pivotal role in the development initiative, especially when it came to the automation of plastic processing in connection with flexible materials.
Transferring insights from pure research at the Institute of Lightweight Structures at Chemnitz University of Technology, the ALP offered the ideal vehicle to apply know-how to the company project.
The end product is also highly innovative and it has already allowed Prym to win the Red Dot Design Award for the redesigned external properties of their product, the ergonomic handling of the knitting process, and the introduction of premium quality steel wire to replace the previously used plastic wire. The project also enabled the ALP to raise its own profile in the long term when it comes to automating such applications.
It was only possible to implement the project thanks to close collaboration between the specialists working in industrial tool design, manufacturing processes, and product development. Winning the Transfer Award for the project is a testament to the outstanding achievements of Prym and the ALP research center in working alongside Chemnitz University of Technology to transfer research findings into serial production processes.
Dipl.-Ing. Mirko Spieler & Prof. Dr.-Ing. Wolfgang Nendel
Steinbeis Research Center Automation in lightweight construction processes (ALP), Chemnitz