For four decades, Sicko GmbH & Co.KG, which is based in Zaisenhausen, Germany, has been treating the woodworking industry to innovative solutions and enhancements for tried-and-tested technologies. The numerous patent applications it submits, not to mention ever-growing customer demand, are clear signs of its success. Products that have proven exceptionally popular in the sector include the X Mover twin, a space-saving, maintenance-friendly portal with integrated spacer disposal, the X Mover single as an alternative to robots with linear motions, the FleXbox vacuum box for maximum availability and the X Packer for automatic packaging for finger-jointing equipment. At LIGNA 2017, the company is now presenting the next big thing in spacer insertion - the X Gripper.

"We already have a customer in the hardwood sector who is using the X Gripper and it has shown that it can handle a whole range of spacers including aluminum, ribbed and smooth wooden battens, thin battens and H-profile spacers - all without needing to be refitted," explains Georg Rammerstorfer, who is responsible for distribution and project engineering at Sicko. The new X Gripper is claimed to offer numerous advantages over conventional hopper feeders, which are usually installed above the area where stack is formed. For example, because it uses individually movable grippers instead of hopper feeders, users can set spacer positions to suit their requirements via the control panel. What's more, servo technology ensures these positions can be stored and then reused later on with outstanding precision. Users can determine the number of spacers in each layer, which can also be two or three times the number of grippers. A central store of spacers outside the stacking safety area ensures the machine can be reloaded easily from the ground at any time, i.e. there's no need to stop the machine or climb up to a platform. Furthermore, its makers claim that the X Gripper is not prone to faults caused by uneveness in slats.