In 1656, Otto von Guericke staged a dazzling display with his "Magdeburg hemispheres", which proved the existence of the Earth’s atmosphere. He also showed that forces can be harnessed by making clever use of air pressure - a feat that no-one could possibly have imagined would later be put to good use in the woodworking industry. Today, more than 350 years later, vacuum lifting wouldn't really wow many crowds, but this technology does play an important role when it comes to handling workpieces in woodworking applications. "Making more out of wood" is the slogan being used by J. Schmalz GmbH at LIGNA 2017 in Hannover for its powerful systems for manual and automated vacuum handling in the wood and furniture industries. One system making its debut is the new FMHD area gripper specifically developed for the reliable transport of unplaned workpieces.

Lighter than the SBX and more robust than the FMP, the FMHD plugs the gap between these two well-established Schmalz grippers. Available in standard lengths of 400, 850, 1040 and 1250 millimeters, it can be used to transport glued boards as well as sawn or planed items. The vacuum is generated by the energy-saving SBPL ejector, which is mounted in an external box to save space and connected to the FMHD by a flexible hose. In addition to its practical properties, a further impressive feature of the FMHD is that it is easy to service. Soiled sealing foams are easy to clean and dry - without extensive modifications to the gripper. And if the foams become so worn that they need to be replaced, a quick-change adapter reduces the associated downtime.