Traverse City, Michigan-based Forkardt Inc., a Hardinge company and provider of custom workholding solutions, has acquired the Soft-Touch technology intellectual property (IP) assets from General Manufacturing Systems, a supplier of custom workholding products in Saginaw, Michigan. With Soft-Touch, Forkardt strengthens its advanced custom and highly specialized workholding capabilities and IP portfolio for challenging applications in the automotive and aerospace markets such as the manufacturing of aluminum die cast materials and thin walled components where part deformation is a concern.
To meet the evolving demands of increasingly electrified vehicle platforms and ever rising demand for increased fuel efficiency, manufacturers and suppliers in the transportation industries are racing to design and produce lighter, more efficient vehicles and components. Lightweighting is a top priority for manufacturers as they move to a mix of lighter, more advanced materials for structural parts. But these newer, flexible thin walled parts can easily distort under the pressure of normal machining and have a higher risk of bending or deforming in the clamping process.
With this acquisition, Forkardt will provide a technology solution for thin-walled, advanced materials, where part deformation is a concern. The Soft-Touch chuck design allows clamp fingers to conform to a part's processed contour. Coupled with regulated clamping pressure, the resulting force dynamics give rigidity to fragile and delicate parts.
"Soft-Touch is a critical technology that allows Forkardt to address the changing needs of the market and strengthen our capabilities around advanced materials," said Chris Brown, Global Product Manager at Forkardt. "With this acquisition, Forkardt now is the leader in non-deforming workholding solutions for the automotive, aerospace, and advanced materials markets.
“We believe Forkardt provides one of the most advanced workholding solutions across the globe today,” said Gerry Mueller, CEO of General Manufacturing Systems. “The Soft-Touch technology that I created has a bladder which expands to grasp a part, matching the component’s irregular shape. This innovation meets the needs of manufacturers looking for distortion free workholding and aligns perfectly to Forkardt’s automotive and aerospace target market needs.”
The acquisition closed in October 2019. Terms were not disclosed.