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Schaeffler acquires precision gearbox maker Melior Motion 

Schaeffler, a billion-dollar German company which supplies bearings and other components to the automotive and aerospace industries, has signed an agreement to acquire all of the shares of Melior Motion.

The acquisition of this supplier of precision gearboxes for robotics and other applications in automation expands the robotics portfolio of the Schaeffler Group’s industrial division.

As automation of simple, repetitive tasks as well as complex mounting and manufacturing processes is progressing rapidly, Schaeffler’s industrial division is expanding its position as a supplier for robotics components and systems.

In a first step, the division has brought a Strain-wave gearbox equipped with an electric motor and sensors for use in collaborative robots to the point of volume production.

In a second step, it is now adding more powerful gearboxes for higher payload capacities in industrial applications to its portfolio.

Over several years, Melior Motion has developed and successfully brought to the market an innovative planetary gearbox for industrial robots that is highly precise, features outstanding repeat accuracy, low noise emissions as well as very sound robustness.

A modular platform concept has been developed based on this technology.

The first gearboxes of this design have been on the market since 2017 and are proving their worth, whilst meeting with rapidly growing demand.

Melior Motion, which generated revenue of around €23 million in 2021, has over 100 employees and is located in Hameln, Germany. It is currently planning another production site in China.

Europe and China are currently the main sales markets of Melior Motion. The company was established in 2017 and traces its origins back to the Stephan-Werke founded in 1908, which was acquired by Premium in 2011.

The parties have agreed not to disclose the financial details of the transaction, which is scheduled to close by the end of January 2022 subject to customary closing conditions being met.

Schaeffler describes it as a “strategic bolt-on acquisition in a growth area within the industrial automation business unit”.

Dr Stefan Spindler, Schaeffler’s CEO of industrial, says: “In Melior Motion, we are acquiring a highly innovative company in the robotics field that is on a strong growth course.

“This acquisition adds to our still young portfolio of robot actuators and considerably expands our position as an innovative supplier in this important business area.

“As a user of robots ourselves, we will also utilise the special characteristics of this portfolio to increase efficiency at our 75 Schaeffler production sites.”

Melior Motion and its predecessors have been developing precision gears for robotics manufacturers and applications in industrial automation for over 30 years.

After many years of collaborating with Kuka, a German manufacturer of industrial robots and systems for factory automation, the new, innovative precision gearbox was approved for two industrial robots and is also currently installed in two axes of the KR Cybertech and six axes of the KR Iontec.

As a result of these products’ success in the market, which is driven by the features of the new drive concept in particular, Melior Motion will considerably expand its production capacity in 2022.

Ralf Moseberg, senior vice president industrial automation at Schaeffler Industrial, says: “The developments and products of the highly qualified team at Melior Motion are an ideal addition to the Schaeffler Group’s product portfolio.

“The much lower backlash, compared to competitors’ products, is derived from an ultra-precise planetary gearbox concept with special characteristics.

“The high torque density, long service life, and outstanding energy efficiency are of great interest to our large customer base in the field of robotics. The two companies’ products are complementary and share the same group of customers.

“We also expect the similarity of our manufacturing technologies to enable us to realise synergies in purchasing and production.”

Chris Morrell, managing director of Melior Motion, says: “We are delighted to gain a new owner and strategic partner for the future in the Schaeffler Group.

“Its global footprint, manufacturing expertise, and especially its ability to scale up the business will enable us to launch another phase of accelerated growth with respect to industrial robots and the machine tool market.

“Along with Germany, we especially plan to considerably increase local production capacity in China. This can now be done much more rapidly within Schaeffler’s existing infrastructure.”

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