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To Superwurm with automation

Self-developed robots and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) with igus® components automate labour-intensive processes in worm breeding.


  • Requirements: wear-resistant and reliable components for cable guidance and bearing points that can be used in case of dirt and moisture.
  • Production method: injection moulding
  • Material: iglidur J
  • Success for the customer: 24 hour continuous operation without maintenance. Lubrication-free bearings do not expose worms to harmful oils and fats.

The Langhoff family breeds giant red worms, also called dendrobena, which are used by anglers, as food worms for animals, for hunting or as a natural fertiliser producer for the garden and greenhouses. For around ten years, Martin Langhoff has been developing his own machines, which facilitate the everyday work of the family business by improving the breeding process and making it more effective. For use in areas where there is water, soil and dirt, the robust components from igus® have in the meantime become a reliable partner in vertical farming.

Linear guides and energy chains used without maintenance and cleaning for ten years

Martin Langhoff came across igus® products when he was looking for components for his first self-built feeding and watering machine. It had to be components that function reliably and permanently under difficult application conditions in dirt, soil and moisture, as the machine was designed for 24 hours continuous operation. In addition, they had to function without lubrication so that worms and soil remained uncontaminated.
In the meantime, the drylin® R quad block carriages that have solid plastic bearings and slide along two parallel shafts have been in continuous operation successfully for ten years now together with the E4 e-chains® that are used - without any maintenance or cleaning being necessary. Soil and moisture contaminate bearing points particularly in this machine. drylin® can even be used in sand and dust. Also, the e-chains® from igus® do not mind the harsh operating conditions. Despite dirt, moisture and constant load, they guide the cables reliably and with very little noise.

First feeding station for worms developed by Superwurm's owner Martin Langhoff. The drylin® linear guides on the compressed air gripper of the first feed station of Superwurm.

Robots and an automated guided vehicle carry out the feeding and watering

Langhoff developed completely new machines to fully automate the feeding and watering process. These include two robots, a conveyor belt and an automated guided vehicle (AGV). "With the new plant, feeding and watering can be carried out around the clock, even when there is a shortage of staff. In addition, errors are reduced to an absolute minimum," explains Martin Langhoff, owner of Superwurm.

The AGV fetches the earth and worm-filled containers in batches from the warehouse to the new feeding and watering plant. For this, two parallel synchronously driven drylin® ZLW toothed belt axes (size 1040) including gantry centre drive are installed in the AGV, which pull the container stack onto a trolley in the transport vehicle. For this purpose, toothed belt axes with stepper motors (size NEMA23) were necessary, which can pull containers weighing 120kg. This complete system is very light, requires only low power to operate and is resistant to shock and dirt. Ideal for use in Langhoff's AGV.
To move the toothed belt axes, the cables are guided with the aid of an E6 e-chain®. Their service life is increased and they are protected from external influences, e.g. crushing. When the containers are completely retracted into the AGV, a barrier closes via an igus® stepper motor (size NEMA23) to provide additional safety during transport.

Automated guided vehicle system from the company Superwurm Automated guided vehicle system fetches containers from the warehouse.

Arriving at the new feeding and watering system, the AGV drives the containers to the first robot, which takes them one at a time from the trolley stack and places them onto an assembly line. Shafts are mounted with igubal® ESTM pillow blocks for opening and closing the robot gripper. Thanks to special tribo-polymers, they withstand high radial loads, are self-lubricating and maintenance-free. Also beneficial for the movement of the robot are its vibration-dampening material and of course the low weight.
In order to guide the cables safely during the fast movements of the robot and to ensure long-lasting cables, an E4 series energy chain is used. In addition, igus® stepper motors (size NEMA23) with gearbox are used so that the gripper can shift the containers onto the assembly line.
On the assembly line, the containers are then automatically watered and food is scattered on the soil. At the other end of the assembly line, a second robot lifts the watered and fed containers off the assembly line and onto a trolley, which the AGV picks up and returns to the warehouse.

An automated guided vehicle system drives to the worm container removal station An automated guided vehicle system is at the new fully automated feed station to receive the container on the robot.

Still more automation with igus® components in the future

 "Small businesses need to use affordable and easy automation solutions for production and warehousing to keep up with the big ones," says Martin Langhoff. One more reason to make your own developments available to other companies. The Langhoffs plan to market their proprietary solutions and have founded the RobCoTec company for this purpose. The fact that igus® products are used in the machines is no coincidence. For the future he envisages further automation needs in his company using the igus® products and promises: "I already have the initial ideas in my head."

Family Langhoff with Alexander Muehlens, Project Manager drylin Family Langhoff with Alexander Muehlens, Project Manager drylin

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