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Transport system allows individual mass production

07 October, 2015

Festo is developing a modular palletising system that will transport workpieces independently and simultaneously to different assembly stations, allowing different processes to be carried out on each item, and resulting in individually customised products. The system, called Motion Cube, has won the Automation and Robotics category of the 2015 Handling Awards announced at the Motek show in Germany this week.

The system, which is still at the prototype stage, consists of modules containing a drive mechanism in a cube-shaped housing that transports pallets from one module to the next and allows specific assembly tasks to be carried out. The modules are combined to form matrixes that depend on the application.

Different products can be handled in parallel, making simultaneous processes possible and saving time. Unlike conventional conveyors, several travel commands can be carried out simultaneously. Individual pallets can be overtaken and workstations can be skipped, if required.

Because conventional conveyor systems transport pallets on conveyor belts, the operating system and the sequence of pallets are fixed. To change the sequence, you need to install deflectors and several conveyor belts, adding cost and requiring more space. Festo says that the Motion Cube palletising system, by contrast, can be deployed flexibly and can react immediately to any changes in sequences and target positions. It can be expanded easily and can be adapted quickly to changing production conditions. More positioning modules can be added at a relatively low cost, allowing the palletising system to be expanded or modified almost without limit. The system also allows production lines to be set up in small spaces.

In the spirit of Industry 4.0, Motion Cube allows individually customised products to be produced on one machine. For example, mobile phones could be assembled with different features ­– memory capacity, engravings and housing colours, for instance. Customers could configure their phone online and transmit the information to the machine which would assemble an appropriately customised phone.

In laboratory handling applications, the system could transport specimens to the relevant evaluation stations automatically. Motion Cube could also be used to mix liquids in vials. For hygienic applications, a cover can extend over all of the modules, resulting in an easy-to-clean, enclosed system. In this case, the pallets could be driven by magnetic couplings. Transport using air bearings is another possibility.

The system could also be used to apply adhesives to items of any shape, and to fill, sort, test, inspect, store and buffer components.

Because the Motion Cube system can transport and palletise at the same time, it can deliver pallets to set-down positions without needing X and Y positioning axes. The modular, flexible design of the palletising system means that individual production lines can be created quickly and adapted to changes in production conditions.

Festo has yet to decide if, or when, Motion Cube will go on sale.

Each cube contains drive mechanisms to propel pallets in the required direction



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