Linear transfer system carries on-board power
Mitsubishi Electric is the latest automation supplier to announce a linear transfer system for production lines. It has teamed up with the German production technology specialist, APT Automation, to develop a system called Smart Carriage that “uniquely” provides 240V AC and 24VC supplies on board its carriages, which can be used to power sensors, grippers and actuators, and to collect and store data.
Mitsubishi previewed the Smart Carriage system at the recent SPS IPC Drives show, prior to its release later this year. In the demonstration, the system was shown operating in sync with robots from Mitsubishi’s Melfa family which were moving items to and from the carriages.
Another unusual aspect of the new system is its ability to switch carriages between parallel tracks on production lines, allowing products to be routed to different stations on parallel production lines. Different processes can be performed in parallel, and then consolidated later. This delivers on a key requirement of Industry 4.0 – the ability for production lines to reconfigure themselves on-the-fly, based on the needs of individual products and the available capacity at different stations.
On-board intelligence and data storage mean that the Smart Carriage system can carry product information from station to station. A carriage can identify the product and its destination, making production more flexible.
The carriages, which have 5kg payloads, can travel less than 1mm apart, allowing more of them to be fitted on a rail, thus boosting productivity. A maximum speed of 3m/s and acceleration/deceleration of 3g mean the Smart Carriage can deliver fast positioning for short moves. Collision-avoidance technology prevents impacts, even when there are many carriages travelling along the rails at high speeds. Positioning accuracy and repeatability are said to be ±0.01mm.
According to Oliver Giertz, product manager for Mitsubishi’s servo/motion and robot portfolio, the new system “addresses a number of today’s industry challenges, including the move to an Industry 4.0 manufacturing environment. It can deliver higher production throughput to enhance overall yield, while increasing machine and production flexibility.
“Easy operation, including integration of robot and control technology, enables users to boost overall performance,” Giertz adds. “Combined with reduced downtime and reduced maintenance costs through the elimination of the belts, pulleys and gears associated with traditional conveyor systems, the result is an increased overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).”