24 Jul 2024

AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING

Linear motors power flexible machinery transport system

Siemens and Festo have jointly developed a system that uses carriages driven independently by linear motors to transport items around production machinery. The flexible multi-carrier system (MCS) allows machine-builders and manufacturers to adapt their production lines and machines quickly to suit different product sizes and types.

The MCS will compete with systems such as Beckhoff’s XTS and Rockwell Automation’s iTrak. Its first pilot customer is the German packaging machinery manufacturer Optima which plans to use the system in filling and packaging machinery, allowing it to offer more flexible production to customers in industries such as food and beverages, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

Siemens will be demonstrating an Optima machine using MCS on its stand at the Hannover Fair.

The carriages that transport the products have no on-board motor, cables or active electronics. They can be moved and positioned independently of each other, with individual motion profiles for acceleration and speed. The carriages can also be inserted into, or removed from, the system flexibly, and integrated into existing logistics systems. The result is that different product formats can be manufactured on the same production line.

“The increasing individualisation of industrially manufactured products demands modular machine concepts that permit minimum batch sizes with maximum speed and maximum flexibility,” explains Ralf-Michael Franke, CEO of Siemens’ factory automation business. “Manufacturing companies as well as plant and machine manufacturers are consequently on the lookout for solutions that increase production flexibility. The multi-carrier-system, developed jointly with Festo, makes a significant contribution to this end.”

Festo is supplying the linear motors that move and position the carriages. Siemens has applied its automation know-how and integrated motion control technology to the system. It is also supplying software that models and simulates the machine designs. This software can be used to create a digital chain, starting with the product and machine design and continuing through the engineering to eventual production automation.