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Intelligent track technology replaces chains and simplifies machines

28 January, 2013

Rockwell Automation is collaborating with Jacobs Automation, a US pioneer in intelligent track technology, to integrate Jacobs’ iTrak system with Rockwell’s Integrated Architecture.

They say the collaboration will result in a track motion system that will simplify machine designs, eliminate the need for chains, and boost productivity.

The patented iTrak system (above), based on linear synchronous motors, provides independent control of multiple magnetically propelled movers/pallets on straight or curved paths, reducing the need for time-consuming, costly changeovers by replacing inefficient hardware components with software profiles. It is claimed to makes mechanical chains with their sprockets and bearings components and large walking beams a thing of the past.

The system has similarities with Beckhoff’s XTS (eXtended Transport System).

“iTrak is a disruptive technology that is reshaping the motion control industry,” says Keith Jacobs, the founder and CEO of Jacobs Automation “This collaboration will allow us to create the premier intelligent track solution to better serve our mutual customers.”

The initial emphasis of the collaboration will be on developing an integrated system based on intelligent track motion control technology. The two companies will link their platforms using EtherNet/IP networking technology.

“We believe that the combination of Jacobs` iTrak technology with our Integrated Architecture will be a game-changer for machine-builders,” says Victor Swint, vice-president of Rockwell’s Motion Control Business. “They are going to be able to provide their customers with the most innovative machines in the market.”

The track system will allow companies in industries such as packaging and automated assembly to boost their productivity and achieve more rapid changeovers by being able to adjust machine speed and geometry during operations. It is also expected to improve machine reliability by simplifying machine designs.

In one early application, demonstrated at the Pack Expo show in the US last year, the packaging machine-builder KHS, used an iTrak system consisting of 60 individually-controlled movers, to fill, seal and transport food pouches. According to KHS, the system cut design and assembly time by two weeks, as well as reducing the machine footprint substantially.

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