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System allows 2D movements along tracks of any shape

23 November, 2012

The British linear motion specialist HepcoMotion has come up with a novel track system that allows carriages to move along 2D paths of almost shape. Unlike conventional track technologies, the PRT2 1-Trak system is not limited to simple combinations of straights and curves.

The entire track, including gear teeth, is made from a single piece of steel, which can include a baseplate. It is strong and accurate enough to be used as a structural element in a machine. The seamless track has no joints, avoiding the risk of misalignment during installation or in service, and delivering smooth, quiet motion.

HepcoMotion says that 1-Trak circuits can accommodate much tighter bends than are possible with other systems. As well as saving space and costs, this allows manufacturers to optimise their production layouts. Three-bearing carriages offer a simple, low-cost alternative to the bogie carriages commonly used when a system includes both right- and left-hand bends.

The three-bearing geometry, combined with the track shape, ensures that the carriages exhibit zero play throughout a circuit. With some other track systems, the carriage can lift off from the track between straight and curved sections.

For applications with high moment loads, a wide-track version is available. Wide slide sections and widely spaced bearings – both across and along the carriage – can be supplied to create a rigid platform with increased moment load capacity.

The tracks can be specified with vee-profile guide sections of any size to suit HepcoMotion’s PRT2 or Heavy Duty HDS2 bearings from 13–150mm in diameter. The carriages can handle loads from 67N–51kN, and the tracks can be produced in sizes up to 5.5 x 1m or 1.9m square.

One option is a rack-and-pinion-driven carriage which provides a constant mesh between the pinion and rack around the entire circuit. This eliminates the need for the pinion to be sprung against the rack to compensate for varying engagement. It also simplifies the carriage design, cuts costs and increases the system driving forces.

The gear teeth built into the track are precision machined and surface hardened for strength and durability. Gears are available from MOD 1.5 to 10 and beyond, depending on the application. System designers can specify pinions alone, a carriage complete with pinion and drive flange, or with pinions mounted onto a geared motor.

For applications where two tracks systems need to be mounted in parallel, HepcoMotion can supply a rectangular flat track profile and track roller carriages. These allow the roller bearings on one side to “float” axially while the other side is fixed and captured by the vee bearings. This configuration compensates for parallelism tolerances, and eliminates the excessive loading and binding that can occur.

The tracks can be customised with holes, slots and other features, eliminating the time and costs involved in designing separate mounting plates. They can also be supplied mounted on a HepcoMotion MCS frame as the basis for a complete automation system. Corrosion-resistant versions are available.

HepcoMotion has produced a series of videos that show the 1-Trak system in operation, as well as illustrating its freeform nature and how it can be used to create spiral tracks with tight curves.

The system will be demonstrated in public at the Southern Manufacturing show in the UK of 13 and 14 February, 2013.

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