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Hepco and Beckhoff collaborate on linear transport system

16 October, 2015

The British linear motion specialist HepcoMotion has joined forces with the German automation giant Beckhoff to offer a version of Beckhoff’s linear-motor-based Extended Transport System (XTS) that is suitable for heavy-duty applications. The combined system made its debut at the recent Motek handling exhibition in Germany.

The XTS system, launched in 2012, uses linear motors to move up to 40 cable-free carriages (or “movers”) independently along a track at speeds of up to 4m/s. These movers can carry workpieces flexibly between workstations (such as filling and packaging stations) on production lines, replacing slow, inflexible and costly mechanical transport systems. The 2D tracks can be configured from combinations of straight and curved sections.

However, one limitation of Beckhoff’s original XTS system is that it relies on plastic rollers and aluminium rails that are subject to wear, especially in heavy-duty applications.

Combining Beckhoff’s propulsion and control system with HepcoMotion’s 1-Trak hardened steel guidance system and PRT2 track system, results in a low-wear version of XTS with a long operating life – measured in years ­– and low maintenance requirements. The 1-Trak system can be configured to follow any 2D path, while the PRT2 system can accommodate large-diameter curves.

Beckhoff's XTS system is mounted on a HepcoMotion PRT2 track (mostly hidden) to provide a heavy-duty transport system

Another advantage is that Hepco can supply a relatively simple, centralised bleed lubrication system that provides measured amounts of lubricant to prevent track wear. Food-compatible lubricants can be used, if required, opening up the possibility of applications in the food and beverage sector. Stainless-steel versions of the tracks are also available.

The system’s low wear rates will allow routine maintenance to be planned to fit in with production schedules. The XTS software can detect any changes in the performance of the movers – such as play or excessive friction – and provide an early warning of possible bearing wear.

The combined systems will consist of a Beckhoff XTS track mounted on a stiff metal plate containing the HepcoMotion track, that the movers will follow using the steel rollers. The systems can be custom-built for a particular application, but Hepco and Beckhoff also plan to offer a range of standard systems. Typical lead times are expected to be six to eight weeks.

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