Magnetic levitation is uplifting for machine builders

B&R says that its ACOPOS 6D shuttle heralds the start of a new era of manufacturing

B&R says that with its ACOPOS 6D, magnetic levitation allows shuttles to move individual products freely through the machine, and that the days of conventional transport systems imposing rigidly defined timing on the production process are now behind us. ACOPOS 6D is said to be well suited to small-batch production where there is frequent changeover between products of different designs and dimensions.

ACOPOS 6D is based on the principle of magnetic levitation: shuttles with integrated permanent magnets float over the surface of electromagnetic motor segments. The modular motor segments are 240mm x 240mm in size and can be arranged freely in any shape. A variety of shuttle sizes carry payloads of between 600g and 14 kilograms, reaching speeds of up to 2m/s. The shuttles can move freely in two-dimensional space, and can rotate and tilt along three axes with precise control over the height of levitation. In all, says B&R, they have six degrees of motion control freedom. 

Space savings

ACOPOS 6D is claimed to offer up to four times the shuttle density of other systems on the market, achieved through B&R’s ability to control four shuttles on the same motor segment simultaneously. The shuttles can also be used as axes in processing stations.  For example, a shuttle carrying a workpiece could follow a CNC path, allowing the processing tool to be mounted rigidly. Weighing stations can be eliminated entirely, since each shuttle can also serve as a high-precision scale, making it possible to design a more compact machine.

Zero wear

Because B&R’s ACOPOS 6D shuttles levitate freely without any contact or friction and therefore no abrasive wear, there are no parts to be maintained. If a stainless steel cover is placed over the motor segments, ACOPOS 6D offers IP69K protection – making it well suited for use in cleanrooms or for food and beverage production.

Fully integrated

ACOPOS 6D is fully integrated in the B&R system, allowing shuttles to be synchronised with servo axes, robots, track systems and machine vision cameras with microsecond precision. Path planning for the shuttles occurs in a dedicated controller which is connected to the machine network via POWERLINK. It means it has no impact on the performance of the network or machine control system. For systems with more than 200 segments (or 50 shuttles), multiple controllers can be synchronised with each other.

Intelligent shuttles

Unlike comparable systems says B&R, each ACOPOS 6D shuttle is assigned a globally unique ID. At startup, the controller immediately knows the location of each shuttle on the motor segments, and production can begin without time-consuming homing sequences or manual input by an operator. The shuttles offer a positioning repeatability of ±5 µm, making ACOPOS 6D well suited for applications with strict positioning requirements, for example in the electronics industry and in the assembly of mechanical and electronic components.

Easy setup

B&R states that ACOPOS 6D offers nearly limitless possibilities in machine design, yet is remarkably easy to set up.  Sophisticated algorithms ensure the shuttles follow an optimal path while avoiding collisions and minimizing energy consumption. Developers are free to concentrate on their primary task: developing optimal machine processes that deliver maximum productivity.

ACOPOS 6D was developed in cooperation with Planar Motors Inc., a company with more than 15 years of research and development in the field of magnetic levitation technology for industrial manufacturing. B&R is a shareholder in Planar Motors.

Magnetic levitation is said to offer real advantages to machine builders
Magnetic levitation is said to offer real advantages to machine builders

B&R Industrial Automation Ltd

Broadoak, Southgate Park
Bakewell Road

+44 (0)1733 371320

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