Should Santa automate?

The experts at Beckhoff UK explain how automation can optimise workflow in factories as complex as a Santa’s and relieve pressure on the elves.

Santa’s workshop is known for being pretty busy 364 days a year, especially around Christmas season. Elves are at the heart of production, helping Santa meet demand, before the reindeers deliver the gifts on Christmas Eve. But after long hours of working, even elves lose their sparkle.

Because of the vast number of gifts being produced in Santa’s factory, it’s important for the elves to maintain organisation, consistency and a fast pace during every step of the production. When controlled by an industrial PC with TwinCAT software, the XTS linear transport system can move the presents through the assembly line, with its magnetically driven movers. Due to the different geometries of the motor modules, both an open and a closed travel path can be created.

Santa’s elves also have to contend with several different assembly lines, each one dedicated to one of this year’s most popular gifts. The XPlanar motor system with up to six degrees of freedom can transport different toys through the assembly line, able to move items weighing between 1 and 4.2 kilograms.

Robots are commonplace in many factories today, and Santa’s should be no exception. Beckhoff’s ATRO offers a robot structure that can adapt to different applications to meet the requirements of each manufacturer. With its seven axes, it enables almost limitless combinations of mechanics, so it is the perfect tool to assemble any kind of gift. It also helps improve product accuracy, resulting in less material waste during the toy-building operation and no disappointed faces on Christmas morning with a toy that doesn’t work.

To help with quality checks at the end of the manufacturing process, elves can use TwinCAT Vision — an integrated image processing solution. This helps warehouse managers get real-time updates through every stage of the supply chain, providing useful information about process efficiency and quality.

Once the gifts are ready to be shipped, Beckhoff’s PC- and EtherCAT-based control technology can be used to automate individual packaging systems, as well as entire lines including tasks such as forming, filling, labelling, and boxing using just a single platform to control it.


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