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Independently controlled workpiece carriers: The bullet train of automation

02 November 2020

Manufacturers are increasingly requesting maximum flexibility from their OEM suppliers. Plants where products are moved with rigid timing between coupled subsystems do not provide this flexibility, whereas independently controlled workpiece carriers (WPC) can make all the difference. The added flexibility can bring enormous benefits for both manufacturers and their OEM suppliers. 

That's what plant builder K&S has proven with its new assembly machine, featuring B&R's long-stator linear motor transport system, SuperTrak.

Shortly before an already completed assembly line was scheduled for delivery, K&S sales colleagues, Michael Fritsch and Simone Schuster, received a phone call informing them of an urgent change: the system would need to produce a second variant of the medical technology component for which it had been designed and built.

Flexibility is the key

Last-minute changes like this come with the territory, says Fritsch: "We design solutions that are tailored to each customer's needs. Those needs can change unexpectedly, however, since the products being assembled are entirely new. We start designing the machine at a time when there are still a lot of unknowns about the product's final specifications". 

The rigid timing of the conventional workpiece carrier systems widely used in production and assembly lines limits the potential for flexibility. In these systems, the maximum output is always determined by the slowest processing station. If the second stage of expansion requires higher, all process stations must be created twice so that two parts can be processed at the same time. This is also the case for stations that could easily achieve a higher throughput within the system cycle time. In such cases, independently controlled workpiece carriers, driven by long-stator linear motors, create greater system flexibility for plant builders and their customers.

Read the full article in the November issue of DPA

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