Beckhoff Automation’s new XPlanar free floating movers could potentially disrupt conventional conveying and product transportation methods. Beckhoff debuted the technology during the company’s annual Packaging Platform conference last week in Harsewinkel, Germany. The demonstration left such an impression with attendees that Hans Beckhoff, the company’s CEO, announced that he had already secured a couple of customer orders.
“We’re ready to start taking orders, and I already have a few,” Beckhoff said to a crowd of end users and machine builders who raised hands rapidly to be next in line.
Attendees witnessed hovering magnets precisely carrying glass vials, packaged meat, and other consumer goods while flying with six degrees of freedom above a flat surface area with no rails, visible paths, or configurations.
“This intelligent transport technology does not replace conveyor belts,” said Uwe Prüssmeier, Beckhoff’s senior product manager, Drive Technology. “But XPlanar clears the way for completely new innovative plant concepts. It could completely change the way you build systems.”
The XPlanar principle is free floating, non-contact planar movers that hover over a surface area made up of either steel, glass, or plastic tiles—depending on the end user or OEM’s preference, industry, or application. Traveling magnetic fields generated in the planar tiles precisely move objects in any kind of pattern through different tracks, enabling batch one applications and flexibility in product handling. The movers are available in different formats to fit a variety of applications, and the tiles move specifically to accommodate production and the individual goods by automatically lifting, lowering, weighing, tilting, or rotating while traveling.
XPlanar is powered by Beckhoff’s TwinCAT 3 software platform for control and engineering and the company’s industrial PC scalable hardware platform.
The contactless movers allow maximum freedom of movement, according to the company. Because the movers are controlled by magnetic fields, there are no mechanically moving parts, which eliminate the possibility of wear, vibration, and noise. The XPlanar can also be used in demanding environments since the surface area tiles can be hygienically-designed for food and pharmaceutical applications.