Mechanically Enabling the Batch of One

B&R Automation unveils its AcoposTrak flexible and intelligent product transport system, which is designed to allow for the manufacture of custom product sets at full production speed without changeover downtime.

B&R Automation’s Nicole Wittman and Robert Kickinger unveil the AcoposTrak at SPS/IPC/Drives 2017 in Nuremberg, Germany.
B&R Automation’s Nicole Wittman and Robert Kickinger unveil the AcoposTrak at SPS/IPC/Drives 2017 in Nuremberg, Germany.

Customer demands have been leading manufacturers to pursue mass customization capabilities for years now. Numerous methods have been devised to enable this, but most have not been economically viable due to the mechanical realities of machine downtime and changeover requirements. To address these issues, B&R Automation unveiled its AcoposTrak technology at the SPS/IPC/Drives 2017 event in Nuremberg, Germany this week.

Robert Kickinger, mechatronic technologies manager at B&R Automation, called the AcoposTrak an example of the implementation of “digitalization at the level of motion control and mechanics to move products through machines and lines” and make mass customization—even batches of one—economically viable. Kickinger noted that AcoposTrak is based on long stator linear motor technology to architect flexible and intelligent product transport systems.

B&R Automation says AcoposTrak is an example of its adaptive machine concept, enabled by its use of electronic diverters that can pass product from one line of track to another at full production speeds and “smart system software” that allows for full speed merging of product flows and sorting. AcoposTrak also features hot-swappable shuttles that use magnets to hold shuttles in place, thereby creating no wear. Pit lanes on AcoposTrak allow for in-process changeover and servicing with no machine downtime. The system’s technology is reportedly capable of accelerating at more than 5 g and has a top speed in excess of 4 meters per second.

Managing product transport out of four basic elements, AcoposTrak can be assembled into any shape, said Kickinger. “Tracks can be closed or open and can be combined freely to shape the track to meet the needs of your process,” he said. Because AcoposTrak is based on a “scalable, decentralized system architecture,” Kickinger noted that the technology allows for “track lengths in excess of 100 meters and more than 250 shuttles to be controlled by one automation PC.”

In the demonstration at the SPS/IPC/Drives event, AcoposTrak’s ability to generate a digital twin was also highlighted. According to B&R, the system automatically generates a digital twin by using the system’s application code. With AcoposTrak’s software-in-the-loop approach, users can validate engineering at early stages of development before deploying hardware, thus enabling the digital twin to help users optimize system designs for easier commissioning and smoother operation while reducing development times for new machines or implementing new products into existing machines.

AcoposTrak will be available in the U.S. in September 2018.

This video from B&R captures the AcoposTrak announcement at SPS/IPC/Drives 2017.

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