Automation expert Beckhoff UK is bringing a first-of-its-kind planar motor system, XPlanar, to the UK market to support the development of highly flexible, intelligent transport systems. The XPlanar system features magnetically driven movers with six-degrees of jerk-free movement, which levitate over tiles that can be laid out freely in a multitude of arrangements to best suit application requirements.
The XPlanar system was first announced by Beckhoff Automation at SPS Drives in 2018, with several systems developed and deployed globally. The system is now widely commercially available for industrial businesses across the UK and Ireland, making it the first — and only — system of its kind available on the market.
The XPlanar system comprises the mover, tile and control software. The mover is wireless, dynamically moveable with six-degrees of freedom and features integrated magnets that allow it to lift heavy loads and travel dynamically across the tile track. Various mover models are available with different load-bearing capacities up to 4.2 kg, with several movers able to be coupled to handle even heavier payloads. Each mover can move at maximum speeds of 2 m/s.
The movers are robust and feature an edge-free surface, and the contactless movement means that no guide rails or lubrication is needed, reducing maintenance requirements. The XPlanar’s software avoids collisions on the track and, combined with the positioning detection in the tiles, allows the mover to travel to any location via any available route. This improves cycle times, allows production to continue around workstation maintenance and provides businesses with new levels of flexibility.
XPlanar’s tiles are where the planar motors are located. Each tile consists of the motor coil groups, power electronics, position detection components and power supply, allowing it to operate independently. This self-contained nature is what allows the tiles to be set in freely definable arrangements. Each tile communicates rapidly via EtherCAT, eliminating the need for mechanical connections and allowing seamless integration with the XPlanar software and TwinCAT 3 control system.
“Whether in food production or electronics manufacturing, today’s industrial processes are not as linear or fixed as they once were,” explained Stephen Hayes, managing director of Beckhoff UK. “XPlanar is designed to provide a dynamic solution to growing challenges such as output speeds, varying batch sizes and increasingly complex quality assurance processes.
“Because each XPlanar mover travels along an individually defined route, it allows industrial businesses to run various batches simultaneously, whether the batch size is one or 10,000. Movers can travel to different workstations at different stages if required, and their decoupled movements mean that they can overtake each other and can be discharged or buffered at different stages, without affecting the production flow.
“The flexible layouts of XPlanar also give businesses the opportunity to redefine what their entire production process can look like. It might be that a manufacturer’s sequential production process has historically proven too susceptible to delays, and in this case the parallel production flows supported by XPlanar allow for significantly improved output and uptime. The layout and process possibilities are limited only by a manufacturer’s requirements and aims — and even then, the system is easily extendable and reconfigurable for future applications.”
If production requirements change over time, existing systems can be extended with additional tiles and integration of new processing stations. Individual movers can also be added to increase capacity of existing systems. This modular expandability future-proofs XPlanar systems, well beyond the initial installation.
For industries and applications with strict hygiene requirements, Beckhoff is also offering a version with hygienically designed movers. These movers are entirely encapsulated in stainless steel and feature a smooth surface that is designed to be easily cleaned.