Working together for systematic thinking


Industry 4.0 is upon us and causing us to rethink workflows, technology and their automation. As with all revolutions, the forth revolution brings with it significant challenges and opportunities to production processes; companies are finding new ways to achieve a level of flexibility in the production process that have previously been unthinkable. The concept of combining elements of mass production with those of bespoke tailoring is becoming a key request from customers. For machine builders, this means machines have to be flexible and guarantee the fastest possible production time with minimal cost. Today it’s about combining cutting-edge technologies in a creative way.

Connected thinking
The potential for this combination is exhibited in a new demonstration unit, showcasing Staubli’s robotic arm (TS2-60), HepcoMotion’s GFX Guidance System and the Beckhoff eXtended Transport System (XTS) all cooperating in one cell demonstrating the joint potential they offer. Stäubli ‘s fast and precise robot interacts with an XTS linear transport system from Beckhoff, which is capable of individual carriage (mover) control and allows asynchronous process steps to be coordinated. With the combination of these two technologies, maximum through-put time can be achieved in a production cell. Hepco ‘s GFX Guidance for XTS delivers a durable and accurate guidance
system for use in conjunction with Beckhoff ‘s XTS system. This powerful, reliable and accurate system, with its simple re-adjustment of carriages, provides the foundation to the system that guarantees smooth and efficient operation in a production unit.

Each of the component systems in the demonstration unit offer flexibility: the TS2-60 allows the manual change of various gripping arms, Beckhoff ‘s XTS system facilitates change in cycle times and patterns in order to integrate additional processes, and GFX offers spatial flexibility, making it possible to adapt to what would usually be considered limited working envelopes. The combination of these systems has the potential for productivity optimisation of a manufacturing cell.

Practical examples:
Gefasoft, Germany, a developer of automation systems, designed a system for the inspection of automotive diffusers in such a way that batch sizes can be changed and, if required, additional work steps can be integrated to the process. This was achieved with the combination of Beckhoff’s XTS system and Hepco’s GFX system. Thanks to the ability to individually control movers on the XTS, on the fly product changes are possible and additional steps can be included with the modification of software. The HepcoMotion 1-Trak-based GFX system was the perfect companion; the GFX system can accommodate higher loads and accelerations with improved life capacity whilst maintaining the positioning accuracy required. In addition, the carriages on the GFX system can easily be adjusted and maintained thanks to a small section of removable track, something of great importance in this system.

For Bosch Packaging Technology, the GFX and XTS systems were the ideal solution for combining three functions in a single machine. The Integrated Topload Cartoner, Kliklok ITC, straightens, loads and seals boxes of confectionary. With the combination of various individual functions in a single machine, it was necessary to maintain flexibility, for example allowing different sizes of carton to be processed. Hepco ‘s three-bearing GFX mover is a lightweight carriage which offers smoother, quieter and faster movement than could be achieved with conventional guide systems.

These examples show the potential for the combination of different cutting-edge technologies and the ability of systems to be flexible to production changes. With the increasing complexity of production cells, the quality of each of the components in a machine is all the more important. Ultimately, the combination of components in a system determines its long term success.