High-speed pallet conveyor

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High-speed pallet conveyor

Postby Robathome » January 28th, 2011, 9:46 am

Hi all,

A few years ago, I had the opportunity of touring a facility that specialized in custom automation. One of their newest flagship products was a high-speed pallet conveyor. Although the payload capacity was quite small, they seemed to operate on something akin to a vertical mag-lev track, and had incredible speed, precision, repeatability. Think linear servo, with unlimited length and configurations. This company also has a reputation for building amazing armature-winding workstations, so I wouldn't be surprised if the track was dependent on something like that. These guys produced mainly turn-key automation solutions, so everything was proprietary, and control for the pallet conveyor was onboard for sure.

That being said, that was a few years ago. I haven't seen it since, but I haven't had a lot of opportunity to go strolling through factories since I finished undergrad. Still, I feel it's time that the DIYers had access to this tech. What would it take to produce a) a decent armature-winding robot and b) a high-speed mag-lev track?

For the moment, let's assume all *raw* materials are free, and I have access to job-shop-sized equipment (CNC workstation, centreless grinder, etc).

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Re: High-speed pallet conveyor

Postby Amatocianmonk » January 28th, 2011, 4:02 pm

The concept of the vertical maglev reminds me of the Nova documentary, Trapped in an Elevator.
At a point, they talk about a very powerful and innovative magnetic elevator, and they provide a nice demonstration and concept details.
I'll rewatch it and try to get you a timestamp, but I highly recommend watching it, it's very entertaining and informative throughout!
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Re: High-speed pallet conveyor

Postby gmcurrie » January 30th, 2011, 3:24 pm

Maybe it was some kind of Sawyer motor? - a variant on the stepper motor whereby the coils and permenant magnets are contained within the moving part ('forcer') which moves across a passive flat plane of metal that has 'teeth' that the forcer magnetically steps across on command?

(Explained better here: http://www.msl.ri.cmu.edu/projects/cordless/)

If a homebrew version could be produced it would be a real +++ all over (& yeah, for the RepRap/MakerBot community)

In its favour, it is simple in concept, no moving parts to wear out, fast, accurate, scalable etc

Cons: It ain't easy - reckon the engineering/machining involved is probably well out of kitchen-table hack's league (me), & that's before the design of the electronics/controller..

I've done some PCB-style experiments in etching mild steel (using 50/50 Copper Sulphate+Salt in water solution) & it will etch deep tracks on sheet steel (to make teeth), but consistency in depth of etch/undercutting is a problem - just too ragged to be of use - a CNC mill would surely make a much better job of it - anyone tried? (typically, the 'waffle' pattern is 1mm square teeth at 1mm spacing, with 1mm depth )

The 'forcer' would be another thing in itself, along with the controller - (gotta say, the more I read about such Industrial-grade products, the less I'm shocked by the prices..)

Here's another angle of exploration which might be of interest:


Best of luck,
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Re: High-speed pallet conveyor

Postby Parcanman » February 19th, 2011, 9:25 pm

I've often liked the "PodCar" personal transportation concept, and this is a technology that could possibly make a really useful and interesting "elevator" system in a large facility like a shopping mall. Imagine if there were various elevator doors throughout a mall that when you step in, rather than seeing a bunch of buttons, you see a touch screen with the mall directory, you tap where you want to go, the screen starts showing ads, and the car gets whipped down a maglev track to the other end of the mall in under a minute. At the same time a similar system (that could possibly share tracks) is bringing freight from a central loading dock, right up to the back room of each store.
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