Floating Tiles Provide Maintenance-Free Material Handling

Beckhoff Automation highlights its XPlanar system, which moves materials and products on levitating tiles powered by magnetic fields.

Beckhoff Automation's XPlanar tiles levitate by use of traveling magnetic fields to move as needed by automatically lifting, lowering, weighing, tilting, or rotating while traveling.
Beckhoff Automation's XPlanar tiles levitate by use of traveling magnetic fields to move as needed by automatically lifting, lowering, weighing, tilting, or rotating while traveling.

First introduced in Europe in 2018, Beckhoff Automation’s XPlanar technology, which enables “flying motion” for materials handling, made its North American debut at PACK EXPO Connects. The XPlanar system uses planar motor tiles as a base to levitate passive movers at speeds of four meters per sec, with acceleration rates up to 20 meters per sec2. Path planning and collision avoidance are handled in the accompanying TwinCAT 3software.

In Beckhoff’s demo of XPlanar, the company showed how the tiles levitate by use of traveling magnetic fields generated in the planar tiles to move objects in any kind of pattern through different tracks, enabling batch-of-one applications as well as general flexibility in product handling. The tiles can be programmed to move as needed by automatically lifting, lowering, weighing, tilting, or rotating while traveling.

Because the material handling tiles of the XPlanar system float above the surface, Beckhoff said XPlanar offers maintenance-free motion control for complex packaging, inspection, and material handling applications.

A particularly interesting feature of the XPlanar system is its anti-sloshing functionality, based in the TwinCAT 3 software, for use in applications involving movement of liquids. According to Jeff Johnson, mechatronics product manager at Beckhoff, the XPlanar anti-sloshing ability is enabled by the six axes of coordinated motion used on each mover. “Beckhoff has developed motion algorithms that create very smooth acceleration and deceleration profiles,” he said. “Think of it as a very soft ‘S’ curve for acceleration/deceleration.”

Johnson added that XPlanar’s planar motor tiles can be coated with stainless steel, glass or any another surface to “ensure XPlanar is a sanitary, wash-down-capable solution.”

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