Conveying and Material Handling The Basic Solutions for Automating the Conveying Process

Editor: Dominik Stephan

Automating any process is a difficult task and if automation is related to conveying it faces more challenges as fragile products are on the move. Here’s a look at some products that can ease conveying and automate the process successfully.

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Automating the conveying process is one of the important steps in logistics of pharma and food & beverage industries
Automating the conveying process is one of the important steps in logistics of pharma and food & beverage industries
(Source: B&R Automation)

Automating the conveying process is one of the important steps in logistics of pharma and food & beverage industries as it leads towards improving operational efficiency. This process possesses greater challenges if the volume of the packages is enormous. Packages need to be moved at high speeds and sorting process should be fast and precise. Automating this process requires few to many controllers to handle different tasks. It also requires lot of data to be handled by the controllers, and a high performance communication bus.

To overcome these types of challenges B&R Automation has developed a Controller based on a Powerlink. Powerlink is a bus system which provides real-time capabilities based on the established global standard, Ethernet. A transmission speed of 100 Mbit/s and a synchronization accuracy of +/- 100 ns allow even the most demanding tasks in these areas. The company has already undertaken a case of automating a logistics company, where the packages moved with the help of 131 docking stations connected via three main lines.

How Barcodes Help to Trace Packages

In this case, the system allows packages to enter from different locations and transfer them to tray sorters, which move at high speed. As a result participating controllers have to communicate at the speed matching to the tray sorters. This ensures that the packages actually move into the tilt trays, which might be only 715 millimeters long.

The system can also weigh the packages and read the barcodes. This information helps the system when packages have to be transferred from the main line to the respective locations. Cart timing is also referenced by the control system. Each of the tray sorters can have a cart labeled as number one that is monitored by several sensors along its path – a corresponding algorithm then allows the position of each individual tray within the system to be determined. These three main sorting lines move at a speed of 1.74 m/s and achieved maximum sorting capacity of 27,000 packages per hour.

Software Solutions for Conveyor Belts

In case of automation, software and hardware systems have to support each other well enough as they are interdependent. The company has developed Automation Studio 4, a software development tool, which enables integrating all controllers on Powerlink and faster deployment through parallel development of algorithms. It ensures smooth operations of the conveying and hence brings ease in operations, improves efficiency and reduces time consumption.

* First published in PROCESS India

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