EMAG: system solution for handling gantry

Intralogistics without a cable carrier – contactless energy and data transfer

How are product-related intralogistics processes completed as quickly as possible in machinery or systems? And how can this material flow be made as efficient and compact as possible? SEW‑EURODRIVE has joined forces with EMAG to produce an innovation – a gantry robot with optical and inductive signal and energy transfer.

The project at a glance

EMAG logo / blue on white background
  • Customer: EMAG Maschinenbau GmbH
  • Location: Model at SPS 2018
  • Sector: Machine tool construction
  • Application: Gantry robot

More about EMAG:

  • Founded in Bautzen, Saxony, in 1867 as an iron foundry and engineering works
  • Re-established in Eislingen, Baden-Württemberg, in 1952 to manufacture lathes and special-purpose machines
  • Headquarters: Salach, Baden-Württemberg (since 1969)
  • Global workforce of over 3000
Gantry robot
Gantry robot as a large-scale model for the SPS exhibition in November 2018
  • Optimizing the intralogistics material flow
  • Equipping connected systems for the future in terms of flexibility, communication, and reliability
  • Detecting products automatically, gripping them securely, and quickly taking them to their destination
  • Gantry system without the usual energy chains
  • Significant energy saving
  • Strong partner for all automation technology
Contactless energy and data transfer
Contactless energy and data transfer
  • Optical and inductive signal and energy transfer
  • Several robots can move largely freely on the same horizontal route
  • MOVITRANS ® inductive energy transfer system with decentralized TES power supply module
  • Short-term energy requirements supplied from DPS energy storage system
  • Data light barriers for EtherCAT real-time Ethernet protocol
  • Interpolated position setpoints are transferred from the central SEW controller to the four servo controllers in the moving SEW housing box at 1 ms intervals
  • MOVI-C ® controller to calculate the complex robot motion control
  • Central safety controller for all robots and the machine as a whole
A man's two hands holding a mobile control touch panel
Smart gantry robot operation using a mobile touch panel
  • System solution from a single source
  • Great freedom when it comes to logistics processes
  • Less noise
  • Less wear
  • Enhanced dynamics
  • Smaller installation space
  • Avoids cable breakage
  • No limiting cycle rates
  • Straightforward data exchange
  • Easy controller programming
  • High information density
  • Ideal diagnostic and debugging conditions
  • High energy saving
  • Enhanced flexibility and productivity

Ronald Matzig, Key Account Manager for SEW‑EURODRIVE at EMAG

A trusting business relationship dating back many years

The market demands system solutions, but here at EMAG we need to meet highly diverse requirements.


Klaus Just, Manager System Planning at SEW‑EURODRIVE

Processes of this kind wouldn't have been as simple before with energy chains.

Unlike the familiar DC link connection of multi-axis applications in the central control cabinet, we enable each unit to store energy independently. That makes things very easy.


The project in detail

Energy chains largely superfluous

Intelligent energy supply
Intelligent energy supply
Intelligent energy supply

In mechanical engineering intralogistics, gantry robots are the standard, tried-and-tested system solution for the material flow between machines or production centers. Cable carriers are normally used to carry the power and data cables.

Our ground-breaking innovation for Cartesian robots now puts an end to these inflexible energy chains that take up a lot of space. This is possible thanks to an intelligent system solution with optical and inductive signal and energy transfer .

Great freedom for logistics processes

Free dynamic movement
Several robots can even operate on the same route

This is how intelligent a gantry robot intralogistics solution can be: Free horizontal movement of several robots on the same route paves the way for logistics processes that would be virtually impossible with energy chains. Even overlapping sections are possible with this solution.

Energy chains, on the other hand, need to move continuously along with the system, so it would be necessary to have far larger masses on the move. This would generate more noise, cause significant wear, and negatively affect system dynamics. The resulting friction would also make energy consumption unnecessarily high, so it's just as well the new solution makes all that a thing of the past at EMAG.

The MOVITRANS ® inductive energy transfer system and the decentralized TES power supply module make the design of our system solution for gantry robots exceptionally smart. There are no longer any restrictions relating to construction space, wear, energy consumption, or potential cable breakage . Freedom and excellent dynamics have replaced limited cycle rates as the new standard. Our modular machine automation now supports a transmission power of between 3 and 8 kW.

Storing rather than wasting energy

MOVITRANS® energy transfer system with decentralized TES power supply module
MOVITRANS® energy transfer system with decentralized TES power supply module

EMAG is particularly excited about the automation solution's energy balance. Although acceleration on the horizontal axis alone requires over three kilowatts of power, the robot consumes less than 500 watts via the MOVITRANS ® pick-up over the entire load cycle.

The trick here is that the decentralized MOVI‑DPS ® storage solution meets the application's short-term energy requirements. This unit (DPS = Drive Power Solution) is a double-layer capacitor package that is responsible for supplying the robot with a DC link voltage of 100 V DC .

But where does this energy storage solution's power come from? A look at a gantry robot and/or its typical travel profile reveals that acceleration phases alternate with braking phases. Instead of dissipating the regenerative energy generated during the braking phases via resistors – as is normally the case – the SEW‑EURODRIVE solution uses the decentralized energy storage unit to retain this braking energy within the process.

The DPS energy storage system works in the same way as a booster when the gantry's drives accelerate the robots from zero to six meters per second. A huge amount of energy is saved, because with this MOVITRANS ® solution, only mechanical losses need to be compensated . Consequently, the system consumes a total of just 500 watts for one load cycle .

Reliable optical communication in real time

Optical and inductive signal and energy transfer
Optical and inductive signal and energy transfer

Communication in the gantry robot also takes place without any accompanying cables. Instead, a data light barrier is used for the EtherCAT® real-time Ethernet protocol as an optical connection to the mobile units. This data light barrier enables the drive data to be transferred to the mobile units in the system in cascades, which removes the need for a separate controller for each robot. Each cycle takes just one millisecond – with virtually no latency periods to be taken into account when transmitting the interpolatable position setpoints to the controllers and/or providing feedback on the actual values.

The communication required for functional safety also takes place via EtherCAT®. All mobile units and the machine as a whole are connected via a central safety controller. The EtherCAT® safety protocol Safety over EtherCAT®is used for this purpose, establishing direct communication between the safety controller and the MOVI-C ® CONTROLLER.

This solution enables straightforward data exchange between the two controllers, simplifies programming, and creates ideal diagnostic and debugging conditions thanks to the information density obtained.

This application demonstrates that both an Safety over EtherCAT® master and an EtherCAT® data light barrier can be integrated seamlessly into SEW‑EURODRIVE automation solutions.

A simple and flexible solution to robot motion control

MOVI‑C® CONTROLLER and safety technology in the control cabinet
MOVI‑C® CONTROLLER and safety technology in the control cabinet

Just one central controller for up to four mobile robots: A MOVI-C ® CONTROLLER from our modular automation system MOVI-C ® calculates the complex robot motion control .

Calculating motion profiles requires collision avoidance and precise coordination of the robots involved, especially with a view to the productivity of the application as a whole .

The machine automation solution from SEW‑EURODRIVE is so versatile that users can respond quickly and flexibly to any changes. If one of the machines in the production network requires double the material flow, for example, the solution is sufficiently adaptable to allow a robot to be taken from the gantry system and used for this purpose.

The enhanced mobility of their resources will make "off-chain" sections of machinery far more flexible and productive in the future.


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