Machine Design

Scanning for ideas: Monorail Material handler Beams Power Through the Air

The electronic monorail from Sew-Eurodrive, Lyman, S.C. (seweurodrive.com), uses contactless power supplies, bar codes, drive-based controls, and wireless Ethernet to transfer data, power, control, and diagnostics over air gaps.

This is said to make it a cleaner, less-maintenance-intensive materialhandling system. The system is also more flexible, with each trolley carrying its own driver, control, communications, and power electronics and operating independently. Every trolley charts its own course and speed along the overhead-mounted monorail. This lets trolleys adjust themselves to production changes. And bar codes every 2.5 in. on the aluminum track lets trolleys know where they are.

A leaky-wave-antenna cable (actually a cable with copper shielding on all but one side) sends power (up to 16 kW) and communications over an air gap, with the U-shaped antenna cables blocking noise and interference from the surrounding plant or factory. Loads can be shifted from track to track, much like train cars in a railroadswitching yard, and can move horizontally and vertically. Snap-together components simplify the task of adding tracks and expanding operations. And operators can monitor the system over a PC-based display.

Although the monorail was designed to haul materials in automotive factories, the system can handle light and heavy loads in single and multiaxis settings, making it attractive for use in food and beverage packaging, airport logistics, and distribution warehouses.

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