The requirements placed on the cleaning of production facilities and their purity are increasing – particularly in future-oriented fields such as medical technology, laboratory automation or biotechnology. Thanks to superconductor technology, these demands could easily be fulfilled in future. With the SupraMultitool, an innovative concept developed by Festo several functions can be carried out with only one superconductor element; and SupraDrive 2.0 demonstrates smooth, linear transport of objects – with precise positioning.
In the future, many manufactured products will move quietly and cleanly through the production shops, with low energy consumption and without contact. Contact-free, frictionless handling beyond walls and in any spatial orientation, which will become possible thanks to superconductor technology, will yield entirely new solutions – especially in highly pure environments. Medical technology, laboratory automation, biotechnology and food production are decisive future fields of automation, which are showing great potential for growth over the coming decades. Reliable cleaning is essential for hygienically safe production in these applications.
The spatial separation of a product from its handling equipment in a vacuum, in a clean room, in gases or liquids ensures protected transport to meet the highest demands. “The special characteristics of superconductors open up great potential wherever contact-free storage or handling is required. Automation can thus make inroads into areas of application that until now have been regarded as not or only hardly accessible to automation,” said Georg Berner, Head of Strategic Corporate Development, Group Holding Festo and Project Coordinator for the SupraMotion concepts. “Our customers, and their customers in turn, benefit from this paradigm shift in automation. Festo has therefore been investigating and developing this technology for more than ten years. We are currently working together with customers on trendsetting pilot projects.”
Superconductors are materials which below a certain temperature can store the field of a permanent magnet at a predefined distance. This effect enables objects to be held in position and manoeuvred without contact. The levitation gap remains stable even beyond walls. Thanks to their restoring forces, the superconductive magnetic bearing components autonomously return to their memorised position even after one of them is temporarily removed - entirely without external control engineering.
The SupraMultitool demonstrates how different automation tasks can be simultaneously carried out flexibly and without contact, using only one system.
On display are the stable, linear transport and secure, contact-free rotation of a workpiece carrier. This configuration clearly shows the advantages of superconductive storage in terms of stability and reliability as compared with electromagnetic solutions. At the SupraMultitool exhibit, a handling system positions a workpiece carrier on two different magnets in turn to demonstrate the flexible possibilities for application.
Based on the SupraDrive exhibit presented in 2017, SupraDrive 2.0 is fitted with two integral 1.5-metre cryostats with superconductors, which make for particularly smooth and at the same time dynamic movement of the transport sledge. The cryostats are tilted at an angle to each other. By this means, they additionally centre and stabilise the transport sledge from both sides. With SupraDrive 2.0, the movement and precise positioning are likewise affected by the drive unit from the Multi-Carrier-System MCS. Like all SupraMotion exhibits, these two SupraDrive concepts can be used for example in applications that require the equipment to be cleaned frequently or during regular operation.