Topic of the month December 2009

Figure: Schematic diagram of the rope robot „IPAnema“. Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation.

Raw materials, semi-finished products, components and even complete systems still show a very significant similarity - they all need to be moved and transported along their different steps of the value chain. This starts with the extraction of ore for example, continues with the generation of metal and the following production and assembly processes and finally ends after the product life cycles with the delivery to the according recycling plants. Analogous considerations can certainly be transferred to all product categories made of other material classes.Transportation processes are in general mechanically
challenging, geometrically complex, energy-intensive, material straining and sometimes even dangerous – just think about the dangers that emanate from pending goods.
By demonstrating novel developments in the field of transport technology, scientist and engineers prove that those challenging property profiles can increasingly be fulfilled much better. The combination of creative ideas with technological intelligence leads to innovative solutions, which especially are of major importance for the visitors and exhibitors of the fairs WIRE and tube.

Detecting failures in ropes

Elevators, cranes and cableways are examples which demonstrate that ropes are still of enormous importance in industrial applications. If a rope fails in an application like this, the arriving damages can have catastrophic consequences. Periodical check routines – like visual inspections on-site – are therefore strictly ordered. But never the less failures and defects can sometimes be overlooked during this procedure. In order to guarantee a more secure and effective controlling process in the future, computer scientists from the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität in Jena developed an innovative method which allows the detection of failures automatically. Therefore the scientists combine highly productive methods of pattern matching with powerful processes of modern picture analysis. The novelty here is the approach to gain defined information of the parts under investiagtion. The computer scientists do not define how possible failure characteristics appear, their analysis software works with parameters which characterize a faultless rope. Consequently all surface areas are being identified and documented, which differ from this standard. According to Esther Platzer, a scientists involved in the project, the system already discovers 90 percent of all failures and defects reliably.

Highly dynamic rope robots

Scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation have recently developed a novel rope robot whose kinematics allow a free and fully traceable motion of technical goods. This robot named IPAnema uses winches as a central component of the drive system. This concept is able to transmit large forces almost loss-free over long distances and generates a highly dynamic working platform. The extreme lightweight construction of the whole robot system furthermore allows huge dimensions of working spaces, even with high loads. The winches, which drive the robot, are digitally controlled and realize process control in real time. Movements with velocities up to 10 m/s and accelerations up to the tenth of the gravitational acceleration can be realized. The system is able to move loads up to several tons in short intervals and provides working ranges of about 10 meters length reliably. Application fields which are in need of large working ranges and high loads at the same time can benefit of this development in particular – in this area IPAnema could open up new dimensions of automation. Optimized processes and methods can also be expected in applications like assembly, maintenance and inspection – regarding big constructions, industrial plants or buildings for example.

Saving energy with rolling carpets

Inspection of novel developed rolling carpets at the test facility. Source: TU Chemnitz/Uwe Meinhold.

Weights of more than a tonne per item is nothing unusual in modern industries – just think of fields like shipbuilding, the automotive sector or offshore applications.The movement of such loads by conveyors leads to massive functional stress of the used sliding rails and other traction mechanics – extreme wear and high energy consumption are the unwanted consequences. In order to face these challenges, engineers of the chair of materials handling technology at Technische Universität Chemnitz developed in collaboration with experts of the Swiss company Denipro AG an energy-saving rolling carpet which completely consists of low maintenance synthetic material components and which can be operated with no lubrication at all. By spreading the load on a multitude of rolls, the demand of energy can be reduced clearly and the resulting abrasive wear is lowered significantly as well. Dr. Jens Sumpf reports that investigations at the test facility have successfully proved the industrial functionality. Referring to the measured friction coefficient of 0.03 to 0,05, the scientists estimate that the investigation can save up to 80 percent of the operating power. The developers see possible fields of application in almost all branches which have to realize an efficient and sustainable transportation of heavy loads – starting from the automotive industry and mechanical engineering up to shipbuilding and paper manufacturing industries for example.

Dr.-Ing. Christoph Konetschny
Material and Nano Expert

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