Engineers from Saarbrücken have developed a system of self-monitoring conveyor rollers that aim to help sorting offices and parcel services solve crucial logistics problems. Drive systems specialist Professor Matthias Nienhaus from Saarland University and his team of engineers have found a way of turning the motor inside every drive roller into a sensor. When the conveyor is running, the drive motors continuously generate data. Using this data – and nothing more – Nienhaus’ technology is able to precisely control each of the conveyor rollers so that it can respond to changing operating conditions.
The new technology can be used to provide a cost-effective means of speeding up parcel sorting operations and can deliver greater flexibility wherever conveyor systems are in use. The research engineers from Saarland University are in Hannover to look for industrial partners interested in developing the new technology into marketable products.
The team will be exhibiting a conveyor demonstrator made from these smart rollers at Hannover Messe.
Credit: Oliver Dietze
The team will be exhibiting a conveyor demonstrator made from these smart rollers at Hannover Messe from the 23rd to the 27th of April at the Saarland Research and Innovation Stand (Hall 2, Stand B46).
Online commerce is booming. Ever greater numbers of packages and parcels need to be shipped ever more quickly to their destinations. This poses huge challenges for parcel services. But speed is not the only thing that has to be optimized, the mountains of packages coming into a parcel sorting hub have to be transported, sorted and distributed in the smallest possible space without interruption and without error. In a parcel sorting centre there is neither time nor room for parcel pile-ups.
And today’s parcel sorting hubs have to deal with items whose size and weight can differ enormously, one second it’s an exercise bike, the next second it’s a book. Conventional flat-bed conveyor belt lines contain huge numbers of tightly packed rollers that are powered by a central drive system. The rollers all rotate in the same direction and at the same speed. ‘If there’s a large gap between two parcels, the gap stays constant as the parcels move down the line.
There’s no way to change or to define the distance between the parcels,’ says Professor Matthias Nienhaus of Saarland University. Closing the gap by getting the rear parcel to catch up with the one in front has not been possible up until now. As a result, the time and space for conveying the parcels is not being used in an optimal way. And if one of the rollers fails, the whole belt can come to a standstill.
Nienhaus and his team of engineers have found a means of making roller conveyors much more flexible and responsive. In their roller conveyor system, each roller runs independently, sometimes running forwards, sometimes backwards, sometimes rotating a little faster, sometimes a little slower – adjusting its operational state as needed at that specific moment. Unlike the conventional conveyor belts in use at present, each of the rollers in the Saarbrücken system knows just what it is supposed to be doing.
‘The rollers in our system can detect gaps between the parcels being conveyed and, if they sense a gap, they can rotate faster to close the gap. Or, if parcels are beginning to pile up, the rollers will start to rotate more slowly. If a roller fails, the other rollers will register this fact and can compensate accordingly – so we have a system in which the rollers are effectively communicating with one another,’ explains Nienhaus.
As the technology does not need any additional sensors, the cost of the new system is extremely attractive. The trick is to focus on the small electric motors inside the rollers. ‘We record operational data at certain points within the drives. We then use this data to calculate the status of the rotor and to draw conclusions about how it might need to respond.
One of the measurements involves determining how the strength of the motor’s electromagnetic field is distributed. Inside the electric motor, permanent magnets rotate around coils. Allowing electric current to flow through these coils generates an electromagnetic field. By studying the measurement data, the researchers can see how this field changes as the motor rotates, giving them very precise information about the state of the drive.
‘By evaluating this kind of data, we are in a position to control the motors in the rollers very efficiently’, says Nienhaus. The drive systems specialists have developed novel procedures that make it easier to analyse the data and to computationally filter out unwanted artefacts. A patent application has been filed. ‘In future, we’ll be using the data for an even more advanced analysis of the drive’s operational status,’ explains Professor Nienhaus. By evaluating angular momentum data, it is possible to determine how heavy a parcel is or whether or not a parcel is actually above a particular roller.
‘Our methods allow us to observe even the smallest changes in the motors,’ says Nienhaus. If one of the rollers is no longer rotating because the bearing has worn or because of a short circuit, the magnetic field generated by the motor will change and this will be immediately registered by the system. The system knows which roller is affected and why. ‘Because each roller has access to a network operating system, thousands of individual rollers can be linked together to form an integrated smart roller system. These rollers are essentially able to communicate with each other and can therefore respond flexibly whenever an unexpected condition arises,’ explains drive specialist Nienhaus.
The Saarbrücken engineers will be bringing a small conveyor system to Hannover Messe in order to showcase their smart roller technology. The research team is looking for commercial and industrial partners with whom they can develop their system for concrete practical applications.
Matthias Nienhaus and his team at Saarland University conduct research into intelligent drive systems in collaboration with researchers from Saarland University of Applied Sciences (htw saar) and industrial partners. Industrial project partners include Wellgo Gerätetechnik GmbH (Nohfelden), HighTec EDV-Systeme GmbH (Saarbrücken) and Micronas GmbH (Freiburg). The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has funded the project “Rolle” to the tune of €4.2 million, of which €500,000 was allocated to Saarland University.
Prof. Dr. Matthias Nienhaus (Laboratory of Actuation Technology, Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany) Tel.: +49 681 302-71681; Email: email@example.com
Stephan Kleen, Tel.: +49 681 302-71687; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Press photographs are available at http://www.uni-saarland.de/pressefotos and can be used free of charge. Please read and comply with the conditions of use.
German Version of the Press Release:
The Saarland Research and Innovation Stand is organized by Saarland University's Contact Centre for Technology Transfer (KWT). KWT is the central point of contact for companies interested in exploring opportunities for cooperation and collaboration with researchers at Saarland University. http://www.uni-saarland.de/kwt
Claudia Ehrlich | Universität des Saarlandes
Medica 2019: Arteriosclerosis - new technologies help to find proper catheters and location of vasoconstriction
11.11.2019 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Laser versus weeds: LZH shows Farming 4.0 at the Agritechnica
08.11.2019 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.
With ultracold chemistry, researchers get a first look at exactly what happens during a chemical reaction
The coldest chemical reaction in the known universe took place in what appears to be a chaotic mess of lasers. The appearance deceives: Deep within that...
Abnormal scarring is a serious threat resulting in non-healing chronic wounds or fibrosis. Scars form when fibroblasts, a type of cell of connective tissue, reach wounded skin and deposit plugs of extracellular matrix. Until today, the question about the exact anatomical origin of these fibroblasts has not been answered. In order to find potential ways of influencing the scarring process, the team of Dr. Yuval Rinkevich, Group Leader for Regenerative Biology at the Institute of Lung Biology and Disease at Helmholtz Zentrum München, aimed to finally find an answer. As it was already known that all scars derive from a fibroblast lineage expressing the Engrailed-1 gene - a lineage not only present in skin, but also in fascia - the researchers intentionally tried to understand whether or not fascia might be the origin of fibroblasts.
Fibroblasts kit - ready to heal wounds
Research from a leading international expert on the health of the Great Lakes suggests that the growing intensity and scale of pollution from plastics poses serious risks to human health and will continue to have profound consequences on the ecosystem.
In an article published this month in the Journal of Waste Resources and Recycling, Gail Krantzberg, a professor in the Booth School of Engineering Practice...
Conventional light microscopes cannot distinguish structures when they are separated by a distance smaller than, roughly, the wavelength of light. Superresolution microscopy, developed since the 1980s, lifts this limitation, using fluorescent moieties. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research have now discovered that graphene nano-molecules can be used to improve this microscopy technique. These graphene nano-molecules offer a number of substantial advantages over the materials previously used, making superresolution microscopy even more versatile.
Microscopy is an important investigation method, in physics, biology, medicine, and many other sciences. However, it has one disadvantage: its resolution is...
03.12.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
15.11.2019 | Event News
05.12.2019 | Life Sciences
05.12.2019 | Life Sciences
05.12.2019 | Materials Sciences