In 2016, Festo once again is presenting three exciting concepts for the industrial use of superconductors. The unique properties of the technology are brought to bear here, which enable a hovering motion to be effectively achieved with little energy – even through walls or media.
Besides the different applications, Festo is also using the projects to research new cooling systems: all three applications feature electrically regulated coolers with external electronics. In this respect, the necessary cooling temperature can be exactly specified with the regulating system.
SupraJunction: horizontal transfer of hovering support plates
With SupraJunction, Festo demonstrates the contactless transport of objects beyond enclosed surfaces and through locks. Two support plates hover above the superconductors thanks to magnetic rails fitted underneath them. They transport small glass containers on a circuit, whereby they are transferred from one superconductor element on a transport system to the next element on another handling system.
During the contactless transfer from one cryostat to the other, an electromagnet, which is fastened to an external axis, pulls the support plate to the next cryostat in the working direction of the magnetic rails. For the first time, Festo thus achieves the automatic transfer from one system to another on the horizontal plane and enables hovering transportation in long process chains and beyond system limits.
Simple cleaning and protected transport
During the whole process, the plates hover above a flat pool of water. The support system and automation technology are therefore completely separated from one another, which protects the components against contamination and enables very easy cleaning – ideal for an application in the packaging industry, laboratory automation, medical technology, food or pharmaceutical industry.
Integrated products from Festo
SupraGripper: mechanical gripping with spatial separation
In the case of the SupraGripper, two grippers each with three fingers hover freely above two crescent-shaped plates. This technology could be used, for example, to grip and transport objects through a partition or in enclosed spaces, which is ideal for clean rooms, for example, or for work in gases, a vacuum or liquids.
The hovering effect is achieved by a total of three cryostats, which are fitted underneath the plates and can be moved up and down. This means the grippers either hover above the plates or are placed onto them. In addition, the two plates can be rotated and accurately positioned with the help of two rotary drives, which means that the two grippers can be transported from one cryostat to the next.
Controlled transfer between conventional and hovering grippers
At the start, two conventional grippers transfer one object each to the two hovering grippers. In order to grip an object, electric coils on top of the cryostats give off an electrical impulse. This releases the saved connection to the magnetic gripper elements or restores it. This impulse makes the individual finger elements turn up or down, which in turn causes the grippers to open or close.
Integrated products from Festo
SupraTube: rotation in a sealed tube
A round cryostat with superconductors is fitted at each end of a sealed glass tube filled with liquid. Inside the vertical tube is a magnetic puck, which is pinned to both cryostats with a hovering gap of around five millimetres and at the start hangs underneath the cryostat positioned on top.
With the help of a stepper motor, a magnetic ring fitted around the cryostats is set in a rotary movement, which is transferred to the hovering magnet. This is pushed away with an electrical impulse from the cryostat and tumbles down in a circular motion. At the other end it is caught again by the superconductor in the other cryostat and centred.
Contact-free cleaning in a fluid environment
The exhibit shows how a movement in a tube can be executed from outside without any access. Using a somewhat modified construction, drives could be fitted with superconductor magnetic coupling along the tube’s longitudinal axis, which guide a cleaning device through without any contact. Alternatively, the contents of a closed container – for instance hazardous liquids or explosive gases – could be safely set into a rotating motion from outside.