3/6/2014

Superconductors: unique potential for automation technology

Superconductors: unique potential for automation technology

Festo demonstrates new application concept SupraChanger at Automatica fair
Superconductors when cooled to a certain temperature freeze the field of a permanent magnet and hold it in position at a constant distance.

Superconductors have fascinating properties: when cooled to a certain temperature, they not only lose their electrical resistance but can also “freeze” the field of a permanent magnet positioned nearby and thus hold the magnet in position at a constant distance. The resulting stable air gap allows the contact-free, frictionless positioning and moving of objects without the need for control technology. For several years, Festo has been carrying out research into the advantages of superconductor technology for automation. At Automatica fair, the company is demonstrating one of its new, unique application concepts: The SupraChanger.

 

Superconductors are materials that acquire very special properties when cooled below a so-called critical temperature: among other things they store the field of a permanent magnet at a predetermined distance. The magnet will remain hovering in a stable condition above the superconductor and will return exactly to this stored position after being removed or displaced.

 

SupraChanger: Hovering rotary applications

With SupraChanger, an application for the first time transmits a rotational movement without contact and in a controlled manner to a magnet, which levitates due to superconductivity. A ring-shaped superconductor module is firmly fitted with an
EMMS-AS stepper motor and a magnetic coupling under the baseplate. On the plate there are three different stations, on each of which a rotary application is featured: one centrifuge, one mixer and one hovering rotary indexing table.

 

Easy tool changes

In each station there is a magnetic disc, whose hovering distance has been frozen above the actively cooled superconductor module. One of the three applications is always positioned directly above the superconductor module. The magnetic disc then reacts on the superconductor and begins to hover. Using the magnetic coupling under the baseplate, the stepper motor sets the magnetic disc in the station in a rotary movement and thus makes the respective application rotate. Due to the memory effect, the magnets always go back to the exact same position above the superconductor. This means that they do not have to be electrically controlled or manually adjusted, which enables tool changes to be made quickly and without complications. A possible future field of application would be laboratory automation, in which several processing steps are often performed on an object in sequence.

 

Electric cooling of the superconductors

The superconductors of the demonstrator are cooled by long-life electric compressors. The cryostat maintains the superconducting material at a constant temperature of around 93 kelvin (-180 degrees Celsius), with an energy consumption rate of about 12 watts per cryostat. The SupraChanger can thus be operated energy-efficiently and independently of cooling media such as liquid nitrogen.

 

A wide range of possible applications

A conceivable application in automation technology of the future would be the energy-efficient, stable positioning of objects, without the requirement for measuring or control technology. Superconductors would also enable objects to be moved beyond walls in confined spaces and in all positions. In view of this non-contact handling, there is also great application potential wherever equipment is required to be cleaned conveniently or during operation, for example in laboratory automation, medical technology or the food industry. 

Superconductors are materials that acquire very special properties when cooled below a so-called critical temperature: among other things they store the field of a permanent magnet at a predetermined distance. The magnet will remain hovering in a stable condition above the superconductor and will return exactly to this stored position after being removed or displaced.

 

SupraChanger: Hovering rotary applications

With SupraChanger, an application for the first time transmits a rotational movement without contact and in a controlled manner to a magnet, which levitates due to superconductivity. A ring-shaped superconductor module is firmly fitted with an
EMMS-AS stepper motor and a magnetic coupling under the baseplate. On the plate there are three different stations, on each of which a rotary application is featured: one centrifuge, one mixer and one hovering rotary indexing table.

 

Easy tool changes

In each station there is a magnetic disc, whose hovering distance has been frozen above the actively cooled superconductor module. One of the three applications is always positioned directly above the superconductor module. The magnetic disc then reacts on the superconductor and begins to hover. Using the magnetic coupling under the baseplate, the stepper motor sets the magnetic disc in the station in a rotary movement and thus makes the respective application rotate. Due to the memory effect, the magnets always go back to the exact same position above the superconductor. This means that they do not have to be electrically controlled or manually adjusted, which enables tool changes to be made quickly and without complications. A possible future field of application would be laboratory automation, in which several processing steps are often performed on an object in sequence.

 

Electric cooling of the superconductors

The superconductors of the demonstrator are cooled by long-life electric compressors. The cryostat maintains the superconducting material at a constant temperature of around 93 kelvin (-180 degrees Celsius), with an energy consumption rate of about 12 watts per cryostat. The SupraChanger can thus be operated energy-efficiently and independently of cooling media such as liquid nitrogen.

 

A wide range of possible applications

A conceivable application in automation technology of the future would be the energy-efficient, stable positioning of objects, without the requirement for measuring or control technology. Superconductors would also enable objects to be moved beyond walls in confined spaces and in all positions. In view of this non-contact handling, there is also great application potential wherever equipment is required to be cleaned conveniently or during operation, for example in laboratory automation, medical technology or the food industry.

Contact:

Annette Ostertag

+49(711)347-53830


Festo Media Service

 
 

Photos

Caption Download
SupraMotion_2.0_Automatica_2014 If the superconductor is cooled down to its critical temperature and the spacing element is removed, the magnet will remain hovering in a stable condition above the superconductor.
SupraChanger_Automatica_2014_1 With SupraChanger, an application for the first time transmits a rotational movement without contact and in a controlled manner to a magnet, which levitates due to superconductivity.
SupraChanger_Automatica_2014_1 Mit dem SupraChanger überträgt erstmals eine Applikation eine Rotationsbewegung kontrolliert und berührungslos auf einen schwebenden Magneten.