Festo shows future uses for superconductor technology

Three superconductors will be show in what Festo describes as "previously unthinkable applications in automation technology"

Superconductor materials, below a certain temperature can "freeze" the field of a permanent magnet and hold it in suspension. The resulting air gap remains stable in any spatial position allowing objects to be stored contact-free without any control technology, and be moved with minimal expenditure of energy. "

The company will demonstrate: the storage and movement of an object on suspended rollers; a suspended rotating conveyor shaft with contact-free electric drive; and the active, controlled conveyance of a suspended magnetic object carrier from one superconductor automation module to the next.

SupraCycle demonstrates how a suspended permanent magnet can be actively transferred from one superconductor automation module to another. Three cryostats with superconductors rotatable through 360° are mounted on a baseplate. Two magnetic object carriers are suspended in the cryostats a few millimetres from the superconductors and then transferred from one cryostat to the next. A device on the cryostat provides the necessary integrated intelligence. The demonstration shows a possible application, the contactless transfer of an object carrier between two systems or across system boundaries, using glass bottles as an example. Arbitrarily long process chains are thus made possible for the first time, says the company.

The SupraHelix, rotating conveyor shaft uses two cryostats with superconductors that are arranged alongside each other on a semi-rotary drive unit. When cooled to below their transition temperature, they suspend a shaft with integrated permanent magnets beneath them and hold it at a distance of 8mm. The shaft is inclined at 40° by means of the semi-rotary drive. A permanently excited integrated stepper motor sets it in rotation without contact, so that it can convey individual metal rings upwards along its thread. A use for this would be to transport ring-shaped workpieces from one processing station to another. This elastically suspended driven shaft could also be used for polishing or grinding non-ferromagnetic workpieces.

Two cryostats with superconductors are mounted on an electrical axis, in the SupraCarrier, above each of which are two magnetic transport rollers, held in suspension. A flat workpiece carrier rests on the rollers. The axis moves the superconductor elements horizontally. There is a cover plate with openings through which the rollers are retracted when the cryostats are lowered and the workpiece carrier then lies on top of the cover plate. Suspended transport rollers could be used to move flat, non-ferromagnetic products of all sizes. The conveyor unit does not require lubricants and the cover plate protects the automation modules from soiling. The passive rollers can be easily removed and be cleaned separately with chemicals or heat. As well as almost maintenance-free, the application is durable and operates silently, while the air gap has an insulating effect.

Festo – Hall 15 – D07, Hannover Messe.