Complete freedom in 2D bearing track design

Written by: HepcoMotion | Published:

While conventional track technology limits track paths to simple combinations of straights and circular curves, the highly innovative HepcoMotion 1-Trak continuous motion system allows any conceivable 2D shape to be realised. And it's helping manufacturers worldwide to get the best return on space with compact automation and reduced build costs.

Most developments in linear motion and track systems cannot be described as breakthrough technology but the new HepcoMotion PRT2 1-Trak certainly bucks the trend. While conventional track technology limits track paths to simple combinations of straights and circular curves, 1-Trak allows any conceivable 2D shape to be realised.

Integral base
The entire track element of HepcoMotion 1-Trak is manufactured from a single piece of high grade steel with one surface hardened for wear resistance. A unique manufacturing approach ensures high accuracy and close tolerances on straightness, flatness and shape. As the track is one with the base it provides supreme strength and accuracy, enabling it to be used as a structural element of a machine.

The product can be customised with holes, slots and other features eliminating the time and cost involved in designing a separate mounting plate for the track system and supplied mounted to a HepcoMotion MCS frame as the basis for complete automation system. As there are no joints HepcoMotion 1-Trak systems are completely seamless and free running with no possibility of misalignment during installation or in service. Smoother, quieter motion is also achieved.

Three-bearing carriage
In addition to facilitating a high degree of flexibility in track configuration, the unique HepcoMotion three-bearing geometry, combined with the track shape, ensures that the carriages exhibit zero play everywhere on the circuit. This is a key benefit compared to other tracks where there is 'lift off' of the carriage from the track between straight and curved sections.

HepcoMotion® 1-Trak circuits can accommodate much tighter bends than is possible with other systems. This saves space and costs, allowing the manufacturer to optimise production layout. The three-bearing carriages also provide a simple, low cost alternative to bogie carriages that are the common choice when the system includes both right and left hand bends.

The bearing concept is very simple but its design and manufacture required HepcoMotion to develop some innovative and sophisticated methods that are currently subject to a patent application.

Less space, lower cost
Standard, HepcoMotion PRT2 track system components are produced in volume and are the popular choice for most rectangular and oval circuits, where the straight and curved slides can use standard radii and section widths. The 1-Trak approach, however, provides complete flexibility to choose dimension to meet the exact requirements of the application.

With the 1-Trak system, it is possible to have very wide slide sections with bearings which are widely spaced both across and along the carriage. This provides a very rigid platform and increased moment load capacity. Such carriage design can negotiate curves with a much smaller bend radius than is possible using conventional designs.

Track systems can be specified with a vee profile guide section of any size to suit bearings from the extensive HepcoMotion PRT2 or Heavy Duty HDS2 ranges from 13mm to 150mm in diameter. Carriages can carry loads from 67 to 51,000 N, and tracks can be made up to 5.5 x 1m or 1.9m square. 1-Trak also includes corrosion resistant versions as standard.

A further useful version of 1-Trak is shown below. In this design, the carriage fits inside a channel-section track which has inward facing vees that engage with the bearings. The advantage of this configuration is that the contact points between bearings and slide vees are spaced very far apart, giving higher moment load capacity and stiffness.

High Strength Gear Drive
A rack and pinion driven carriage is another standard HepcoMotion 1-Trak option. Its unique design permits a correct and constant mesh between pinion and rack around the entire circuit. It eliminates the need for the pinion to be sprung against the rack to compensate for varying engagement. This hugely simplifies the carriage design, reduces cost and dramatically increases system driving forces.

The gear teeth on the track are precision machined and surface hardened to provide outstanding strength and durability. Gears are available from MOD 1.5 to MOD 10 and beyond, depending on application requirements. The system designer can specify pinions alone, a carriage complete with pinion and drive flange or with pinions mounted onto a gearbox geared motor. HepcoMotion® provides exceptional choice.

Parallel tracks
Also within the new product range is HepcoMotion 1-Trak with a rectangular flat track profile and track roller carriages. This option is recommended for use when two track systems are mounted in parallel. It allows the roller bearings on one side to 'float' axially whilst the other side is fixed and captivated by the vee bearings. This type of configuration compensates for parallelism tolerances, and completely eliminates the excessive loading and binding that can occur.

In the following arrangement, this type of track system is shown in parallel with a vee profiled track. The rectangular section track system ensures that no preloading stresses are created. This will improve the running quality, friction, life and ease-of-installation of such systems.

The methods of manufacture, materials and size capability are the same as for rectangular track systems as they are for vee profiled ones. They are specified as a set with the rectangular and vee profiled tracks made to match. In this type of system, it can be beneficial to have a gear drive on both track systems, with the driving pinions connected together, either using a common drives shaft, or with separate servo drives and linked controls. This approach eliminates the distortion which can occur if the drive comes from one side only.

In addition to high grade steel, tracks can also be specified with a corrosion resistant finish, both are standard options. Similarly, vee bearings and track rollers are available in standard and stainless steel variants. Carriage plates can be manufactured in any suitable engineering material but the default choice is high strength aluminium with a clear anodised finish. An enhanced corrosion resistant treatment is also available if required.

To reduce wear and prolong life, an oil film on the running surface of the vees is essential for the 1-Trak system. To achieve this and in the absence of very tight bends, PRT2 lubricators can be fitted to the carriage. Alternatively bleed lubrication can be specified that channels lubricants directly into the vees of the track.

The gears on a 1-Trak System have enhanced load capacity due to surface hardness which increases life and gives superior performance. HepcoMotion provides calculations of load capacity and life for specific applications and can also supply geared motors, gearboxes and drive flanges to suit the drive requirement.

The new 1-Trak system was introduced to European industry at the Motek Exhibition 2012 in Germany and HepcoMotion has confirmed that it is already working on numerous projects as a result. The flexibility of 1-Trak is allowing the creation of systems with greatly reduced bend radii so machines and automation can be made smaller and more productive. It is helping manufacturers to get the best return on space with reduced build costs.

Please visit this YouTube link to view the video of the new HepcoMotion "1-Trak" system in action:

Freeform video

Spiral video

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