PACK EXPO Las Vegas Automation Preview

Highlights of new automation technologies to be showcased at PACK EXPO Las Vegas from Beckhoff Automation, Festo, Nord Gear, Omron, and Universal Robots. Watch this Take Five video for the full preview.


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I’m David Greenfield, Director of Content at Automation World and thanks for joining me for this Take Five with Automation World episode where I’ll be highlighting just a few of the new automation technologies being highlighted at this year’s PACK EXPO event in Las Vegas.

Let’s start with Beckhoff Automation, which introduced its XPlanar “flying motion” material handling technology in North America during the virtual PACK EXPO event last year. At this year’s return of PACK EXPO as a live event in Las Vegas, Beckhoff is highlighting updates to the XPlanar system around its capabilities for adaptive packaging, as well as material handling and inspection. In particular, Beckhoff is showcasing how XPlanar creates what it calls “no contamination through contact-free and wear-free movement” in addition to the ability to use any surface covering on the tiles, such as stainless steel, glass, or plastic, to create a sanitary, washdown-capable XPlanar system in your facility.

XPlanar movers can carry payloads up to nearly 10 pounds—and the tiles can be made to work together to handle larger payloads. Path planning, automatic collision avoidance, 360-degree rotation, and anti-sloshing functionality are all standard in the motor tiles.

Also at PACK EXPO Las Vegas, Festo will be showcasing its new Simplified Motion Series with IO-Link. The company says this product series represents what it calls an “engineering breakthrough” in that it combines pneumatics with electric automation—based on how the product series integrates spindle axes, toothed-belt axes, mini slides, electric cylinders, piston rods, and rotary actuators with an onboard-servo drive. Festo’s actuators in this series are designed for use in positioning, indexing, clamping, feeding, and cut-to-length tasks. Digital I/O and IO-Link control come standard with each unit. With Digital IO control, two positions are available—home and a configurable end point. And with IO-Link, positioning along the entire axis length is said to be infinitely variable.

Moving on to Nord Gear, they’ll be previewing their new DuoDrive and Nordac On and On+ variable frequency drive systems at the show. The DuoDrive will be available in North America in Q4 2021 and the On and On+ VFDs will be available in Q1 2022.

Nord Gear says the DuoDrive integrated geared motor concept features the latest generation permanent magnet synchronous motor…integrated into a single-stage, helical gear unit housing, with a power range from 0.5 to 2 hp and an output speed of up to 1000 rpm. In particular, Nord Gear is highlighting the DuoDrive’s high efficiency—which is up to 92%, its variant reduction through constant motor torque over a wide speed range, and its compact wash-down design with industry-standard mounting dimensions.

The decentralized On and On+ drives from Nord Gear are built on one platform that features Industrial Internet of Things connectivity, firmware that’s updatable via Ethernet, and an integrated PLC. Nord Gear says that these standardized VFDs feature plug-and-play capability for ease of internet-based networking and have integrated industrial Ethernet interfaces that are switchable for use with Profinet, EtherCAT, and EtherNet/IP.

Omron will be featuring a robotic pick and place system using 3D vision. For this demo, Omron uses its LD-250 mobile robot with an integrated TM14M robot arm, and its NX102​ controller, as well as Omron’s NA touchscreen and FH3D bin picking vision technology to retrieve parts and deliver them to the primary packaging workstation at the beginning of the processing line. From there, the robot puts parts into designated trays so they can be moved to an inspection station. As trays are inspected by the vision system, the robot transports them to the palletizer. And once all the items are on the pallet, the entire process starts over.

The last PACK EXPO Las Vegas preview I have for you today is an update on the UR10e collaborative robot from Universal Robots, which can now lift up to 12.5kg, which is just shy of 28 lbs and represents a 25% increase over the previous version. Universal Robots says this payload upgrade better positions the UR10e for applications such as palletizing, machine tending, and packaging. More specifically, the UR10e can now be used in palletizing applications with cartons weighing up to 10kg using a 2.5kg gripper.

I know I covered a lot of ground in this preview very quickly, but I hope you enjoyed this Take Five with Automation World episode. And remember to keep watching this space for new episodes each week to help keep you on top of what’s happening in the world of industrial automation.

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