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  • Writer's pictureRachael Duckworth

Delivering a Greener Future

How Magway is using Beckhoff technology to launch an all-electric underground delivery system

Magway is building a fully electric delivery system to help companies offer zero-emissions logistics with rapid delivery times.
Magway is building a fully electric delivery system to help companies offer zero-emissions logistics with rapid delivery times.

We live in a world of convenience, where same-day shipping is the norm and anything can be bought at the click of a button. But there is an environmental cost to this as one truck is estimated to have the same carbon footprint as 14 people. At a time when the environment is a top consideration, Magway, with the help of Beckhoff technology, is looking to do things differently.

A recent study from the Centre for London think tank found that diesel and petrol vans ferrying goods and services around the city make up for a quarter or more of London’s greenhouse gas and polluting emissions from transport. With the number of parcels delivered in London expected to double by 2030 and the 2050 target of zero carbon emissions drawing closer, it has become essential to find a new, sustainable delivery method.

Wembley-based Magway Ltd. has developed an all-electric delivery solution that produces zero emissions, while still managing a high capacity. The delivery system can deliver the equivalent of 3,000 articulated lorry (tractor-trailer) loads every day through a single 1-meter-diameter pipe. Magway is using Beckhoff technology to automate its system.

Distributed servo drives and fast EtherCAT communication

unique variant of the AMP8000 distributed servo drive system
Magway leverages a unique variant of the AMP8000 distributed servo drive system, mounted on the track, to meet its specialized requirements.

The underground system comprises a 1-meter tube ran on a track. On the track itself are track-mounted distributed servo drives. Beckhoff provided the technology in this area, as it was based on the AMP8000 distributed servo drive system, which offers compact and flexible solutions for modular machines. Due to Beckhoff’s in-house design and manufacturing capabilities, it was possible to customize a unique variant of the distributed drive system to fit Magway’s requirements. Beckhoff’s deep in-house capabilities on a wide variety of automation technologies mean that it can react to clients' precise requirements.

“Magway is also using the EtherCAT industrial Ethernet system with their technology,” explains Bradley McEwan, Business Development Manager at Beckhoff UK. “Due to the large number of trucks – and the speeds required from them – EtherCAT is the only bus system that can manage the data load with fast cycle times and minimal infrastructure. This is due to EtherCAT’s virtually limitless network topology options, as the machine’s structure determines the network topology, rather than the other way around.”

Modular automation software and alternative operating system

Magway also relies on Beckhoff’s all-purpose automation software, TwinCAT 3, which runs on Beckhoff Industrial PCs (IPCs) using the Windows alternative TwinCAT/BSD operating system. By standardizing on TwinCAT 3, Magway needs only one software for programming and configuration, which is easier and more efficient than having to juggle multiple software platforms. TwinCAT 3 also provides open interfaces for expandability and adaptation to the tools landscape found in both automation and IT, which means that Magway can adapt the software as their company and products grow.

Magway engineers assemble the delivery shuttle track
Magway is building a fully electric delivery system to help companies offer zero-emissions logistics with rapid delivery times.

TwinCAT/BSD gives Magway flexibility to use widely available Linux-based tools, for example, remote updates to multiple devices. Beckhoff IPCs are designed and built for industrial environments and long-term availability, according to Doug Schuchart, Global Material Handling & Intralogistics Manager at Beckhoff.

“The life-cycle advantages of Beckhoff IPCs come from the in-house design and production of our own motherboards and owning the BIOS," Schuchart says. "The system architecture adds further advantages by supporting the execution of any TwinCAT project across the large offering of IPCs in the Beckhoff portfolio. This system architecture fully protects customers from system obsolescence, improving the overall system life cycle.”

These advantages ensure continued support for large infrastructure projects such as Magway’s, according to McEwan: “Real-time data monitoring, diagnostics and fault tolerant infrastructure, including redundancy and high availability coupled with marshalling areas ensures maximum uptime of the system.”

Automation specialist with comprehensive support

“Working with Beckhoff on this project has been incredible,” says Rupert Cruise, Technical Director at Magway. “It has been a close process throughout. We came to them with ideas for the motor and track system and they helped us make the ideas a reality. This allows us to continue our aims of revolutionizing the parcel delivery industry and creating a greener future for everyone.

“Beckhoff has always offered a high standard in automation technology. You always know that you are getting quality when you work with them,” explains Cruise. “But they took it a step further when working with us on this project, even including Hans Beckhoff in the opportunity when we needed a unique customized solution that was not yet part of Beckhoff’s standard product portfolio. Some other engineering companies would not have taken on this project due to its complicated nature. However, the skilled Product Managers at Beckhoff met with me at their headquarters in Germany to discuss the development of the solution. When Hans Beckhoff joined the meeting to introduce himself and thank me for coming to Beckhoff headquarters, I learned that we are both physicists, and it was a real treat to get to work with someone so experienced in the industry.”

Having worked closely on this project together, Beckhoff and Magway are now looking at further developments. As an engineering partner, Beckhoff is consistently optimizing the existing technology to achieve maximum efficiency and performance for Magway. The companies are working together on integrating MATLAB® and Simulink® into the programmable logic controller (PLC) in hard real-time. This can be done using TwinCAT 3, as the software already comes linked with the programming language and programming environment of these popular platforms.

The environment and climate change have grown as pressing concerns for consumers, with 81% of them preferring to shop sustainably. This means that companies need to consider ways to gain and maintain zero emissions to match what consumers are looking for. Magway’s delivery system allows companies to make the switch, while keeping the essential high delivery load that consumers demand. Such innovative ways of tackling climate problems are only possible with the right technology, which is why companies like Magway and Beckhoff working together is the future.

How can TwinCAT/BSD and a fully integrated automation platform boost your possibilities? Contact your local Beckhoff sales engineer today.


Rachael Duckworth of Beckhoff Automation

Rachael Duckworth is the Sales & Marketing Assistant at Beckhoff Automation Ltd.


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