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  • Writer's pictureJeff Johnson

XTS Streamlines Engineering and Production – Linear Transport, Part 2

Programming XTS in the universal TwinCAT platform helps OEMs and manufactures implement IIoT and Industrie 4.0 concepts

Beckhoff XTS components

The eXtended Transport System (XTS) from Beckhoff reduces the difficulty in setting up the system without reducing its capabilities. Compared to competitive linear transport systems, XTS offers a simplified approach in software and from a mechanical perspective, with fewer components and greater flexibility. The mechatronic system uses the same TwinCAT 3 automation software and EtherCAT network as the standard machine control, which further simplifies operation and doesn’t require engineers to learn an entirely new platform.

The TwinCAT 3 motion control library offers a wide range of preprogrammed functions for XTS, such as point to point, NC and flying saw. The universal engineering environment integrated into Microsoft Visual Studio enables intuitive programming via IEC 61131-3 languages and computer science standards. However, both controls and mechanical engineers must work together from the start when designing machines with XTS.

The key to successful implementation is considering how many functions the linear transport system can replace on the machine, rather than simply trying to substitute it for a low-cost conveyor. Although the movers are passive, they can handle a wide range of functions alone or in groups, such as clamping, opening bags at filling stations and rotating bottles with added tooling. The real-time communication of EtherCAT also allows XTS to work in concert with other technologies, including additional linear transport tracks, pick-and-place robots and other kinematics. For example, XTS tracks stacked on top of each other can propel movers simultaneously to carry the top and bottom of a part or complete another motion.

In addition, new XTS Track Management software enables physical adaptations to the track in real-time. Without losing functionality during the transition, motor module segments and movers can transfer between XTS systems with the addition of a spindle axis or linear motor. Track Management capabilities allow manufacturers to sort specific products out of the main production line, whether for additional customization, quality control inspection or simply clearing defective items. Eventually, it will allow work pieces to transfer between massive lengths of track and move throughout entire factories for any number of customization or other processes, helping manufacturers to implement and enhance Industrie 4.0 and IIoT concepts.

Forward thinking and customer requirements drive Beckhoff innovation

Every Beckhoff innovation is designed to meet both current and future needs of our customers, and XTS is no exception. The mechatronic system is perfectly suited to improve countless machine designs, and it has already proven itself in more than 1,200 real-world applications as diverse as assembly, bag filling, inline package assembly, product stream sortation and synchronization, and automated inspection using machine vision systems.

Another benefit of XTS is its greater track-and-trace capabilities; mapping each mover as an individual servo axis means that systems never lose track of the product. In addition, a stainless steel version of the XTS track and movers is planned for release in the near future for hygienic, wash-down environments. Both of these advances are important for our customers in many industries, but especially pharmaceutical, food and beverage.

For any manufacturing, packaging or processing operation, downtime is the primary enemy. Changeovers, in particular, create significant barriers to maintaining high throughput. But as Industrie 4.0 and IIoT concepts become more widespread due to consumer demands for greater customization and personalization, changeovers are becoming more, not less, frequent and necessary.

Through the implementation of a modular mechatronic transport system in place of inflexible mechanical components, manufacturers can meet these challenges by eliminating downtime for changeovers and enabling asynchronous processing. XTS also minimizes maintenance time through the benefits of direct drive technology, such as resistance to wear, low vibration and high energy efficiency. As a result, the linear transport system from Beckhoff provides significant savings through lower production costs and increased throughput.

Want to learn more about mechatronics can boost industrial automation applications? Contact your local Beckhoff sales engineer today.


Jeff Johnson is the Mechatronics Product Manager for Beckhoff USA.

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