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  • Writer's pictureJeff Johnson

What Can You Actually Do with XPlanar?

The better question is: “What can’t you?” Using mechatronics and other industrial automation tech can enable completely adaptive manufacturing concepts

An industrial automation system using XPlanar planar motor system

It never fails. At any trade show, people will come up and watch the XPlanar system’s mesmerizing motion. Then they’ll ask, “What can you actually do with that?”

I get it. The free-floating movers and electromagnetic tiles still amaze me after my years as a mechatronics product manager. But what I can see a little bit easier is just how many use cases XPlanar enables. Since its launch in 2019, the system has been adopted rapidly in many successful applications.

Developed in-house by Beckhoff, this mechatronic solution makes your production literally fly. XPlanar’s magnetically levitating movers and base tiles can rearrange in a wide variety of paths to fit your unique applications, whether it’s in assembly or packaging, pharma or food, entertainment or beyond.

Here are a few technical capabilities that help you elevate your automation game with XPlanar:

  • Processing with up to 6 degrees of freedom

  • Transport and processing in one system

  • Wear-free, hygienic-capable and easy to clean

  • Multi-mover control enables parallel and individual product handling

  • Fully integrated into the powerful and standardized PC-based Beckhoff control system (TwinCAT, PLC IEC 61131, EtherCAT G, Motion, Measurement, Machine Learning, Vision, Communication, HMI) 

Below are some exemplary applications and use cases that showcase how the adaptive automation system can revolutionize manufacturing and material handling. So, what will you do with XPlanar?


1. Intralogistics-industry picking applications

Goods-to-Operator (GTO) and Goods-to-Robot (GTR) picking stations for order fulfillment are typical solutions utilized with an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS). XPlanar enhances these applications with inherent flexibility and scalability to expand as demand grows.

Free movement of cartons or bins while the AS/RS retrieves additional products to complete orders greatly accelerates order fulfillment throughput. And contactless motion means zero maintenance requirements from wear, ensuring optimal system uptime with XPlanar.


2. Next-gen packaging machinery

The ability to cover XPlanar tiles with a range of hygienic materials – thin sheets of stainless steel, plastic, glass, etc. – makes the system ideal for packaging. However, the global packaging and pharma machine builder OEM Syntegon took it a step further.

Using a conveyor in concert with the mechatronics, Syntegon's revolutionary product handling platform merges two product streams into one seamlessly. Launched at Interpack 2023, the system combined Beckhoff Vision with XPlanar and other advanced Beckhoff technologies to revolutionize secondary packaging.


3. Adaptive automation for labs and research

Traditional material handling systems are hitting their limits in today’s labs. And they’re guaranteed to fall short for the lab of the future. However, adaptive automation technologies provide the path forward for state-of-the-art labs and research facilities.

The XPlanar “flying motion” system from Beckhoff delivers the power of flexible, scalable and highly dynamic motion control. Wide-ranging lab automation applications in research, pharma, biotech and beyond can build the smart labs of tomorrow – today.


4. Automated HMLV electronics testing applications

At Beckhoff, we put our money where our mouth is. Case in point: we revamped our I/O manufacturing line to harness our own adaptive automation tech. The XPlanar-equipped  inspection system delivers complete flexibility.

This reimagined production line accommodates simultaneous programming and testing of a broad range of terminal types. Using adaptive automation, we can test and program 1,200 bus terminals per hour. That’s one terminal every three seconds!


5. Part processing with minimized robotics in assembly lines

As an adaptive solution for surface treatment in assembly applications, Plasmatreat GmbH replaced cumbersome mechanical and robotic components with XPlanar. The result? The workpieces attached to the XPlanar movers can maneuver rather than the plasma jets. This reduces the cost and engineering time needed for robotics. Installing the plasma jets in fixed mountings reduces wear on the mechanically and electrically complex components.

XPlanar offers the potential to completely rethink plasma surface treatment in key areas going forward. These include direct integration of in-line testing for full inspections during the treatment process, and fully configurable mover travel routes to meet the needs of end customers.

That’s what you can actually do with XPlanar, after all. You can reinvent machine automation and material handling with floating and flying mechatronics. Talk about mesmerizing.

Ready to enable truly adaptive automation capabilities with XPlanar? Contact your local Beckhoff sales engineer today.


Jeff Johnson of Beckhoff USA

Jeff Johnson is the Mechatronics Product Manager at Beckhoff Automation LLC.


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