Last week we were in Chicago for the ProMat 2017 show – North America’s largest material handling tradeshow. It’s amazing the wide range of products on display – small 24VDC rollers, pallets, racking, cranes, you name it. I came away with a few impressions:
KEB’s oldest products are still relevant
Material handling is all about moving objects. As long as things are being moved there will be a need for brakes to stop them. I was surprised at the level of interest in KEB’s failsafe spring-set brakes – both the Type 38 and Double C-Face versions. KEB’s brake product (the quality and configurable options) make it a huge selling point for our gearmotors as well which are typically used on conveyors and stacker cranes.
For a refresher on how the brakes work, here’s a 1:32 Youtube video.
The range of brakes KEB supplies into the material handling industry varies widely. On the small side, our brakes are used inside 24V motorized rollers and mobile robots. On the large side, they are used for large cranes and hoists or to stop large storage retrieval machines in the case of an e-stop. KEB has developed some very unique solutions for the industry – particularly for applications that require the brake to fit into a small package.
Safety is always important
As robots and machines increasingly interact with workers, there is a need to ensure safety. Certainly, the fail-safe brakes above come into play. But a lot of the functional safety is also moving into the drives. In the KEB booth, we were showing our 6th generation drives – all have TÜV certified Safe-Torque-Off as standard. Upcoming KEB safety module 3 includes advanced functionality like safe-limited-speed and safe-limited-direction and Fail Safe over EtherCAT (FSoE).
Later this month at the Hannover Fair in Germany, KEB will be highlighting our new Safety PLC and Safe I/O. It certainly appears that KEB is well positioned to offer a fully integrated safety solution for machinery.
Virtual Reality (VR)
It was interesting to see companies offering virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality products. This development doesn’t really have anything to do with KEB or our products. It was just interesting to see this technology making its way into industrial applications. I think the adoption varies by industry but we are also seeing it in practice for the elevator industry.
I did a demo at the Swisslog booth and the idea is that a distribution center could be 3D modeled. Then, a person could virtually navigate the DC. They could turn around 360 degrees and view the objects (cranes, conveyors, etc). The idea is that an expert can virtually tour the facility to help troubleshoot or optimize the process.
No doubt the technology is only going to get better. It will be interesting to see how people find new ways to use and which industries readily embrace it.
Analytics and IIoT
No surprise but a big theme continued to be analytics and data gathering. This is a supply chain tradeshow after all. All the major automation suppliers were showing their analytics solution and integration at the ERP level.
The KEB booth featured an Industry 4.0 and IIoT demo although our focus was a bit more narrow. We were highlighting the C6 VPN Router which allows a user to connect to a remote machine through a PLC or HMI. Here’s a 3:33 Youtube video showing how the Router works.
In the KEB booth we were remotely connecting to (and controlling) a machine in Germany and adjusting its operation. A big emphasis on KEB’s remote connection solution is security. So we were also demoing our CONNECT™ software. KEB Combivis CONNECT is the software tool which facilitates a secure remote connection. CONNECT balances easy usability with a lot of features (user management, firewalls, etc.) that enhance the security of the solution.
For more information on KEB’s material handling experience and solutions, visit our material handling application page.