Linear motion components from HepcoMotion, the Devon based manufacturer of linear motion systems and automation components, are being specified by designers and OEMs for a huge variety of equipment that is being developed for a range of industries.

Take 3D printing as one example. Back in 2015, the founders of AIM3D set out to create a 3D printing machine that would offer the potential to eventually become a standard tool on every workbench by drastically reduce the cost of the additive manufacturing of metal parts.

The company realised that, to make the printing process as accurate as possible, the two print heads needed to be perfectly aligned, even at fast speeds. In order to avoid shock during printing, the support of the print bed also had to be completely stable. To enable this, high quality linear guides were essential.

To meet the demands, linear guides from HepcoMotion were selected. Mark Völkers, sales representative from HepcoMotion, commented: “There was not much space in the printer and the guides are subjected to considerable loads under high acceleration whilst still needing to work reliably and accurately. Here, Hepco’s slimline bearings and the NV20 slide from our GV3 linear guide system were the best solution.”

The bearings are directly mounted to the two changeable printer heads and, along with HepcoMotion’s NV20 slides, ensure that the printer head is precisely moved up and down at a speed of 2.5m/s. The X-Y movement is achieved by three ball screws ­– two on the X-axis and one on the Y-axis. The Z movement for the print happens via two ball screws. The ExAm 255 uses two print heads in order to easily deal with possible material changes. During the printing process, the second print head that is not being used is constantly being lifted by 10mm so it does not collide with the object to be printed.

Of benefit here, the GV3 range from HepcoMotion can readjust the bearings and therefore remove play that develops from wear over the life of the product. The GV3’s self-cleaning action was also important.

After two years of development work the ExAm 255 was completed and ready to move into serial production. “The really special thing about the E-1 Extruder is that the customer does not have to purchase expensive polymer filaments or metal powders,” explained Mr Radon, who worked as a research assistant at the University before founding the company.

A notable feature of AIM3D’s printer is the separation of shape and fusion during the printing process. During printing, only the thermoplastic carrier material is fused to give a component its shape. Following this, the component may be reworked before the actual sintering process. This in turn reduces tooling and machining costs during post-processing. The binding material is then removed from the thermoplastic carrier (in a two-stage process) and finally sintered in an oven, thus creating the final product.

The prototypes have been well received, particularly from the automotive industry where glass-fibre filled plastics are commonly used.

Packaging technology

HepcoMotion was also chosen for a challenging packaging application for Bosch Packaging Technology Company in partnership with Kliklok Corporation. Ideal for producers of confectionery, cereal bars, bakery products and cookies, the Kliklok Integrated Topload Cartoner (ITC) forms top load style cartons or trays and automatically loads wrapped products into them before closing.

The ergonomically designed ITC is comprised of a single integrated solution with three functions: carton forming, loading and closing – using one operator and one HMI. Here, the GFX HepcoMotion Guidance System for Beckhoff XTS eXtended Transport System is used. HepcoMotion has worked with Beckhoff to develop specialised versions of the PRT2 and 1-Trak guidance systems to work with the XTS. This option meets the needs of higher duty XTS applications where motion profiles and long term durability requirements are particularly demanding.

The XTS uses linear motor technology to drive independently controlled movers around a track. This is particularly useful in this application as it allows dwell at the operation stations. An individual mover can therefore be controlled and stopped at an operation station irrespective of the other movers.

The positional accuracy provided by the Beckhoff XTS is important for placing the food items into the cartons; and the motion of each mover is independently controlled, offering complex high-speed motion profiles without compromising positional accuracy.

In this application, the Beckhoff XTS system integrates Hepco’s 1-Trak guidance system. Lightweight three bearing movers follow a track comprising straight and circular arc sections and a clothoid curved transition. This shape gives a gentler motion for the movers and allows the machine to run faster and more smoothly than would be possible for a ‘running track’ oval shape. These 1-Trak systems provide rigidity and the highest level of accuracy and precision.

The system rigidity offered by the GFX track system is a core benefit for Kliklok – particularly for the carton forming module.  Cartons are formed with a single servo-controlled plunger pushing directly onto the independently controlled movers. Inevitably a load is applied to the mover at this point, as well as during the closing operation and the robotic loading module.

Hepco’s GFX hardened steel guidance system is based on its V guide technology, which rigidly guides the movers around the track, ensuring accurate alignment and resistance to deflection to avoid inconsistent carton forming. This uses components from the Hepco PRT2 system which routinely function in high speed, high duty applications.

With speeds of 2.5m/s, up to 80 cartons per minute can be formed, loaded and closed on the ITC. The system uses a 6m long GFX circuit with 10 x three-bearing, size 34 1-Trak movers. Food grade grease is released though Hepco’s integrated bleed lubrication facility which channels lubricant directly to the V faces of the straight slide for effective lubrication of the track system.

Hepco’s DLS4 belt driven linear actuator is also specified in this application. A 700mm long beam, fitted with a long carriage and a tailored motor connect kit to suit the customers motor, provides the vertical plunger mechanism to form the cartons. DLS4 can work at high speeds, with high acceleration and a high operating duty, making it ideally suited to this application. 

The combination of Beckhoff’s XTS and Hepco’s GFX guidance system has enabled the development of a product that is said to boast one of the highest speeds available for a solution with such a small footprint.


If you would like to read more stories like this, then please subscribe to Design Solutions. The magazine is sent free of charge to those who meet our terms of control!