INNOVATION AT ITS BEST – THE MODULAR TRANSPORT SYSTEM FROM ZIMMER GROUP WINS THE GERMAN INNOVATION AWARD
The Modular Transport System by Zimmer Group is a part of
a robot-based, highly flexible, productive and modular production cell. It takes
care of workpiece transport within the cell, linking the loading and unloading
stations with the machining and measuring stations. The individually controlled
transport units (shuttles) can be used as masters or slaves, depending on the
requirements, operating either separately or in tandem. This eliminates a fixed
coupling of the transport, for example, by a continuous conveyor belt.
A decisive advantage over conventional machines is the
extremely high system availability of this robotic machining cell. The
transport system is designed so that shuttles can be discharged and exchanged
separately during operation when required. All other system components have
been devised so that no unnecessary disassembly is required during servicing or
A further innovation of the Modular Transport System is
the integrated intermediate circuit buffer with a 48 V battery. In combination
with the recuperation function of the transport units, this buffer reduces load
current peaks by approx. 85 % and thereby the system’s energy consumption by
more than 8%. The cell can be connected directly to an MES system. The machine
control clearly identifies the individual workpieces by their bar codes. This
guarantees comprehensive production control and a high production quality.
The whole system can process variable workpieces in batch
size 1 and scale its capacity to almost any level when further function modules
are added. The configuration of the cells reaches from a few meters with one or
two machining stations up to 100 meters with more than 30 machining stations.
This modularity enables customized solutions which can be put into operation
quickly, since each module can be tested in advance. This shortens start-up
time substantially in comparison to conventional machining equipment. The
modularity can be easily adapted to specific applications or also to the
logistical environment and necessary safety designs. No conventional system on
the market can currently achieve such agility in a fully automated environment!
Each of these modules has a digital twin, which means
that the software is already available for each module and tested by a HILS
(hardware-in-the-loop system). If a new combination of modules is required,
already before materials resource planning a digital twin of the entire cell
can be generated, the material flow can be tested and the system capacity can
be verified in real time. This HILS-based digital twin accompanies the system
during its entire service life. It is used as a training device for new service
personnel and for preliminary tests of new products. For real-time batch size 1
production, the day’s production can be simulated in advance and the
“production status” can be unlocked or locked beforehand, thereby preventing a
The central machining module consists of two industrial
robots, each equipped with a multi-functional machining unit. The two
cooperating robots work in a small space. Here the workpiece is temporarily
stopped within the otherwise continuous process. The small machining space
makes it possible to minimize machining tolerances. Another great challenge is
how to achieve production at a precision of +/- 0,1 mm with commercially
available robots. To meet this challenge, our “Know-How Factory” has developed
an inline correction function that permanently monitors the required precision
and makes automatic corrections if necessary.
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