Aerodynamic Feeding 4.0: A New Concept for Flexible Part Feeding

Aerodynamic Feeding 4.0: A New Concept for Flexible Part Feeding

Categories Conferences (reviewed)
Year 2022
Authors Kolditz, T.; Raatz, A.
Published In 9th CIRP Conference on Assembly Technology and Systems (CATS)

In modern production environments, the need for flexible handling systems constantly increases due to increasing uncertainties, shorter product life cycles and higher cost pressure. Part feeding systems are vital to modern handling systems, but conventional solutions are often characterized by low flexibility, high retooling times, and complex design. Therefore, in previous research, multiple approaches towards aerodynamic feeding technology were developed. Using air instead of mechanical chicanes to manipulate workpieces, aerodynamic feeding systems can achieve high feeding rates while at the same time being very flexible and reliable. Still, the complexity of the workpieces that can be oriented relies on the number of aerodynamic actuators used in the system. Previously developed systems either used one nozzle with a constant air jet or one nozzle and an air cushion, allowing a maximum of two orientation changes.

This work presents a new concept for an aerodynamic feeding system with higher flexibility (with regard to the workpiece geometry) and drastically reduced retooling times compared to conventional feeding systems. In contrast to previous implementations of aerodynamic feeding systems, using only one air nozzle or an air cushion, the new concept uses multiple, individually controllable air nozzles. Using a simulation-based approach, the orientation process is divided into several basic rotations - from a random initial orientation to the desired end orientation - each performed by a distinct nozzle. An optimization algorithm is then used to determine an optimal layout of the air nozzles, enabling the feeding system to feed any desired workpiece, regardless of the initial orientation. With the proposed concept, high flexibility, low retooling times and relatively low costs are expected, setting up aerodynamic feeding as an enabler for changeable production environments.