The Swiss company Avancon SA has launched a conveyor system, which allows customers to save costs for controlling and programming. It controls itself, even very large and complex material handling systems in logistics centers. The key economic advantages are that a control cabinet or cable ducts are not necessary. Integration into a higher bus / IT topology is incredibly easy.
Thus, an automatic conveyor system operating without human intervention is the epitome of “automation” and that is what has been implemented quite simply with the new ZPC system from Avancon. It is universally applicable and for the operator energy and cost saving. This system is manufactured solely as a ZPC concept (ZPC = Zone Powered Conveyor). This means everything refers to a single zone, the control system, the photo-sensors and the brushless DCMotor.
The great thing is that no cables are pulled on the construction site and additional control cabinets and cable ducts are omitted. This reduces the investment costs. “We want to save our customers work and costs. That’s why we’re building this ZPC concept, a zoned propulsion system.
The advantages are obvious, both for the conveyor manufacturer and for the system integrator. This concerns the planning, the realization, the maintenance and last but not least the energy savings. It is very simple and controls itself, so it works completely autonomously.” Says
Dr. Daniele Gambetta, the technical manager of Avancon SA. “Generally speaking, a huge ZPC-conveyor system can be operated, without a higher bus or IT infrastructure. Since we only use this concept, it does not cost more, because these ZPC systems are already pre-programmed. This means that no further programming effort and no central control cabinet, as well as no cable ducts on the construction site are necessary. However, the ZPC controller can communicate with almost any higher bus/IT architecture.”
Externally everything is smooth, closed and with a modern design. You don’t see whether a motor nor a control system or cables. Everything is hidden, safe and clean installed within the profile frame, even the power supply and in the future also the brushless DC motors. However, if one still wants to intervene into the system, make processes visible or wants to receive a warning signal when an element fails out or a motor is overloaded, Avancon has a ready made solution for this. But not only, if further devices such as lifts, stacker-cranes and retrieval machines, packaging and palletizing machines or robots have to be integrated, this is also possible, provided that other bus systems for this purpose have already ben foreseen.
“OK, that’s easy,” says Denis Ratz, CEO of Avancon SA, “Our control system is equipped with the necessary intelligence and is able to communicate with nearly any higher bus and IT architecture. That can be done very easily and without big expenses, too. That’s our advantage. For large systems we are usually very economical, provided that the integrator has understood the system philosophy and follows our guidelines.”
Well, why is Avancon’s ZPC system so easy?
First of all, from a mechanical point of view, all control elements can be mounted without tools, without screws and without cable fixings. This simplifies the assembly and also the maintenance can be carried out quickly and at very low cost.
A maximum of 31 zones of the ZPC system are controlled and monitored by an AS-interface master. If required, the internal ZPC network can also be equipped with an MCC (Main Control Center), which has a preprogrammed processing unit (PLC) and a modular gateway to almost all higher bus/IT systems. Generally, Avancon recommends the MCC for larger and more complex systems. It can also take on a lot of other features. Mostly several AS-interface masters are necessary, but they can communicate with each other in
the ZPC network, so that there are no limits to the size of a material flow system. If you accept the ZPC system as it is, you save a lot of additional programming time and cost. However, the MCC can continuously provide all data through the gateway to higher levels. Each ASi master has the current status of all its managed and controlled up to 31 zones (62 slaves) – every 10 meters. Furthermore, the MCC can also receive and process commands of a higher level via the integrated gateway. You only need two ‘bits’, as move to the right (01), left out (10) and straight ahead (00). Everything else is done by the ZPC network independently.
There is even an easier way. Take the following example: a higherlevel bus or IT system is connected to the barcode readers, attached to the conveyor system. After evaluating the read barcode of a unit to be conveyed, the higher-level system issues the instruction to the ZPC network to move it in the determined direction. ASi diverts. – Finished.
Thus, the higher level system knows in which side line of this unit is and – if it is then detected at another barcode reader again, it can be further directed as described. So it is tracked to its destination. That’s easy, right?
Machines and operations integrated in the conveyor system, such as strapping machines, label dispensers, scales, palletizers, robots, etc., can be easily integrated in various manners.
Albert Einstein said: “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Here one should add: “but not more complicated, please!” It is absolutely not necessary to repeat and program all commands at a higher level, because ASi automatically executes anyway.
As a specialty, a simple ZPC-control profile is now offered to those manufacturers, who still have an older construction of their conveyors, but understandably like the ZPC concept. This makes it possible to mount all the controls without tools and to use completely the patented ZPC concept as described above. The ZPC-control profile can effortless be attached anywhere with just a few self-tapping screws.
Do you want to get it even simpler?
Wiggle eCommerce Fulfilment Centre
Conveyor Systems Ltd completed a major installation supplying an extensive pack and sortation conveyor solution for global online retailer Wiggle Ltd. Operating as the UK’s #1 online Cycle, Run & Swim retailer along with being recently voted the Which? recom- mended #1 online outdoor & leisure shop. In 2015, due to the continuous growth of the business, they took the decision to relocate the Operation to a larger, consolidated Fulfilment Centre (320,000 sq.ft.) in the West Midlands from the multiple small sites operated in Portsmouth.
After a rigorous tender process, CSL’s ability to provide a well demonstrated solution was key to meeting the brief and winning the contract. This included using the latest 3D CAD drawing software to help visualise the system as a lifelike operational representation in the new building.
The brief was to combine packed consignments from 3 pick/pack areas over 3 floors and sort them down 12 lanes into 4 dispatch zones for separate carriers and services. The system needed to cope with up to 90 boxes per minute of varying sizes and weights, from very small parts and clothing up to large boxes of bicycle wheels!
The conveyor system which was specially designed by CSL at over 900mm wide, was engineered in detail after taking into account all comments/ suggestions made by both management and operators at Wiggle together with fully recognising their requirements, considering the vast array of shapes and sizes of products whilst overcoming operational issues.
The mezzanine consists of 2 upper floors which along with the ground floor form three independent pick/pack zones and sortation areas which were designed specifically to avoid issues caused when one combined system is stopped for maintenance/Repairs.
Once an order is picked, packing operatives check the order then pack into an array of outers ranging from poly bags to large cardboard boxes prior to applying carrier despatch labels. The consignment is then placed on a section of zero line pressure (ZLP) accumulation roller conveyor which starts the transit to the sortation area on the ground floor. This type of conveyor is used widely on the system to ensure noncontact queuing due to the wide variety of sizes, shapes and weights causing damage to each other and potentially initiating jams along the system.
The upper mezzanine floors use 2 powered Ambaflex spiral lowerators (almost 100 units supplied by CSL throughout the UK to different customers), to safely and continuously bring the boxes down where they are then barcode scanned to determine, by way of state-of-the-art scanning arrays on each line, which carrier despatch lane they require. When the packages reach the correct despatch lane they are diverted off at 90 degrees using high speed switch sorters. Depending on the source pick floor, they either decline down a grip top belt to an ergonomic picking height or transit on a horizontal roller conveyor to the discharge area where a despatch operative removes and places them onto a pallet or into a wheeled cage ready for carrier collection.
CSL provided the full turnkey conveyor project including control, installation and commissioning of the wide range of packages.
“As this was a new facility it was difficult to visualise the conveyor system prior to the mezzanine floor installation, but CSL provided a detailed 3D drawing which included both the mezzanine and the conveyors which brought clarity to this. The install process was smooth and the end results have allowed us to increase control, flexibility & volumes”
Dan Corrigan, Head of Logistics & Operations Development
New, aesthetic Conveying System for the future
The young Swiss startup Avancon SA (www.avancon.com) has set itself the goal to revolutionize the unit handling systems in distribution and logistics centers. They offer now a new modern and very innovative conveying system. This will be distributed worldwide by manufacturers of conveyor systems and logistic system integrators. The system has been developed by Dieter Specht, the founder of the Interroll Group.The car industry, the computer industryand even the machine industry presentevery few years new and moderndesigned models. Why? To be able toattack new markets and new customers.However, it is hard to see somethingnew in the conveyor industry.
Most ofthe unit conveyor systems weredeveloped 15, 20 or even 50 years agoand are still sold today in a construction,which remembers on the patents of theBritish toy manufacturer Frank Hornby,who has already registered his patent ofa “Meccano” kit in 1901.Now, the two young founders of the start-up Avancon SA are ready to revolutionize the conveyor industry with thisnew and streamlined concept. It’s full of innovative and functionalideas and has been patented worldwide.
Originally, Dieter Specht had developed this systemfor Interroll. But it didn’t fit to their philosophy. So hefound two enthusiastic entrepreneurs, Denis Ratz,he has a bachelor of science in business informaticsand Dr. Daniele Gambetta, who has a PhD inelectric machines. They established inTicino/Switzerland a new start-up under the name Avancon SA (from Avant-garde and Conveyor).
The CEO, Denis Ratz showed the new conveyor system to some large and important manufacturers of conveyor- and logistics-systems and got a very positive response.
“Of course, we wanted to see the reactions to our completely new and very modern designed conveyor concept,” says Denis Ratz. “Most were positively impressed about the outstanding design. I could answer all their questions about the functions and requirements of the market. After these meetings with CEOs and technical managers of big and well-known companies I was highly motivated. Now we are ready. Everything is finished and tested. We can deliver. Several potential customers will visit our large test facility here in Ticino. We believe that the functions and the many advantages of this innovative system will convince them.”
Avancon SA invested heavily into development, in machines, in molds, patents and in the production. With a clever marketing concept enables an exclusive group of Conveyor Manufacturers and System Integrators worldwide to promote the system under their own label/brand and house color to the final market, the operators of logistics and distribution center.
Denis Ratz explains: “We want to offer something avant-garde to the manufacturers of conveyors and intralogistics systems. But we don’t want to interfere with the market of our customers and we will not offer to distribution- and logistics-systems directly to operating companies. Even though this modern system will catch the eye of every manager of this industry.”
The partner and head of technique, Dr. Daniele Gambetta, is an experienced specialist for electronic control and DC-motors. He has patents of completely new DC-motors, which will also be integrated in the future in the Avancon Conveyor System.
“Today – in the digital age of ‘industry-4’ – the electronic connectivity is of enormous importance. I was very fascinated by the ideas of Dieter Specht, so I have joined this young start-up,” says Dr. Daniele Gambetta. “I have never seen such a convincing new concept in the conveyor industry. Everything is completely different, new, safer and much better. We believe that about 80 % of all goods up to 50 kg weight, which have to be transported millions of times worldwide every day, can be handled with this new system.”
Meanwhile, the design has been awarded by the internationally well known “Red-Dot” price in Germany and also by the very coveted throughout Asia, “Good-Design” award in Japan.
The two partners have a lot of courage to break into such an established market today. But who would not want to offer their customers something very aesthetic, even revolutionizing, which differs to all previous designs?
Why aesthetic? Well, ask yourself: would you buy today a machine, which is not modern covered? Now you can offer your customers something extraordinary that combines innovation with emotions.
Denis Ratz says: “We are very positive about the future. We have just moved into a newly built modern factory, which corresponds to our DNA. Here we have a daily capacity production of up to 400 meters conveyor tracks of our new ZPC- system. Anyone who builds conveyor systems by himself can obtain all individual elements from us and so use the patents free of charge. Several customers want to exhibit the new system at one of their upcoming trade fairs.
‘ZPC’ system means “Zone Powered Conveyor” system, in which each zone is controlled and driven separately. The system is extremely flexible and adaptable. It is capable of slow or fast transporting in any desired line and, where necessary, can accumulate without pressure. The system can also communicate with higher IT or Bus system very easily and at significantly reduced installation cost.
Of course it transports goods in all directions, with all the functions an engineer wants for logistics systems.
Last but not least it seems to be much cheaper than it looks.
Automated sortation system installed specifically to deal with “small traffic”
The UKs largest dedicated parcel carrier officially opened its new purpose built, 15,000 square metre, parcel distribution hub in Warrington back in 2014. Designed to support the continuation of growth of the company the new hub has a capacity of around 550,000 parcels a day – almost three times that of the previous site in Warrington.
The facility’s purpose was to help with the developing requirement for next day deliveries, playing a key role in plans for international expansion and to provide a platform for further innovation, as the company looks to introduce a host of new products to the market.
L.A.C Conveyor Systems Ltd is now entering its 4th year, working closely with the multinational delivery company, in the development and implementation of innovative, flexible technologies to suit the ever-evolving challenge of handling parcels from a wide range of shapes and sizes whilst achieving faster processing times.
L.A.C Conveyor Systems innovative
The latest challenge was to introduce a sortation solution specifically designed to accommodate small sized parcels. Prior to the new solution the sortation of “small traffic” was a combined sortation process, with larger parcels. This combined automated parcel sortation approach meant that smaller parcels were harder to control and ultimately ended up being manually sorted. This system required a lot of human intervention to gain full control, proving not the most efficient approach, as the accuracy of the sort could not be guaranteed. Separating smalls from larger parcels meant higher throughputs could be achieved utilising a more streamlined solution with a 100% accuracy of sort.
L.A.C Conveyor Systems innovative “Automation Toolbox” meant a combination of technologies could be combined to satisfy the required solution and could be delivered and implemented within a small footprint and with minimal disruption to current operations.
The solution utilised L.A.C designed induct/feed conveyors, handling bulk parcels on infeed for initial parcel separation, which were then separated further utilising a flighted belt conveyor, leading on to a horizontal conveyor with 5 moveable ploughs and 1 fixed. The parcels were then broken down further spread across 6 chutes, presenting parcels to an operator platform. Operator interaction at this stage of the process provided a means of orientating parcels and placing them onto a Equinox split tray sorter with barcode labels accessible for automated scanning and verification.
The Equinox split tray sorter is a tray-based “bomb-bay” sorter developed specifically to handle flat goods such as packets, books, garments, parcels, and accessories, making it the ideal choice for L.A.C to integrate as part of a turnkey solution. The system offers the capacity to sort 10,000 trays per hour exceeding the requirements, but offering scope for future growth. It has a characteristic oval-shaped conveyor on which the trays circulate. This “open oval” design allows operators and further automation to integrate with ease.
An overhead scanning system ensured parcel identification and location could be achieved at high speed. L.A.C’s modular software design structure offered a seamless link with the host IT system, completing the final piece of the puzzle.
This unique automation approach has ensured a fast and flexible response to future e-commerce demands and has enabled an increased ability to handle parcels of such a shape and size in such a controlled manner. L.A.C’s diverse inhouse skill set has offered a solution that is cost effective providing faster processing of incoming “small” parcels.
Modernising the supply chain network
System to handle small sized parcels only
Cost effective and efficient flow of goods to consumers
Selecting & implementing the best technology
Allow for more next-day delivery
Increased order accuracy
Overall reduction in costs
Integrate with latest supply chain technology
Key services & Technologies
Feed conveyor – shaft mounted motor, tapered hopper to allow product to fall onto flyted belt conveyor.
Modular belt conveyor with hopper
Discharge conveyor with high side for product control
5 off moving ploughs and 1 fixed. Underslung braked motor with pivot arm connected to plough
6 off discharge chutes
6 off operator stations
Each discharge station offering PTL button light module
Double tray wide oval sorter
Sorter gross capacity (10,000 trays per hour)
Tray type 7 DT Double Tray – (Bombay also known as split tray)
Sorter direction – Clockwise
Barcode label control linking carton to station
Item detection sensing
Omni Camera Scanner – Overhead system for barcode label capture
L.A.C IT hardware and Software integration
Wireless network connection
VPN Remote Access
100% Accuracy of sort.
Increased supply chain efficiencies
Sortation direct into shipping cartons
Easy to use, simple efficient design and low maintenance decrease cost and increase uptime.
Design allows for the highest accuracy as well as a very small footprint without losing throughput.
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