Innovation through precision

Innovation through precision

Linear indexing systems are the heart of any assembly or packaging line: they transport the products between the stations. However, they are often the bottleneck of the line and prevent higher machine utilization. tech4automation GmbH solves this problem with its new linear systems. Thanks to precision gears from Melior Motion GmbH, they cycle particularly quickly and thus enable more efficient processes.

Tech4automation is still a young company, founded about a year ago by Marc Schlüter and Sascha Smaglinski. However, both have been professionally involved with linear motion systems for some time. They met 15 years ago while working in sales for a special machine manufacturer. In the meantime, the professional paths of the two men diverged until they made the plan to found a joint company.

"The trigger for this decision was the growing demand for fast-cycle linear systems on the market. We knew right away: this is something we can best implement on our own," explains mechanical engineer Schlüter, who is responsible as managing director. "Conveyor systems are often the bottleneck station in packaging lines. If the chain clocks faster, it increases the capacity of the plant." Unlike other company founders, they did not start from scratch, but were able to draw on their knowledge and contacts in the mechanical engineering industry.

"Our goal was clear: bring a state-of-the-art product to market that is significantly faster than competitors' products," explains owner Smaglinski, who is a data communications engineer and technical business economist. In linear-cycle systems from other manufacturers, the feed rate is about 0.3 seconds. "The further you want to lower that, the higher the effort becomes," adds Schlüter. There are only a good handful of manufacturers of such systems in the world. The competitors use a classic rotary table with a three-phase motor - which entails a lot of non-productive time that can hardly be reduced. Another solution was therefore needed.

Precision gearboxes are the solution

With Melior Motion's gearboxes in combination with a servo motor, Schlüter and Smaglinski found a way to make their vision a reality. Their linear system has low vibration, fast and precise clocking. Thanks to the drive solution, it achieves a feed rate of less than 0.2 seconds. This is made possible by the zero backlash of the PSC gearboxes. A patented spring mechanism means that wear on the tooth flanks is compensated and the torsional backlash is very low at just ≤ 0.1 angular minute. "The gearboxes make the linear actuators particularly precise in positioning and fast," explains Schlüter. "A servomotor with the gearbox from Melior Motion can apply much more torque to the indexing system than a rotary table for the same size. In addition, the direct power transmission means that the system has no additional control times that unnecessarily extend the movement time," he says, citing the technical arguments. 

Thanks to wear compensation, the gearboxes are also particularly durable and robust. 20,000 operating hours or even more, depending on the application, are possible without any loss of precision. Efficiency of more than 90 percent and an extremely low breakaway torque ensure outstanding energy efficiency. Gearbox temperature remains at a consistently low level, and wear parts and lubricants have a longer service life. This reduces the need for repairs and downtime on packaging and assembly lines.

The owners are so convinced by the precision gearboxes that they use them in all their products. The Melior Motion gearboxes are each installed in different sizes to match the design of the conveyor system and the length of the chain - from the smallest gearbox PSC030 to the largest, the PSC500.

Partnership among neighbours

In addition to the special technical features, it was important to Schlüter and Smaglinski to use the drive solution of a German company. Melior Motion develops and produces its gearboxes in Hameln, Lower Saxony. It is about 80 kilometers as the crow flies to Geseke, where tech4automationen has its headquarters. This minimizes the CO2 footprint - sustainability is important to the partners. The remaining metal parts for the conveyor systems come from suppliers within a 50-kilometer radius of the East Westphalian town. "With a German partner, there is also no language barrier and the quality is consistently high," says Smaglinski.

With the Hamelin-based company, the two founders have a partnership rather than a classic customer-supplier relationship. tech4automation also sells the precision gearboxes as trading goods to its network of partners and customers, which are mainly located in the DACH region, the Benelux countries and Scandinavia.

Drive solution convinces customers

In December 2021, the prototype of the linear actuator system was manufactured, and Schlüter and Smaglinski started sales in parallel. The figures simulated in advance came true when the prototype was put into operation: The conveyor system's cycle time is less than 0.2 seconds.

According to the two owners, one of the most frequent questions is about the specific distinguishing features of the tech4automation linear indexing chain compared to competitor products. Then Schlüter and Smaglinski explain the drive side: The gearheads are also used in industrial robots, which means they work with high precision and are very resilient. This convinces buyers and designers, even if they are not yet familiar with Melior Motion as a company.

In addition, customers can use a uniform frame width regardless of the chain link lengths of 80, 100, 125 and 150mm. In addition, the linear motion systems are delivered with a PLC interface module to reduce integration and commissioning time to a minimum. "The advantage for our customers is obvious: with a faster-cycling linear system, they can increase the utilization of their assembly and packaging lines as well as make processes more efficient," Schlüter concludes.