SEW drives Melbourne Airport upgrade

SEW-Eurodrive Pty Ltd
Monday, 03 August, 2009

Melbourne Airport recently embarked on an upgrade and expansion of its baggage-handling system, enlisting materials handling and automation group BCS Group to carry out the redevelopment. BCS Group implemented the new baggage-handling system, founded on technologies from drives solutions group SEW-Eurodrive.

The redevelopment involved replacing the existing inbound baggage-handling system and relocating its entry point to a new ‘inbound bag room’ on the tarmac. The new inbound system comprises over 600 m of belt conveyors and features the latest in automated materials-handling technology, providing fast and efficient transfer of baggage from the tarmac to the airport’s baggage-collection carousels.

Each of the six single-line belt-conveyor bag lines is approximately 120 m long, and made up of up to 20 separate belt conveyors of various lengths and functionality - long conveyors for straight runs, short conveyors for slowing and metering baggage, and 90-degree belt-curve conveyors for turning corners.

All of the motor-driven belt-conveyors employed on the new inbound baggage-handling system feature decentralised drive technology. Each conveyor is equipped with an SEW-Eurodrive geared motor, paired with one of the company’s electronic variable-speed drive solutions - the Movitrac LTE IP55 frequency inverter. The new inbound system incorporates over 100 geared motor and drive pairs, each direct-mounted on individual conveyors.

“At Melbourne Airport, we can’t afford bag line stoppages, so when we developed the new inbound system, it was imperative we adopt a motor/drive system we can rely on,” says BCS Group Key Account Manager Djordje Petrovic.

According to SEW-Eurodrive Technical Sales Representative, Craig Munro, each gear motor has been selected to match the performance requirements of each conveyor and deliver optimal operational efficiency.

In combination, the Movitrac LTE and geared motors provide Melbourne Airport with high levels of materials handling efficiency. “The Movitrac LTE is ideally suited to such low-power, variable speed drive conveying applications,” says Munro.

According to Petrovic, the ability to vary conveyor speed is crucial to the efficient operation of most baggage-handling systems. “It’s important that the baggage conveyors operate with a smooth ramp-up/ramp-down to ensure that cargo doesn’t topple, and wear and tear on the conveyor system is minimised,” he says. “However, if a bag gets jammed or there is a disturbance along the conveyor line, we are able to quickly switch the conveyors into slow mode, reverse them, index them, or stop them completely. This level of control provides us with real operational flexibility.”

A central control room oversees the operation of the baggage-handling system via an airport-wide SCADA system and CCTV network. By interfacing the Movitrac LTEs with the airport’s PLCs, operators are provided with central, single-point configurable control of all motion applications. “The ability to communicate with the drive from the central control room is extremely helpful,” says Petrovic. “We can pre-program any drive to respond to an alarm or sensor trigger. Alternatively, we can monitor the conveyors via the CCTV system and manually execute an action.”

According to Munro, the Movitrac LTE provides the BCS Group airport team with four access options for drive configuration, monitoring and control. “It is equipped with an in-built keypad, an onboard RS485 port for PC access, an infrared optical link for wireless connectivity to PDA or smartphone, and an optional portable programming stick for multi-drive parameter transfer,” he says.

With the airport continuing to operate throughout the installation process, the BCS Group airport team’s installation schedule was restricted. With a limited window of opportunity, the team worked to meticulous schedules to ensure the timely delivery of the turnkey baggage-handling system. Importantly, the motor and drive’s easy mechanical and electrical installation ensured that basic drive applications could be up and running in minutes.

“The SEW gear is extremely compact and easy to install. This simplified installation in the space-limited portions of the new baggage-handling facility,” says Petrovic. “Drive configuration is also easy, as we aren’t locked into using proprietary code. We were able to write our own code for the conveyor applications, allowing us to bring the new inbound system online on time. The ability to field-mount the drive only inches from the motor means connection between the two can be achieved simply. This significantly minimises the amount of on-site wiring, and saves on installation and ongoing maintenance costs.”

Like most airport-based applications, the new baggage-handling system is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week operation, employing 30 full-time onsite technicians and operators. “Our system needs to be online around-the-clock,” says Petrovic. “As a result, we need the same kind of comprehensive service from our motors and drives provider. Here SEW excels.”

With the support of SEW-Eurodrive, BCS Group will continue to integrate reliability and innovation into its customised systems, providing Melbourne Airport - and its travellers - with fast and efficient baggage-handling solutions.

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