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Cost effective high-bay storage and retrieval machine upgrade

15 January 2021

KEB AUTOMATION has helped a customer in Germany convert its high-bay warehouse storage and retrieval machine from an old-generation frequency inverters to the new COMBIVERT F6 drive controller from KEB.

The warehouse is owned and operated by a mail order business that was looking for a modern, cost effective retrofit solution that would not require the existing motors to be replaced.

The high-bay warehouse currently comprises nine aisles, each of which has 106 positions along its length (on both sides of the aisle) and 28 positions in height (on both sides).

Jorg Buchwald-Hörnchen, PLC technician at the warehouse comments: "The main focus was on costs. Of course other competitors also submitted bids for their products, but the statements from them were always the same, ‘We cannot work with your existing motors’. At KEB, this was not an issue at all from the start. They said it didn’t matter what kind of motor was there, we can run all motors with our COMBIVERT F6."

With the COMBIVERT F6, users can operate KEB’s own motors as well as a variety of other motor types from different manufacturers. "And that’s how it turned out. It was very easy to get the existing motors working with the inverters using automatic calibration. The aim was to replace only the frequency inverters, from the COMBIVERT F4 series to the F6," adds Jorg Buchwald-Hörnchen.

Optimal motor control

The COMBIVERT F6 range of high performance single-axis drive controllers are extremely compact, energy efficient and flexible for a wide variety of control applications in automated, safety-oriented machines. The drives provide optimal motor control in real time, as well as integrated safety functionality. The drive controllers are 100% in-house designed and built by KEB Automation. The drives are available in seven different enclosure sizes and power ranges from 4kW up to 400kW.

The drives are air- or liquid-cooled (integral or push-through mounting) and can be customised with a variety of design options to suit the specific application. Safety functionality can be selected in modules to suit the requirements of the machine. In addition to the control of widely-supported motor types such as synchronous, asynchronous, permanent magnet, synchronous reluctance, linear, high-torque motor and high speed motor, the COMBIVERT F6 offers additional functions such as automatic anti-cogging and optimised torque pre-control for linear and non-linear kinematics.

Future-proof storage and retrieval

KEB Automation’s regional industrial partner Vogel-Hemer assisted the customer by installing the new hardware in the warehouse, including the F6 drive controller, S6 servo drive and a C6 industrial PC. As Manfred Vogel explains: "Using modern drives here is a win-win situation. It is also clearly noticeable in the wallet. For many customers, loss of time is very decisive. Operational safety was also a concern for the customer. The system must run 24/7. The bottom line is that the solution must fit the customer. I think we’ve done an optimal job here. The project proceeded without interruption, everything worked perfectly."

According to Jorg Buchwald-Hörnchen, the warehouse also relies on a C6 industrial PC from KEB. He explains: "We also work with an interface from KEB, the C6, a small industrial PC. This quickly proved to be cost-neutral. We then simply started a test at our desk to see whether we could connect the new drive controller to our existing control system. This was also successful very quickly and it all worked well. Vogul-Hemer supported us in the hardware installation."

He continues: "With KEB’s complete know-how about frequency inverters and the interface to our control system, I was then able to completely reprogram the storage and retrieval machine so that we could restore the interface and now work on a Profibus system."

Integral safety functionality is also important to the customer. "As we have already equipped the F6 drive controllers with the latest safety technology, we intend to use this in the future. We have therefore installed the safety module level three, so that we can also use the ‘safe speed’ and ‘safe brake control’ safety functions in the future," says Jorg Buchwald-Hörnchen.