KS PULSE Keeps It Simple in Latest Release

KS PULSE Keeps It Simple in Latest Release

Challenge

  • Improve system modularity and transform existing solution into an easily integrated, standard product offering

Solutions

Results

  • Enhances communication with EtherNet/IP
  • Simplifies safety configuration thanks to new drive functionality
  • Streamlines approach to power supply and connection systems
  • Eases configuration with user-friendly software and interface

Faster, easier integration is now possible in this revolutionary approach to auto body assembly based on independent cart technology

As a rule, “less is more” in industrial applications. Fewer system components typically result in a simpler design, better performance and easier maintenance.

When KUKA Systems North America, part of Germany-based KUKA AG, built the KS PULSE system in 2015, reducing complexity and improving performance in automotive body assembly was the goal. KS PULSE is a transport system for body-in-white assembly lines based on QuickStick® HT independent cart technology from MagneMotion®, a Rockwell Automation company.

Comprised of a linear motor and separate drive, QuickStick HT uses integrated position sensing to enable independent control of separate carriers on a track. Accelerations, decelerations, velocities and positions are programmable. Instead of moving at a fixed speed, vehicle body sections can quickly advance through robotic workstations as process steps are completed.

Building on Revolutionary Success

Compared to conventional roller-bed and trolley systems, first generation KS PULSE systems reduced the number of unique components from 200 to 14. Performance gains were equally impressive.

“The QuickStick HT is twice as fast, uses less power, has greater MTBF and lower MTTR – and is much more flexible than friction-based conveyance systems,” said Kevin Laurence, director, advanced technology group, KUKA Systems.

But while the KS PULSE system simplified operation and maintenance, configuration and integration were complex. Installing the initial offering was a job only KUKA Systems could do.

“We delivered the KS PULSE transfer system as part of a fully integrated, turnkey body shop or assembly line,” Laurence explained. “With our latest release, we have incorporated a user-friendly interface – and reduced variability and complexity – to ease installation of the transport system by third-party system integrators.”

MagneMotion QuickStick HT System.

Enabling EtherNet/IP Connectivity

The new release features significant enhancements enabled by improved QuickStick HT capabilities, starting with the network architecture and communication protocol. The initial offering was hardwired and based on node controllers using RS-422 serial communication. The updated product features Ethernet-compatible node controllers – and takes advantage of the network’s higher bandwidth.

“Hardwired RS-422 communication has its limits, and it is not typically used in our industry,” Laurence said. “Our latest KS PULSE system, built on EtherNet/IP™, has more capacity – and uses a protocol that is familiar to system integrators.”

Integrated Safety Reduces Component Count

In addition, while the original QuickStick HT relied on a niche drive, the product now includes Allen-Bradley® Kinetix® 5700 servo drive technology.

“Using a recognized, standard servo drive makes our product more accessible to integrators across the industry,” Laurence said. “It really helps lower that learning curve.”

The Kinetix 5700 servo also features integrated advanced safety, including Safe Torque-Off functionality. With the Safe Torque-Off function, power that can cause motion is removed from the linear motor – without powering down the entire system. As a result, equipment can be brought to a stop more safely – and restarted more quickly.

“To achieve functional safety in our previous solution, we had to add a wide range of components including safety-rated relays and contactors – plus all associated wiring,” said Laurence. “Thanks to integrated safety, we have reduced overall system complexity and potential points of failure.”

Learn more about how Rockwell Automation helps improve machine builder performance.

A Better Way for Power Supplies

KUKA Systems also reaped the benefits of a modernized approach to power supplies and connection systems. Along with the Kinetix 5700 drive, the QuickStick HT update incorporates Kinetix-compatible power supplies. 

“In our initial KS PULSE offering, we relied on a range of different transformers to achieve compatibility with global power standards,” Laurence explained. “For each transformer, there was a unique part number and wiring diagram.”

With the new approach to power supplies, KUKA Systems no longer needs transformers to accommodate incoming voltage variations. And instead of multiple parts and wiring diagrams, the company has essentially one standard version.

“And changing cables is much easier, thanks to terminal blocks that are now wired into our panel,” Laurence added. “Since the connectors are on the outside, our customers never have to open the box to change a cable.”

Simply More Modular

The updated software system for the KS PULSE echoes the system’s simplified hardware.

“Our software and new user interface reflects the streamlined approach to hardware – and is designed to ease configuration,” Laurence said.

By taking advantage of advanced technology and decreasing equipment requirements, KUKA Systems has reduced integration complexity at every level.

“We aimed to make the KS PULSE transport system more modular, more “plug and play,” said Laurence. “This latest release does that – and lays the foundation for future enhancements.”

Allen-Bradley, Kinetix, MagneMotion, QuickStick and Rockwell Automation are trademarks of Rockwell Automation, Inc. EtherNet/IP is a trademark of ODVA, Inc.

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