Driving Victoria Airport’s baggage handling system


NORD Drivesystems, a global supplier of drive technology for the manufacturing sector and elsewhere, was recently chosen to supply Super Premium Efficiency IE4 products for a complex baggage handling system in Canada.

Canada’s Victoria Airport has both domestic and international flights and caters for just under two million passengers a year.

When the airport needed to upgrade its baggage handling system, it turned to Glidepath, an Auckland-based provider of parcel sortation, baggage handling, and cargo handling solutions.

As Jason Williams, Project Engineer with Glidepath told Manufacturers’ Monthly, the new system would need to handle 750 bags an hour.

“It’s a system that’s made up of 85 new conveyors, roughly 250m in length. It comprises two in-line screening CT machines. It has two decision points for sortation and it has two separate infeed lines,” explained Williams.

According to Williams, the project had two major challenges.

Firstly, it needed to meet the stringent security requirements associated with air travel. “Our client are CATSA  (the Canadian Air Transport Safety Authority) and the actual Airport authority itself,” said Williams.

Secondly, because of the airport’s small footprint, the baggage handling system had to be housed in an unusually tight area. This created a lot of challenges for the physical installation.

“It has the highest number of different components we can possibly put in a system,” said Williams. “It has four-way sorters, spiral power curves, bag alignment devices. It’s got another device called a luffing conveyor and it also has Glidepath’s proprietary ploughs and power curves.”

“It was very challenging right from the get-go trying to fit this system into this small space.”

NORD Drivesystems

Glidepath chose motors and drives from NORD Drivesystems to power all this hardware.

“We used a complete IE4 Super Premium Efficiency solution. Each complete drive unit consists of a two-stage helical bevel gearbox with Gripmaxx keyless output shafts and IE4 permanent magnet motors fitted with on-board NORD inverter,” Phil Richards, NORD’s Intralogistics and Airport Sector Manager who worked closely with Williams on the project, told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“The inverter is also equipped with all the plug connectors specified by Glidepath as well as internal Ethernet IP for remote communication and operation of the complete drive unit.”

Richards explained that the drive units are used on a variety of different applications in the airport’s baggage handling system.

“There are general transport, merge and metering conveyors as well as four-way baggage sorters and dispensers,” he said. “The tasks can vary between conveyors. Some of the units move the baggage from conveyor to conveyor at a range of speeds and other units have intelligent positioning control like the sorters.”

“For example, the NORD drive can move conveyors and other equipment up and down into precise positions to allow for gentle transfer and sorting of baggage.”

In addition, all units are linked together via Ethernet IP so the client can remotely monitor from a control room what each drive unit is doing at all times.

Advantages of NORD products

NORD products and specifications are very flexible and can be customised to suit the customer’s requirement.

For the Victoria Airport project, NORD supplied the units all configured and supplied with their required plug connectors for power, photo eyes, sensors and Ethernet IP plugs to allow for a daisy chain installation.

“This reduces the installation and commissioning time considerably for Glidepath,” said Richards. “So instead of spending time and money with wiring and terminating cables, they can simply plug in the required cables and move onto the next unit.”

Williams also cited the Super Premium Efficiency of the IE4 motors as an advantage. “On top of that, the field-mounted drives have field IO available which we used for the majority of our field I/O,” he added.

“The real advantage here is they support high speed Ethernet which allows for reliable bag tracking on our system. We were able to use the I/O on board to facilitate the shaft encoders which is usually quite a high frequency high pulse rate IO mechanism.”

The NORD products also delivered an extra benefit that Glidepath hadn’t been expecting at the time of purchase.

“On our four way sorters we took advantage of the NORD positioning system which basically enables us to use the drive as a positioner,” said Williams. “A combination of an IE4 motor, a motor shaft encoder and the actual drive mounted in the field allowed us to use the drive as a really accurate position actuation for the three different positions within the four way sorters.

“Because they offered this feature we gave it a crack. We were very happy with the result!”


Asked how the commissioning process went, Williams was quick to answer in the affirmative.

“We didn’t have any issues with the commissioning. They were probably the best thing to commission on the whole job to be honest,” he said.

“We did pre-commissioning on our own but we also had the benefit of getting a NORD commissioning engineer on-site with us and he was just fantastic.”

In particular, he helped Glidepath with the set-up of the positioning that they used on the four way sorters.

“He was very knowledgeable and very happy to share information teaching us how to use the NORDCon software and the hand-held programmers. All of that over the four-day commissioning phase was so valuable…it was really good,” said Williams.

But the assistance didn’t finish once the installation and commissioning were complete.

“I know NORD’s just a phone call away and they’ve got folks close by in Seattle,” said Williams.

He emphasised the benefit of the process that he and Richards went through prior to commissioning.

“He worked with us to choose gear ratios and motor sizes which would reduce the overall number of different gearboxes and motor sizes. So I believe on this project we have just five different gear ratios for a job that has 90-odd motors in total and three different motor sizes…That is a huge advantage,” he said.

“It just means we don’t have to buy as many spares. We’ll only need to carry just one spare for every type of gearbox and motor size.”

The system today

Victoria Airport’s new baggage handling system began operating in late February this year.

Today, it helps transport the bags of over 2,500 passengers per day, on their way to and from various Canadian destinations, as well as the US and Mexico.

“Now that it is live, we are very happy with the NORD products. There’s nothing I can say that is negative about them,” said Williams. “Everything’s running. We haven’t got any problems with drives, we haven’t had to replace anything. It’s been a very good project showing proof of a great collaboration between Glidepath and NORD.”

NORD Drivesystems

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