Motoring a manufacturing revival for the food and beverage industry, with linear motors

Food and beverage is an important part of manufacturing, itself an important sector in rebuilding the Australian economy post-pandemic.

Food is the biggest part of the local manufacturing industry. 35 of the top 100 Australian manufacturers (by revenue) are in food and beverage, and it makes up over a quarter of all manufacturing jobs and value-added output.

The sector is a net exporter, selling to over 200 markets and enjoying an enviable “clean and green” reputation globally for excellence. It is vital and resilient, continuing to grow even through recent conditions for manufacturers described as “reminiscent of… the GFC.” Food manufacturing is also viewed by some of our leading businesspeople as a key area for accelerating the country’s economic recovery.

To do the best at the important job ahead, the food and beverage sector — like every other — will need to find better ways of working. This includes investing in its people and processes, and adopting new technologies, such as flexible robotics, traceability solutions, increasingly digitalised supply chains, and new processing machinery.

One area that operators wanting to run their factories more efficiently can look to, are the motors behind processes like line distribution, filling, cutting and sorting.

Pneumatic cylinders are a tried-and-true solution, but they’re also noisy, and energy inefficient, and it can take hours to fine tune air pressure.

Tubular linear motors, on the other hand, can achieve very precise positional control and flexibility. Instead of being at one end or another, a linear motor can move to any single position within a stroke.

Newer actuation methods, such as tubular linear motors, are a way manufacturers can drive efficiency and productivity in their factory equipment. Such linear electrical motors are quicker and more accurate, allowing higher throughput at higher qualities over the same period, and use less energy. They have fewer moving parts so require less maintenance. And their servo drives are easily calibrated, meaning less time spent between line changes.

ANCA Motion’s new LinX M-Series Linear Motor is an alternative to pneumatic, ballscrew, linear flatbed and other options.

M-Series LinX motors are highly dynamic, with velocities up to 10 m per second, acceleration over 30G, and are able to achieve a peak force of 1,200 N. The direct drive nature also means there is no wear and no backlash, a clear benefit over ballscrew options. The high-speed product also allows high repeatability across cycles, with position feedback accuracy of 50 um.

A typical payback period is between six and twelve months, with increased uptime and throughput and decreased maintenance quickly offsetting any cost difference versus pneumatics.

Its mounting is designed so it can work as a “drop-in” for existing pneumatic cylinders. Installation is made easier by the 1 mm air gap between the shaft and the forcer, which means a very relaxed tolerance requirement.

The M-Series has users worldwide in machine tools, electronics, packaging and other sectors, but its high level of ingress protection (IP67, easily upgraded to IP69K) make it particularly well suited to food and pharmaceutical manufacture and the requirement of regular washdowns. Each unit has a fully potted body, with magnets fully encased in a stainless-steel tube and tightly sealed using end caps and o-rings.

ANCA Motion’s linear motors were originally developed for sister company ANCA CNC Machines’ FX Linear and MX Linear machines. ANCA is a leader in CNC tool grinding technology, with a series of world firsts since beginning in 1974 and numerous awards acknowledging it as a leader in Australian industry for both its innovation and export achievements.

LinX was designed and assembled in Australia, with a team of support engineers offering a high level of locally-specific expertise. International support is also available through a network of 125 support engineers in the United States, Mexico, Germany, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and various Asian markets.

The Covid-19 pandemic has put a magnifying glass up to the importance of Australian manufacturing, both during and after the crisis.

Thankfully, the scramble to tool up and provide essential medical and sanitation products is over. In the short-term, Australian manufacturers proved they’re more than capable of responding to a crisis. Again, the country is looking to them, this time over the longer-term, to help generate prosperity, jobs, and play a role in the return to economic growth.

It’s important that the country’s manufacturing sector — including its food and beverage component — can grow sustainably, firing on all cylinders.