The assignee for this patent application is
Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The invention pertains to transport systems and more particularly, by way of example, to guideway-based transport system with short block linear synchronous motors. The invention has application, by way of non-limiting example, in production lines, laboratories and other applications requiring complex guideways, sharp turns, merge and diverge switching, and/or inverted operation.
"There are many types of transport systems that can move objects on a guideway. Examples include: wheel-suspended vehicles propelled by rotary or linear motors, maglev or air-cushion suspended vehicles propelled by linear motors or cables, vehicles that move in tubes propelled by air pressure, vehicles supported or guided by bearings, and vehicles that are moved on conveyor belts. Existing transport systems have many useful applications but there are opportunities for substantial improvement, for example, in the precise movement of relatively small and closely spaced objects on a complex guideway.
"Small and medium size objects are often transported on conveyor belts because this eliminates the need for wheels or other mechanisms to suspend, guide and propel the objects. Belt transport systems are relatively inexpensive but they lack precise control that is often needed and they require substantial maintenance because of many moving parts. Other approaches to low cost transport include air propelled vehicle moving in tubes and the use of gravitational forces to move objects down an incline, but these approaches have even less precise control.
"The advantages of using linear synchronous motor (LSM) propulsion are well known and described in other patents (by way of non-limiting example, U.S. Pat. Nos. 7,458,454, 7,448,327, 6,983,701, 6,917,136, 6,781,524, 6,578,495, 6,499,701, 6,101,952, and 6,011,508, all assigned to the assignee hereof and the teachings of all of which are incorporated herein by reference), but in many cases, particularly, for example, when moving small and closely spaced objects, the LSM can be more expensive and provide less throughput than competing propulsive systems.
"In view of the foregoing, an object of the invention is to provide improved transport systems, apparatus and methods.
"A related object of the invention is to provide such systems, apparatus and methods as take advantage of LSM technologies.
"Another related object of the invention is to provide such systems, apparatus and methods as are adapted for transport of small objects and/or medium-sized objects.
"A further related object of the invention is to provide such systems, apparatus and methods as are adapted for use with closely-spaced objects.
"Still another object of the invention is to provide such systems, apparatus and methods as are adapted for use in production lines, laboratories and other applications requiring complex guideways, sharp turns, merge and diverge switching, and/or inverted operation."
In addition to obtaining background information on this patent application, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "The foregoing are among the objects attained by the invention, which provides in some aspects an LSM-based transport system that includes a guideway with a plurality of coreless propulsion coils disposed along a region in which one or more vehicles disposed on the guideway are to be propelled, as well as electronic power and control circuitry that excites the propulsion coils independently so as to propel the vehicles along the guideway. The vehicles, according to these aspects of the invention, each include a magnetic flux source--for example, one or more Halbach or other magnet arrays.
"Systems according to the foregoing aspect are advantageous for, among other reasons, that the vehicles on the guideway can be moved (or propelled) independently of one another in a controlled fashion--e.g., without risk of collision or uncontrolled motion--regardless of their proximity to other vehicles on the guideway.
"Related aspects of the invention provide transport systems as described above in which the vehicles are disposed for sliding motion along guideway. In these aspects, the vehicles can have a low coefficient of friction with the guideway, e.g., a coefficient of friction of less than substantially 0.2.
"The guideway, according to related aspects of the invention, can include guidance structure--such as rails--that facilitate maintaining the vehicles on the guideway (or, put another way, that inhibit the vehicles from moving off the guideway).
"In related aspects of the invention, the guideway of transport systems of the type described above is made up of a plurality of coupled (e.g., interlocked) modules. The propulsion coils may be mounted in those modules and more particularly, according to some aspects of the invention, on printed circuit boards that make up the modules. The coils are disposed within the modules so as to be in close proximity to magnet arrays (or other flux sources) of vehicles passing over them.
"In still other related aspects, the invention provides transport systems as described above in which the modules comprise power controllers that form part of the electronic power and control circuitry and that are selectively electrically coupled to one or more of the propulsion coils, e.g., of the respective modules. Microprocessor(s) and/or switches can also be provided to provide electrical coupling between the power control circuitry and the propulsion coils.
"Yet still other aspects of the invention provide transport systems as described above in which the guideway comprises merge and/or diverge regions, each of which may include mechanically and/or magnetically actuated switches to alter the course of passing vehicles. These merge and diverge regions, as well as straight-away regions, that make up the guideway may comprise one or more of the aforementioned coupled modules.
"Further related aspects of the invention provide transport systems as described above in which at least one of the diverge regions comprises a plurality of coreless propulsion coils spaced along a region in which the course of passing vehicles is altered--that is, spaced along a corner, curve and/or branch--so as to propel the vehicles through the diverge. According to related aspects of the invention, a merge region can be similarly equipped with a plurality of such coils.
"Other aspects of the invention provide guideways, guideway modules and vehicles for use thereon, constructed and/or operated as discussed above.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
"A more complete understanding of the invention may be attained by reference to the drawings, in which:
"FIG. 1 depicts a system according to the invention, including a straight guideway and vehicles propelled thereon by an LSM in close proximity while sliding on a low friction guideway surface and guided by rails on the side of the guideway.
"FIG. 2 shows details of a vehicle according to one practice of the invention used to hold objects for moving on the guideway in FIG. 1.
"FIG. 3 shows vehicle guidance mechanisms and magnet array in a system according to one practice of the invention.
"FIG. 4 is similar to FIG. 3 but with a Halbach Array for the magnets.
"FIG. 5 is similar to FIG. 3 but with a single magnet used for propulsion.
"FIG. 6 shows a guideway according to one practice of the invention, including a printed circuit board, with propulsion coils mounted on it, in close proximity to the guideway surface, and connected to power control circuitry on the circuit board.
"FIG. 7 shows a typical waveform of current in a coil as a vehicle moves by in a system according to one practice of the invention.
"FIG. 8 shows vehicles negotiating a sharp 90.degree. horizontal turn in a system according to one practice of the invention.
"FIG. 9 shows vehicles negotiating a sharp 180.degree. vertical turn in a system according to one practice of the invention.
"FIG. 10 shows a right diverge in a system according to one practice of the invention with vehicle direction determined by the position of a small flipper.
"FIG. 11 shows a turntable which can be used in a system according to one practice of the invention in lieu of a curve to effect diverge and merge operations.
"FIG. 12 shows propulsion coils providing continuous force on vehicles moving on a right diverge module of a system according to the invention.
"FIG. 13 shows a vertical transition in a system according to one practice of the invention.
"FIG. 14 shows an example of a system according to the invention."
For more information, see this patent application: King,
Keywords for this news article include: Electronics, Legal Issues, Circuit Board,
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