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Improving Automated Baggage Handling Systems

Waunakee, WI , 2018-10-25

Ideally, a passenger traveling on an airplane will only see a piece of checked luggage on two conveyor belts, once at check-in and once at baggage claim. In between those two points, an automated baggage handling system must navigate architecture, logistics management tools, and changes in direction and elevation as significant as a children’s roller coaster.

Major airports can handle tens of millions of passengers per year who take advantage of new terminals and refurbished amenities. Behind the scenes, it’s airport drive technology, including various motors and distributed controls that enable facility managers to increase efficiencies in sorting luggage even as the existing construction remains essentially unchanged from when each building came into service.

Applications In Luggage Conveyor Plants

Airport drive technology is a matter of maintaining flow while dealing with structural dynamics. An automated baggage handling system will necessarily process items of widely varying weights and densities. Accommodating increased demand requires drive electronics that can control motors throughout an incredible range of load scenarios.

Modularity and flexibility are critical to a luggage handling system doing its job efficiently. Synchronous motors may be easier for drive controls, but any minor error along the item’s path can result in a large-scale disruption. The latest in drive controls in the automated baggage handling system industry include semi-autonomous frequency inverters and motor starters. These leverage load and weight readings from sensors that allow for emergency shutoffs and motor reversal without the need for instruction from a central system.

This only works with motors that can handle dynamic loads. NORD Drivesystem units are capable of handling these dynamic loads that frequently occur in cramped environments, for example vertical sorting and travel from one unit, such as security, to another, such as loading. The precision positioning afforded by the synchronous motors allows a luggage system the flexibility of dynamic loading without sacrificing placement, consistent performance, or the ability to reasonably maintain the components.

Cost And Efficiency Optimization of Luggage Support Systems

At their core, luggage support systems and the airport drive technology that supports them are only as good as the inputs provided. Using RFID tags is common among screening personnel on bins so that ones flagged for review can be shunted towards a security area. Many airlines are beginning to use sorting bins for luggage of all size in trial runs at major international airports and even for individual pieces.

The efficiencies in these trials, including at a dozen of the busiest airports in the world from Asia and North America, are quite clear. Less than one percent of the luggage sorted went to the wrong point in the system when tagged with an RFID device. Using barcode technologies led to an error rate of 10 to 15 percent because of several issues:

  • Barcode scanning requires a single point of inspection where the tag must meet the scanner, increasing time to ensure proper labelling and sorting.
  • Tags with barcodes aren’t static objects: they suffer from bending, creasing, tearing and other damage through the sorting process that require employee intervention or may force the removal of the item from the system

While that points to the possibilities for luggage system development in the future, the present consists of the constraints of the space of the end user. So, in areas where helical inline- and bevel-geared motors may not fit while meeting output torque needs, a parallel-shaft drive unit may be an option not possible in other systems. Similar space-saving solutions were implemented in a Canadian airport where 750 pieces of luggage can be processed per hour on conveyors with a length of just 820 feet.

Airport drive technology must integrate with numerous other systems for success. Coming up with the right solution for both a space and a necessary amount of baggage requires moving beyond the buzzword of IoT and its reliance on sensors. Interoperability is key, and by ensuring that each piece works together, regardless of speed needed by human operators, an automated baggage handling system is able to adjust to issues throughout the process without causing complete failure. This is independent of the systems used to measure flow.

Learn More About NORD Airport Automated Baggage Handling System Solutions

To learn more about integrating our drive units and controls for your needs, contact us today . Our team of consultants will review your project specifications and work with you to devise the right strategy for long-lasting system success with low maintenance and maximum efficiency.