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Simple electric movements – compact, flexible and seamlessly integrated

10 November 2020

With Simplified Motion Series, Festo recently introduced a new portfolio of electric actuators, bringing the simplicity of pneumatics to the world of electric automation. Now the leading supplier for technology, neutral automation components extended its portfolio to electric short stroke movements, bringing seamless integration and flexibility also to the mechanical side.

With Simplified Motion Series, Festo recently introduced a new portfolio of electric actuators, bringing the simplicity of pneumatics to the world of electric automation. Now the leading supplier for technology, neutral automation components extended its portfolio to electric short stroke movements, bringing seamless integration and flexibility also to the mechanical side.

Simplified Motion - seamlessly integrated
For simple applications and motion tasks, pneumatic actuators are the preferred choice combining simplicity in installation and control with highly attractive investment cost. However, when looking at the megatrends of our generation, like digitalization and individualization, pneumatic technology also has its challenges. For example, bringing data from the workpiece to the cloud or changing formats in mass customization production lines.

To meet market demands like this, at the end 2019 Festo introduced its new Simplified Motion Series.  This offers integrated product units for simple movements, combining the simplicity of pneumatics with the world of electric automation. By virtue of/By reason of its integrated motor concept with on-board electronics and push button menu, Simplified Motion Series actuators are aiming to simplify commissioning and provide a software-free system which can be used without consuming any space in the cabinet. With its integrated Digital I/O and IO-Link included, the products also deliver state-of-the-art control options and thus enable seamless connectivity from the workpiece to the cloud. 

Broad portfolio for wide application range
Containing linear and rotary actuators, guided and unguided systems, tooth belt and ball screw technology, Simplified Motion Series started with a broad portfolio of six different actuator types. This provides solutions for a wide range of simple applications, for example switch actuation, swivel movements or transfer tasks.
In addition to seamless connectivity on the electrical side, Festo also strives to bring best mechanical fit and flexibility to customer machines. 

For linear movements and short strokes below 100 mm, e.g. ejecting, sorting and testing applications, pneumatic actuators still had their advantage, providing movement in very compact form factor with minimum zero stroke and short cycle times. However, spindle technology, whilst perfect for long movements, is a challenge in space critical applications. In addition, motor mounting adds length, and compared to pneumatics and spindle technology it also faces its physical limits when it comes to highly dynamic movements.

Introducing EPCE electric short stroke cylinder unit
Closing this technological gap and providing customers with the best mechanical fit for their machines with dynamic short stroke movements, Festo have now introduced new EPCE electric cylinder unit as the 7th member of Simplified Motion Series.
Accomplishing all required features, e.g. short strokes of 5 – 80 mm with minimum zero stroke, highly dynamic, mechanically flexible movements with minimum cost in one integrated product, the Festo Development Team had to break technological borders and interpret the solution principle in a new way.

Innovative toothed belt principle brings compactness and dynamics 
The required solution principle could finally be found in toothed belts. This is not new technology; it has been used in millions of electrical axes or parallel kits for decades and provides dynamic and shock resistant movement. However, bringing this principle over to rod style actuators required a new innovative approach.

As the core component of the EPCE, the toothed belt is running in a closed loop inside the actuator housing, driven by a pinion mounted on the motor shaft of the integrated drive motor of Simplified Motion Series. With the piston rod attached to this closed loop running toothed belt, the rotary movement of the motor is translated to the desired linear movement of the short stroke cylinder.

With this lateral arrangement of the motor and the deflected toothed belt inside, the motor is not enlarging the actuator length, and thus providing a minimum zero stroke of the actuator which is ~ 30 % shorter than comparable electric cylinder with parallel motor mount and only slightly longer than pneumatic compact cylinder.

At the same time due to the direct transmission of the rotational speed of the motor shaft on the toothed belt, the EPCE offers highly dynamic movement with cycle times which are up to 30-50% shorter than comparable systems based on a spindle principle. This does not only increase the productivity of the machine, but also reduces its footprint consuming less space on the shop floor. 

Mechanical flexibility
But it is not just compactness and dynamics that make the EPCE a highly innovative actuator for short stroke movements, it is also its mechanical flexibility which opens up new possibilities.

Starting with the flush mounted motor, which is not enlarging the width of the actuator, various cylinders can be positioned in a stacked arrangement where one actuator is mounted next to another. An example of how this can be used is in sorting applications where differently shaped parts have to be sorted into various channels or in automated testing stations where lateral space is also limited.
Supporting this arrangement flexibility, standard and multi mount end caps, as well as profile mounting options, offer a highly flexible fixation of the actuator to the machine frame. This flexibility is also supported by the individually selectable motor and cable outlet direction to ensure the best fit on the machine.

Additionally, not only the actuator itself can be mounted highly flexibly, also the piston rods are supporting this.  Like the eccentric position of the piston rods on the actuator housing, which is offering arrangement, where piston rods of two actuators can be positioned in close proximity. 

One actuator, various movement principles
Focussing on the seamless mechanical integration of the actuator, we finally look at the core element of the actuator again: the toothed belt. By virtue of this, EPCE is not only dynamic and compact, but can also be used in a way that even pneumatic systems cannot offer.

Machine builders are not restricted to one single standard position, where the piston rod has its outlet from the housing. They can decide on four positions where the piston rod can be fixed.
And that is not all: the EPCE can also be configured with multiple piston rods. Thus, piston rod arrangement can be realized in the same way as “double” piston rod for separating movements or “counteractive” piston rod option for centring applications.

Simplified Motion Series offers simple commissioning and seamless electrical connectivity from the workpiece to the cloud. The innovative toothed belt cylinder concept, with its flexible mechanical variations and piston rod options, makes the EPCE the perfect solution for all machine builders looking for a highly compact, dynamic and flexible solution for short stroke applications, bringing machines to a new level.


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