ABB Expands Manufacturing Portfolio with Magnetic Levitation Shuttle System

February 24, 2021 by Sara McCaslin

ABB is adding API’s six degrees of freedom magnetically levitating shuttle system to support flexible manufacturing solutions available to a wider market.

Planar Motor Inc. (PMI) is globally recognized for developing magnetically levitated planar motors and smart conveying robotic systems. ABB B&R Automation recently announced a partnership that will add PMI’s innovative smart shuttle technology to their product line and is fully integrated into the B&R ecosystem.

The addition of PMI’s magnetically levitating shuttle technology will expand ABB B&R Automation’s product portfolio to support highly flexible assembly, manufacturing, and packaging.

Through this partnership, ABB B&R will make PMI’s smart shuttle technology available to a wider market and make it easier for their customers to take advantage of the latest innovations in industrial automation and flexible manufacturing systems.



B&R will be offering PMI’s intelligent shuttle technology under the product name ACOPOS 6D, a six degree of freedom, rail-free transportation system. 


The magnetically levitating APOCOS 6D from API will significantly enhance ABB B&R Automation’s flexible manufacturing products portfolio. Image courtesy of ABB B&R Automation.


This system is made up of intelligent shuttles that are not bound to any one station, which frees them from sequential production flow. Instead, they can function much like an AGV (automated guided vehicle) as they navigate through the production process among a swarm of other intelligent shuttles. 

The ACOPOS 6D uses magnetically levitated shuttles thanks to permanent magnets that float over electromagnetic motor segments that are small (240 x 240 mm) and can be arranged in any shape needed. 

The levitation provides many benefits, including little to no wear, no friction for better energy usage, and no parts to maintain. In addition, the shuttles are available with IP69K protection.

Depending on the shuttle size, they can carry a maximum payload of 14 kgs and achieve speeds up to 2 m/s. Their six degrees of freedom are comprised of free movement along a 2D plane, rotate and tilt along 3 axes, and provide control over the height of levitation.


The Impact of Shuttle Technology

PMI’s intelligent shuttle technology supports rapid shifts in manufacturing by allowing machines to manufacture different variants of a product (or completely different products) and transport those products without following a linear manufacturing process. 


The ACOPOS 6D provides four times the shuttle density of other solutions and can be used as axes in a processing station. Image courtesy of ABB B&R Automation.


Because they are not tied to a rail or predefined path and use an artificial intelligence system, the shuttles can follow unique paths based on what they are carrying while navigating safely among other shuttles and equipment.

ACOPOS 6D can also handle the challenges of operating in sterile and hygienic environments, which are becoming increasingly necessary as many manufacturers have begun to shift their production to medical, pharmaceutical, and PPE products. Because these intelligent shuttles are non-contact and can be obtained with IP69K protection, they are straightforward to keep clean and sterile.

ABB Expanding Industries with New Shuttle System

Note that the ACOPOS 6D provides a wide range of industries beyond health and medicine and supports Industry 4.0.

The use of a smart magnetic levitation system provides users an edge committed to the pursuit of flexible manufacturing and those who need a shuttle system that is easy to clean, reliable, and rugged. The partnership between ABB and PMI will expand the ACOPOS 6D to a much wider market and provide a key building blog in intelligent transport systems. 

The ACOPOS 6D provides an extremely effective solution for manufacturers that deal with small-bath production that involves frequent changeovers.