The photo shows an automated storage and retrieval system which has been built in Fischertechnik. It consists of a set of storage bins 3 levels high and seven positions across. Running across the face of the storage bins is a stacker crane. The stacker crane can be stopped at any one of the 21 positions, and by means of a conveyer, can store or retrieve objects. There is a also a pick up position and a separate set down position for the stacker, which could be served by conveyers.
This sort of system is widely used in modern manufacturing and storage fascilities. They are employed in hospital pharmacies, automobile and aircraft plants, and wherever high volume and rapid access is required.
The operation of the machine is controlled by a computer. It is usual for a standardised storage receptacle to be used , into which the parts are placed. In this way, the stacker can easily handle a single type of object.
The system manager would allocate a specific number to each storage bin and to each object. If he wanted to access certain parts, he would instruct the stacker to bring to him parts from those specific locations. The stacker would run backwards and forwards, until the task had been completed. The same would occur while stocking the bins with parts.
Conveyers from the factory would run to the loading and unloading position of the stacker, sometimes directly from computer controlled machines, or to and from an assembly line.
This type of machine lends itself to modelling in Meccano. Firstly it is a very interesting machine to build, with multiple linear drives, very much like an xyz plotter. Secondly, the computer is used to keep track of the whole operation of storage and retrieval, as well as a parts inventory. A number of sensor devices would be needed to read the products, perhaps by bar code, and to precisely locate the stacker. The model in fact would be an ideal blend of computer, computer programming, interface electronics and Meccano.
Michael Adler - May 1999
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