GridSorter - Decentralized Plug&Play Sorter & Sequenzer

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Based on the GEBHARDT FlexConveyor, a modular, decentralized controlled conveyor system, the Gebhardt GridSorter was developed, which makes the sorting of goods very flexible. The modular design and the adaptive control in addition to the traditional new application fields where previously no sorter were used before, arise.

The concept

Industry 4.0, cyber-physical systems, Internet of things - there are numerous tags that describe the current trend in production and logistics to more adaptability. But what does it mean in relation to the concrete realization of material flow systems? Within a cooperation project between the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT) a plug-and-play sorter was developed, which corresponds with modularity and decentralized control to the requirements for simple operation and high flexibility. Goods will not be sorted as on conventional sorters by discharge of a line or a ring. The new GridSorter consists of a connected area of 90 degrees converters; it is a kind of chessboard made of conveyor modules, where every single one of them can process individual data and independently make decisions. The basic module of the sorter is the FlexConveyor.

Benefits of the GridSorter

The structure of identical modules , the decentralized control and Plug & Play capability allow customers the following benefits:

  • Significant optimization of planning:

A GridSorter can be planned quickly. The customer can already create a rough layout , as for sorting, inward and outward always the same element is used. Finally, the required throughput is checked by Gebhardt . A planning for different environments ( layout, number of terminals , etc.) can thus be easily achieved.

  • Easy adjustment of the layout and throughput to new requirements:

This is enabled by both the plug and play concept and the use of the decentralized control system, which automatically detects a new layout and adjusts oneself to it.

  • Automatic detection and compensation of failures:

During the operation, failures or malfunctions of modules automatically detected and reported. As the system operates decentralized, all other sorting modules continue to operate normally in the event of a fault and the faulty module can be easily replaced. Meanwhile, the intact modules look for alternative transport routes; the entire system thus achieves high availability. This is a significant advantage compared to traditional, centralized controllers, which usually represent a single point of failure and shut down the entire system in case of a failure.

Technical realization

A conveyor module of the GridSorter contains all necessary components to make autonomous decisions for themselves and make them happen. Sensors which detect the position of the charge carriers and actuators which move the charge carriers are part of it. The actuators and sensors are connected to the control of the conveyor module, the FlexBox, so that they can make decisions - based on the supplied data. The FlexBoxes of adjacent modules are connected via Ethernet in order to enable communication via communication. The GridSorter is installed using a frame structure. Here both feeders, conveyor modules and transfers can be easily fixed. Thus, they are easily and quickly replaced individually, for example, when a defect arises.

Application examples

The GridSorter basically has a beneficial proportion of throughput and area requirement. The individual modules of the GridSorter have a different layout depending on the workload that can change dynamically during operation. Modules with small workload can be used in order to buffer conveyor goods. The terminals can be located close together on a small area and are variable in their quantity. Thus addition to the traditional application fields new application fields arise where no sorter was used before. An example is the sequencing and sorting as a link between automatic small parts warehouse (miniload) and order picking working stations. By the possibility to buffer conveyed goods on the sorter, the average access time can be shortened and the continuity of the material flow is increased. By using the GridSorter the system performance of a miniload system can be increased and leveled, which leads to a more robust system as a whole.

Also, the GridSorter can be used as an alternative to conventional systems like sliding shoe sorters or simple cross-belt sorters. Thus its use in the package sorting or in e - commerce is possible. Advantages result from the much smaller required space and the high availability. The Plug&Play capability of the FlexBox control allows quick replacement of faulty modules. Since the sorter always continues to work with the intact modules and looking for alternative transport routes, the availability of the overall system is high. Thanks to the large buffer capacity and flexible layouts, the GridSorter is also suitable for cross-docking applications.


GEBHARDT FlexConveyor