New Technology Saves Energy, Reduces Noise

In an effort to replace 'dinosaur' baggage system units, Orlando International employs a new carousel drive solution


Orlando International Airport (MCO) had a problem — fifteen of them to be exact. Fifteen of their baggage carousels were relics. Dinosaurs, you might say, that had outlived their time. These ancient units averaged 25 years on the job, well beyond their projected useful life.

The growing baggage volumes at MCO combined with changing baggage handling processes contributed to wear and tear on the older baggage carousels. Eventually the added wear led to outages and downtime. These interruptions in terminal operations were not much fun for airport management, airline personnel, or passengers.

As maintenance and associated downtime began to increase, MCO management soon realized that the aging units could no longer meet the airport’s performance requirements. They determined that the time had come to replace the old baggage carousels with modern units. The task then fell to the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) to determine which manufacturer offered the best choice in reliable, efficient baggage carousels.

Around the time that MCO was experiencing these problems, Siemens was researching and developing a brand new carousel drive solution. Its goal was to raise state-of-the-art baggage carousel technology to a new level.

Comments Siemens engineer Chris Maness, “The Siemens team felt that they could develop a new baggage carousel that, using the latest in technology, could significantly outperform the competition. The goal for the new design was to be ‘low-cost, easy to maintain, easy to install, and very reliable.’

“We also wanted the design to offer significant energy savings compared to competing units.”

Distributed Drive System

The Siemens team achieved all of its design goals with the 300C Flat Plate Carousel. Perhaps the most innovative feature of the 300C is its distributed drive system. Maness explains, “The traditional flat plate carousel uses a number of drive motors that are engaged at all times. Whether the carousel is running with a full load of baggage or with just one bag, it’s running at maximum power.”

But Siemens engineers recognized the waste inherent in such a design. They wanted to design a carousel that would conserve energy, using only as much power as needed to handle the load on the carousel at any given time. They did this by replacing the old ‘always-on’ drive motors of traditional designs with a series of smaller, retractable drive motors.

“After starting, the carousel speed and motor loads are monitored by a system controller which determines the minimum number of drives needed to operate the carousel most efficiently,” says Maness. “Unneeded drives are disengaged and turned off, saving energy and wear. If the load increases, the system controller senses the need for more power, and the required number of drives are re-engaged.”

As a result, the 300C is projected to reduce energy costs by roughly one-third in comparison with traditional carousels.

The system controller also tracks the run time of each drive motor. Whenever an additional motor must be engaged to handle an increased load on the carousel, the controller selects the motor with the least run time. That feature balances the wear among the drive motors, maximizing the useful service life of each and minimizing maintenance downtime.

Heart Of The System

For Siemens’ distributed drive concept to become a reality, Siemens engineers needed to find a way to smoothly and reliably engage and disengage each individual drive motor. The company turned to Warner Linear, an industry leader in the design and manufacture of electric actuators, for an engineered actuator solution.

Says Warner Linear engineer Jim Licari, “Siemens engineers had developed a unique, energy-saving drive control system for airport baggage carousels. The system operates similar to a 12-cylinder vehicle engine where all cylinders are engaged on start-up, and then some cylinders disengage as torque demands diminish at higher speeds.

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