Superconductors for sustainable industrial automation


Festo and evico cooperate in developing applications of superconductor magnetic bearings for industrial automation.


First demonstrators are presented by Festo AG & Co. KG at Hannover Messe 2013, the words most important technology show, at Halle 15 D07.

For the first time, a manufacturer of automation technology is testing the application of superconductors to sustainable production of the future. Together with evico, Festo has developed three research projects under the title SupraMotion on superconductive, frictionless bearing systems.

SupraLinearMotion, SupraHandling and SupraPicker demonstrate the technology’s potential for the industrial automation of tomorrow, showcasing contactless, linear movement, positioning in the level plane and handling in an hermetically sealed room. On all three exhibits, contactless movement is achieved by maintaining a defined distance between the magnetic field and the superconductor.



SupraLinearMotion, Copyrights: Festo AG & Co. KG

The superconducting magnetic levitation bearing can be easily experienced by visitors when taking place on the floating seat. Carried by four cryostats in which the superconducting material is cooled down to 77K (-196°C) using liquid nitrogen, the seat is hovering above a rail made from permanent magnets. A minimal tilt of 4° from horizontal position is enough to start moving the seat, driven by gravitation only. Once it is moving, the smart digital control unit is keeping the vehicle swinging and finally stalemate to let the driver get off enriched by a great experience.

The rocker is tilted by an electric cylinder ESBF by Festo. In the middle of the rocker, four electric drives (DNCE) raise the seat slide into the rest position so that the passenger can safely climb on and off.These drives hold the slide at the required distance from the magnetic rail while the magnetic field is trapped in the superconductor by colling it down to its working temperature. A CPX terminal in the base of the rocker coordinates all the electric and pneumatic drives in the exhibit.



Length of the rail                         6000 mm
Gage width600 mm
Air gap10 - 15 mm
Maximum pay load1 person, aup to 120 kg
Maximum acceleration2,4 m/s^2
Maximum speed8,6 km/h


SupraHandling, Copyrights Festo AG & Co. KG

SupraHandling is making the transition to positioning in the level plane. The principle of the slide was adapted to a x-/ y-table in a smaller scale to move objects in two dimensions along the x- and y-direction.

SupraHandling is also driven by gravitation. The base plate of the table is two metres long by two metres wide and is mounted on a ball joint. The gantry, which comprises four magnetic rails, two superconductive slides and a workpiece hol- der, is mounted on the base plate. Two servo motors (EMMA-AS) from Festo are attached at right angles underneath the base plate.

The two drives can, independently from each other, slightly tilt the base plate in the x- and y- directions. This enables the two slides to move and hover over the magnetic rails as another example of con- tactless movement. Two opto-electrical sensors in the corners of the base plate sense the position of the slides during this process. The CPX terminal actuates the two drives to tilt the base plate, as appropriate, to the required positioning of the workpiece carrier.


Dimensions                        2000 x 2000 x 1000 mm
Inclination angle
Traverse path1300 mm
Maximum pay load x- / y-axis120 kg / 60 kg
Maximum acceleration 0,70 m/s2 [9,81 * sin (4 °)]


SupraPicker, Copyrights Festo AG & Co. KG

Stable support even when spatially separated shows the SupraPicker. The demonstrator enables the manipulation of objects in hermetically sealed spaces.

The superconductive gripper arm picks up six small vials outside of the room using a magnetic puck. The gripper arm and gripper can be separated by the air gap between the puck and superconductor. The puck together with the object to be gripped is conveyed through a lock into the closed room, the superconductor moves in parallel outside the room. The handling operation in the closed room can therefore be executed without touching the walls.

There are various possible applications. Processes in harmful environment or with sensitive media incorporated can be driven by actuators outside the working chamber. In contrast to the demonstrators SupraLinearMotion and SupraHandling, which are cooled using liquid nitrogern, SupraPicker uses an active Stirling cooler to bring to superconductors to their working temperatur of 77 K. To avoid using liquid nitrogen is essential for industrial applications.


Superconductor Cryostats

YBCO actively refrigerated using a Stirling cooler

Cooling capacity1,5 W @ 80 K, 90 W input power
GripperNdFeB magnets in iron yoke ø 76 mm
Parking slots7 pneumatic gripper DHEB
Controler + Drives Festo product line