Pepperl+Fuchs's Solution for a High-Speed Baggage Handling System Controlled via the Modern KE5 ASi-3 Gateway and with RFID Technology


The New Terminal 5 at Xi‘an Airport in China

One example of the market success of the KE5 ASi-3 gateways from Pepperl+Fuchs is the new terminal 5 project at the Xi‘an airport in China — comparable to Berlin in terms of population. A conscious decision was made to use the widespread ASi-3 standard, which is especially robust and has been tried and tested. In addition, this enables high savings in combination with functional enhancements. The previously used K20 gateway series lacked a modern web server and no software update was possible on-site. Alongside the improved operating concept, this was also a crucial argument for the customer‘s conversion. Moreover, Pepperl+Fuchs has a local presence and can provide support on-site: that is a well-thought-out automation solution.

The city of Xianyang is located on the Wei River in the Shaanxi Province of the People‘s Republic of China and has around 5 million inhabitants. The airport is the largest northwest airport in China — located around 1000 km from Beijing. Xianyang is a high-tech industrial development zone of growing importance for rapid economic development.

Increased Throughput and Reliability in Baggage Distribution

When the capacity for passenger processing and baggage handling is no longer sufficient, something has to change. In Xi‘an, the airport has, therefore, been expanded to include terminal 5. In combination with PROFINET connectivity, ASi-3 was selected as the most suitable communication technology purely for baggage handling and individual baggage transport using high-speed material handling. A total of 11 check-in stations and 33 baggage handling systems with around 15 km of conveyor line were installed in the departures area. The individual baggage handling system behind the scenes has almost the same total length of 14 km and, in addition to the 16 loading stations to the aircraft, also includes buffer storage. In the arrivals area, an additional 9 km of conveyor line was installed, which serves a total of 22 baggage claim conveyors.

The fast baggage handling system on which individual pieces of luggage whiz through the system on trays was the key improvement. To operate this system, numerous motors and switch points must be controlled and the conveyed product must be reliably identified. High-precision detection of the trays takes place via optical sensors, allowing the high-performance RFID readers to be triggered to perform a clear reading. Trays with dropped or defective tags can be detected immediately and reliably. By identifying the tray, the route to the baggage claim conveyor or the departure gate is defined and the switch points can be controlled accordingly. In addition, error-free localization always provides full transparency of the baggage in the system. The reasons for choosing the system were: a continuous baggage process, high availability, extremely high reliability, high-speed transport, pieces of luggage in individual containers, protection against damage to the transported goods, and uninterrupted transport.

Communication via ASi-3

Along the line, powerful motors and frequency inverters are used, which generate interference fields in the MHz range. That is why the proven and robust ASi-3 system with 3 V signal level and 167 kHz carrier frequency was the ideal choice. The interference bands of the frequency inverters are in the MHz range and therefore well above the ASi-3 communication. The ASi-3 communication has been tried and tested and offers unrivaled robustness.

The Heart of the ASi-3 System

The K20 stainless steel gateways had significant supply problems in 2022, some of which still exist. Pepperl+Fuchs has managed to make a significantly improved successor solution available quickly. The KE5 ASi-3 gateway is available immediately from stock with all approvals, such as cULus, PNO, and ODVA.

With a width of only 38 mm, the space requirement of the gateway in the control cabinet is reduced by 55% and there is no lateral clearance required, which is often the case with other manufacturers.

The front spring terminals allow the connection to be established without tools and the terminals are ideally positioned for access. Bridged terminals deliver a full 8 A without the total current having to be routed through the gateway. In this respect, not only 4 A but also full 2 x 8 A are now available for all variants — compliant with UL.

A Large-Scale Project

In terminal 5, the KE5 ASi-3 gateways control around 4000 material handling motors. Thousands of ASi-3 modules and many more sensors are in use, making this a large-scale project.

Therefore, diagnostics and preventive maintenance in particular are extremely important. For this purpose, the motor currents and their temperature are cyclically reported to the gateway via ASi-3. In addition to the process data for controlling the system, the innovative KE5 gateway can simultaneously send diagnostic data via the Ethernet network to a central control system via REST API. There, all data sets are evaluated using artificial intelligence (AI). Deviations from normal behavior are detected before the failure of a motor and therefore an entire conveyor line.

The universal REST API interface has little data overhead and is ideal for IIoT connections and „machine-to-machine“ communication. Customers can freely implement their own solutions.

Most ASi gateways are only approved up to an altitude of 2000 m, so it is good to know that the KE5 ASi-3 gateway can even be used at altitudes up to 5000 m. The even larger airport in Kunming in the south of China is located at 2106 m above sea level, and Lima airport in Peru even reaches 3840 m above sea level. It is therefore good that the engineers at Pepperl+Fuchs created the new design with optimal insulation distances.

Easy to Use via Cell Phone

Nowadays, everyone is used to controlling devices via a mobile app. So why keep an unnecessarily expensive display installed in the gateway when you already have a phone in your hand? We have made it simple and our airport customers are happy, since there is no need to get down on their knees or bend over into a dark control cabinet to read the gateway information. The innovative web server displays all information in color, in high resolution, with graphical images at the best reading distance. It could hardly be better than this. This is a significant step forward compared to 4-line monochrome displays and nested menu structures.

Often, the display is only required to parameterize and set up the gateway. That‘s why it makes no sense nowadays to integrate more displays into any device, and our airport customer is delighted with the price advantage.

Our WEB SERVER is state-of-the-art and offers:

• Clear presentation

• Intuitive operation

• Clear diagnostic messages

• A design compliant with the current security policy

No special parameterization software needs to be installed, an existing browser is sufficient.

Basic operation is still possible on the actual KE5 gateway:

• The configuration can be adopted via SD card slot

• The ASi segment diagnostics indicator is permanently available via the status LEDs

• Ethernet communication is indicated by LEDs

• The operating state can be changed using the green push button

The Application Determines the Technology

For this reason, it is good that Pepperl+Fuchs has positioned itself flexibly and can offer many higher-level interfaces. At the forefront are PROFINET, EtherNet/IP, EtherCAT, CAN, and CC-Link IE, which are supported by us.

For subordinate systems, we have serial solutions, ASi 3 solutions, and IO-Link solutions. We also supply wireless connections for specific applications.

In terms of ASi-3, we will continue to develop our product range in the future. Especially with our own KE5 ASi gateway, we can offer additional functions — taking Xi‘an airport as an example — that enable us to make drive control more cost-effective, reliable, and powerful. ASi-3 is an undisputed standard in widely distributed material handling. That is automation done right; automation solved with a holistic approach. No matter which solution comes into play, worldwide support from Pepperl+Fuchs is always guaranteed.

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