Baggage Handling System: Installed on the Fly

Standardised, plug-in IE4 drives from Nord Drivesystems for baggage handling systems

Drives for baggage handling systems
  • Client

    NORD Drivesystems

  • Services

    Motors, geared motors, inverters and drives

  • Technologies

    Motors & drives

  • Dates



One baggage handling system OEM came to greatly appreciate certain features of the NORD Drivesystems products they had chosen to include: encoder connectivity, positioning capability, and plug-in connectors that ensure fast and safe installation and commissioning. In addition, versatile interfaces enable efficient networking and remote monitoring of the devices in the field as well as the use of drives as distributed I/O nodes. On top of that, they were able to benefit from a variant reduction that greatly simplified spare parts management.

Though passenger numbers and luggage volume at Victoria Airport in British Columbia, Canada, are nowhere near the numbers at large international hubs, it was exactly for this reason that the baggage handling system (BHS) posed major challenges to the handling system OEM. This airport did not have a lot of room to accommodate all the usual modules – from check-in through security screening to sorting. The airport company commissioned Glidepath, a manufacturer specializing in baggage conveying, parcel sorting, and freight logistics technology.

Lots of technology in little space

The new handling system has a capacity of 750 pieces of luggage per hour. "The baggage handling system is made up of 85 conveyors with a total length of some 250 m," says Jason Williams, project engineer at Glidepath. "It comprises two in-line screening CT machines. It has two decision points for sortation, and it has two separate infeed lines. It has four-way sorters, spiral power curves, bag alignment devices, a luffing conveyor, and Glidepath’s proprietary ploughs and power curves."

All in one

All drive tasks are carried out by IE4 AC vector drives from NORD DRIVESYSTEMS. Each drive unit consists of an IE4 permanent-magnet synchronous motor, a motor-mounted NORDAC FLEX frequency inverter, and a two-stage gearbox. The hollow shaft gearboxes are secured on the drive axis with a Gripmaxx bushing. This attachment ensures safe, easy-maintenance fitting without keys. The drive systems achieve excellent efficiencies even in the partial load range and at low speeds. They therefore pay for their initial cost within a few years or even only months, and total expenses over the product lifespan are significantly reduced. The frequency inverters are configured exactly to Glidepath’s specifications – with plug-in connectors for power, communications, encoders, and sensors. They feature an internal EtherNet/IP interface and are designed for easy feed-through installation.

Easy, intelligent networking

The pluggable drives saved Glidepath a lot of time during installation and commissioning. The coded connectors enable speedy, error-free networking. Williams appreciates the versatile interfaces: "Thanks to the field I/O capability of the NORD drives, we were able to connect the majority of our field devices directly to the frequency inverters." Featuring Industrial Ethernet communications, the drives enable not only remote monitoring and control of all drive axes, but also seamless monitoring of connected sensors and actuators. For Williams, this was a crucial factor: "The real advantage here is, the drives support high-speed Ethernet, which allows for reliable bag tracking on our system."

Positioning function a welcome bonus

The drive systems take on various tasks at the conveyor modules. They move luggage at different speeds from one belt to the next. They ensure accurate height adjustment when conveying diagonally. Glidepath only came to realize the full potential of the integrated positioning function of NORDAC FLEX inverters once the drives were commissioned. As they gathered parameters for various applications, NORD engineers soon found that the positioning function was the optimal solution for the luggage sorters. "On our four-way sorters, we took advantage of the NORD positioning system. We are very happy with the result."

Great service ensures smooth processes

Glidepath project engineer Williams is more than satisfied with the professional service. A NORD specialist for their industrial sector provided significant support to Glidepath through efficient standardization. "On this project, we have just five different gear ratios for a job that has 90-odd motors in total and three different motor sizes", Williams says. "That is a huge advantage. As a consequence, we need only one spare drive per gear type and engine size." The high service level was maintained throughout the project. "We did not have any issues with commissioning NORD products. They were probably the best thing to commission on the whole job, to be honest. We did pre-commissioning on our own, but we also had the benefit of getting a NORD commissioning engineer on-site with us over the four-day commissioning phase, and he was just fantastic. He was very knowledgeable and very happy to share information, teaching us how to use the NORD CON software and the hand-held programmers. In particular, he helped us with setting up the position control with which we were not yet familiar. All of that was so valuable… it was really good. And the service did not cease with installation and commissioning. I know NORD is just a phone call away, and they have folks close-by in Seattle who can come to the airport quickly when we ask them to."

After several months, Williams expanded on the drive performance in regular operation: "We are very happy with the NORD products. There is nothing I can say that is negative about them. Everything is running. We have not had any problems with drives. We have not had to replace anything. It has been a very good project, showing proof of a great collaboration between Glidepath and NORD."


Illustration 1: The designated installation space for safety and sorting systems for baggage logistics at Victoria Airport was very limited

Illustration 2: Luggage is screened before it can be admitted onto a plane

Illustration 3: The AC vector drives integrating an Industrial Ethernet interface enable remote control of the application

Illustration 4: All connections are made with coded connectors; the inverter directly connects motor encoders and other sensors, enabling remote monitoring