Drive systems offer increased efficiency, higher productivity and fewer operator injuries.
Replacing a regular caster with a motorized drive caster is the first major step in the direction of improving efficiency, increasing load capacity, and reducing operator injuries. The next major step is deciding what drive system is best suited for your work environment needs.
This article includes a breakdown of the four main drive systems; a single drive caster, a conversion/trike system, a tank steer drive system, and a halo/omni drive system. Each breakdown includes a detailed description, the different uses, and the advantages and disadvantages of each system.
First, let’s address and define what is a drive system. A drive system is a motorized system that includes the drive wheel, caster rigs, and a motor. The motor has a wiring connection to a battery and a logic controller. With the electrification of casters, moving heavier loads can be done with ease.
SINGLE DRIVE CASTER
Of the four main drive systems, we will begin with the breakdown of the Single Drive Caster. The single drive caster is in a fixed position, and velocity is controlled by speeding up or slowing down the drive wheel. The system reads input from a single-axis joystick to develop a global speed command. For this product, steering is done manually through the operator.
In other words, pushing the joystick in positive Y-axis (forward) will make the structure move forward. Conversely, pulling back on the Y axis (backward) of the joystick will move the structure backward.
Uses for the Single Drive Caster.
The Single Drive Caster can easily be attached to an existing cart to increase load moving capacity, and improve movement and safety.
Advantages of the Single Drive Caster.
Of the four different drive systems, the single drive caster is the least expensive. It is also the easiest to learn to operate with a single-axis joystick. In addition, it is simple to install on existing carts.
Disadvantages of the Single Drive Caster.
Unfortunately, the Single Drive Caster has minimal driving maneuverability due to the single-axis joystick. The limited maneuverability is not ideal for precise locations and limited space. The Single Drive Caster also has the lightest load capacity of the four systems.
TRIKE DRIVE CASTER
The Trike Drive System consists of two swivel casters and one drive caster attached to an L-shaped platform. The Trike Drive platform can easily be placed underneath different carts to help ease movement around your work environment. Similar to the Single Drive System, the Trike Drive System operates with a single-axis joystick.
Uses for the Trike Drive System.
The trike system is ideal for environments consisting of multiple carts since it can easily be transferred from one load to the next.
Advantages of Trike Drive System.
The main advantage of the Trike Drive System is its ability to be used in multiple ways around the work environment since it can easily be transferred to different carts. Like the Single Drive Caster, it is easy to operate and has a minimal cost.
Disadvantages of Trike Drive System.
Again, with the single-axis joystick, the Trike Drive System has limited movability. Thus, moving to precise locations can be challenging as well as operating in limited space. It also has a lighter load capacity due to the single drive caster.
TANK STEER DRIVE SYSTEM
The Tank Steer Drive System is based on the common drive system known as tank steering. The drive wheels are in fixed positions, and steering is controlled by speeding up or slowing down the wheels on one side of the cart relative to the other. The system reads input from a dual-axis joystick to develop a global target heading and a global speed command. Stable control is developed through motor feedback. Feedback is created on the motor controller’s internal PID feedback algorithm to tightly control motor speed.
Uses for the Tank Steer Drive System.
The Tank Steer Drive System typically consists of two drive casters. With the increase of a secondary drive caster, tank steering is ideal for carrying heavier loads. The dual-axis joystick increases the driving precision, thus making this setup ideal for tighter spaces.
Advantages of the Tank Steer Drive System.
The key advantages of the Tank Steer Drive System include the increased driving maneuverability and the increased load capacity due to the additional drive caster.
Disadvantages of the Tank Steer Drive System.
Due to the additional drive caster to achieve tank steering, there is an increase in cost. If you are unfamiliar with tank steering, it may take some additional training to learn how to properly operate the drive system.
The Halo Drive System is an omni-directional drive system featuring steerable drive pods which can be combined in different arrangements to account for size and weight requirements. Sophisticated mathematical calculations that derive the inverse kinematics for three-degrees-of-freedom control allow an operator to move a cart by commanding a 3-axis joystick. Each drive pod can rotate 210 degrees independently.
The multi-directional system reads input from the 3-axis joystick to develop a global target heading and a global speed command. Stable control is developed through sensor feedback. This feedback is created at two levels, known as a cascading PID algorithm.
When using the HALO Drive System through the 3-axis Joystick:
- Forward and reverse directions correspond to the positive and negative Y-axis, respectively
- Right and left directions correspond to the positive and negative X-axis, respectively
- Clockwise and counterclockwise rotation directions correspond to the positive and negative Z-axis, respectively.
SCALABILITY AND MANEUVERABILITY ARE KEY ATTRIBUTES OF THE HALO DRIVE SYSTEM.
The HALO Drive System is the most advanced of the four drive systems. It typically consists of four drive casters, but additional drive casters can be added to meet specific needs for increased maximum load capacity. The 3-axis joystick with 210 degrees of freedom provides detailed driving orientation and is able to reach very specific locations.
Advantages of the HALO Drive System.
There are major advantages to utilizing the HALO Drive System. The HALO drive pods allow all the motors to perform both steering and driving functions simultaneously, compared to other omni-drive systems that only allow one motor to steer and another to drive. This advantage results in a much higher power density and compactness, creating a lower costing product with a higher drive performance.
The HALO Drive System is extremely maneuverable. The multi-directional motion available with the HALO is a key advantage for fitting into tight spaces. Another significant advantage is scalability. An increased load capacity is easily accomplished by adding the required number of drive pods. The HALO can accommodate any number of pods from 2 to 20, resulting in a load range from 5,000 lbs. to 200,000 lbs. The HALO Drive System also comes with a variety of options, such as a wireless hand controller, a lifting system, safety sensors, and wireless charging.
Disadvantages of the HALO Drive System.
The HALO Drive System is the most expensive drive system due to the increased number of drive casters and load capacity. The 3-axis joystick steering might also take some extra training to gain familiarity before operating in tight spaces.