Porticos, a product design and product development engineering consulting firm in Morrisville, NC, partnered with technology and service innovators, Bell & Howell on the creation of The Ascender 16. The Ascender 16 is a mail insertion system that can insert a variety of shades of sizes as it pertains to mail and packages. Porticos’ hardware engineers collaborated on the development of the 4920 Format Turn Module for the Ascender 16 system itself.
This module makes the changeover process more efficient and accurate. The system’s changeover from a letter mail job to a flat mail job used to require time and a knowledgeable system operator, but this module reduces changeover need, and the amount of time needed to ensure the safe and reliable insertion of mail.
Module Hardware Design Specifications
The 4920 Format Turn Module contains a feed-through mode—or a “no turn” mode—which feeds unfolded and folded material with dimensions from 3″ to 12″ in length, and up to 0.25″ in width, or thickness. The module itself fits inside the Ascender system in the place of a previously used module, but adds no increase in size while also providing all the functions of the old module in addition to the format change capability that the module brings forward.
Porticos’ hardware engineers produced a software to accompany the module that is reconfigurable to either feed material straight through, or rotate flat stock material 90 degrees. The module is able to handle up to 1/4″ of materials that are 8.5 x 11 or A4, and turns 10,000 cycles per hour.
Concept Design Highlights
Porticos’ hardware design engineers originally faced some surface speed variations between belts and rollers, which posed as a challenge to consistent feeding. However, carefully tuning pulley sizes during prototype testing resulted in smooth operation.
Attention to all inertias and motor capabilities were important in the design concept. To accomplish the turn, the system is required to decelerate each packet from a transport speed of 150 inches per second, to a full stop. From there, it rotates 90 degrees then accelerates back to 150 inches per second. All of this occurs in about 1/4 of a second. Porticos was able to forsee the frictional characteristics and the durability of the rollers that accomplish the format changes were critical for proper operation. This then gave Porticos the foresight to carefully select materials, specialized coatings, and roller configuration. Overall, this led to a design that could precisely accomplish rotating the material 90 degrees while enduring long-term testing.
Porticos worked with Bell & Howell to develop the original, state-of-the-art Solix™ Mail Tray Loader, which handles up to 30,000 envelopes per hour. The revolutionary Ascender 16 system now has a module that enhances one of its more difficult processes, thanks to teamwork, innovation, and experience within Porticos’ hardware engineering team and concept design expertise.