The Future for Baggage Handling

The baggage-handling systems of the future will help airports to achieve the difficult balance between increasing capacity and reducing their impact on the environment.

The latest generation of sorters is setting new benchmarks for baggage handling systems, as Crisplant’s Johan Rajczyk explains.

The baggage-handling systems of the future will help airports to achieve the difficult balance between increasing capacity and reducing their impact on the environment.

New technologies introduced with the latest generation of baggage sorters are providing a vision for the baggage-handling systems of the future: they are faster, significantly more energy efficient and deliver major savings in product life-cycle costs (PLCC).  New efficiencies in the use of space will also help to provide increased capacity per square-meter of footprint compared to conventional systems.  All this adds up to a ‘greener’ future for airports, with up to 75% savings in energy consumption, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and, potentially, minimising the need for greenfield expansion.
 
Energy efficiency
While heating, air conditioning and lighting are obvious factors that influence overall energy consumption in airport terminals; the motors that drive the baggage handling system also contribute a significant proportion to total energy costs.  Reducing the energy consumed by baggage handling systems has been a major focus for the efficiency
specialists at Crisplant.  With decades of experience in installing high-speed baggage-
handling systems in airports around the world, Crisplant has developed a new motor technology that has revolutionised baggage-
handling efficiency and created new benchmarks against which, we believe, other systems will be measured.
Conventional baggage-handling systems typically use linear induction motors (LIM), which use electromagnets to create magnetic fields that draw the cart along the track.  This technology has been widely adopted because it provides a fast and efficient method of propulsion that is durable and highly controllable.  The Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM) technology, used by Crisplant in their LS-4000 sorters, takes electromagnetic technology to new levels of power efficiency.  LSM increases electrical efficiency, from the industry-average of 15-20%, to a new high of 60-70%, with no trade-off in operating speed, capacity, capital cost or reliability.
The figures speak for themselves: take the example of a baggage-handling system with a 984ft (300m) sorter, equipped with a conveyability kit, and operating at a speed of 6ft 6in (2.0m) per second, with no changes in level over the course of the conveyor.  Assuming that the system operated for 20 hours per day, 365 days per year, carrying 4ft (1,200mm) pitch carts with an average load of 44lbs (20kg) per cart, the power consumption using conventional motors would be 219MWh of energy per year.  The same system, using LSM technology, would use only 55MWh per year.
 
Lowest PLCC
High-speed LSMs also set a new low benchmark for Product Life-Cycle Costs (PLCC).  With no contact between moving parts, LSMs achieve ultra-low levels of wear-and-tear, which results in lower maintenance levels, higher reliability and a reduction in the need for replacement parts.
Reducing the level of routine maintenance, as well as the frequency of replacing parts, not only reduces labour and materials costs, but provides a higher level of system availability.
A further advantage of LSMs is that they operate at an ultra-low noise level, creating a safer working environment for airport staff.
 
Footprint versus capacity
Another innovation introduced by the latest generation of sorters is a significant improvement in the efficient use of available space.  The LS-4000E sorters are based on a common installation and technology platform that achieves high levels of system capacity and throughput, even in a space-constrained footprint.
While heating, air conditioning and lighting are obvious factors that influence overall energy consumption in airport terminals. The motors which drive the baggage handling system also contribute a significant proportion to total energy costs.

The modular design, with low section heights and up to 19ft 6in (6m) between supports, frees valuable space above the system and at floor level, which can be used for sprinkler systems, personnel and vehicle access or for additional conveyors, sorting and storage systems.  Access for maintenance is also improved.  The use of a common platform for both tilt-tray and cross-belt sorters makes installation much faster and more streamlined, in addition to increasing overall system availability.
The result of this higher capacity is that existing systems can increase throughput without the need to invest in additional floor-space.  For some airports, this additional capacity may be sufficient to eliminate the need to make a major investment in a new terminal building to cope with forecasts for increased passenger numbers.  Where a new-build is still required, the LS-4000 sorters ensure that every cubic meter of space is used to its full potential.
 
Real-world installations
Although the benchmarks set by these technologies reflect the future of baggage-handling, some airports have already taken advantage of the improvements that they offer.
 
Helsinki-Vantaa
Finavia was first airport operator to commission the LS-4000E tilt-tray sorter as part of a €40m (US$59.7m) contract to design and install a new, ‘green’ energy-efficient baggage-handling system for Helsinki-Vantaa Airport’s international terminal.
The system consists of two Crisplant LS-4000E sorters, as well as a 4-mile (6.6km) CrisBag tote system for high-speed sort-and-transport between terminals, with 1,500 positions for early baggage storage (EBS).  A leading-edge Sort Allocation Computer (SAC) control system was also installed to direct baggage flow to mandatory security controls and to the correct departure point.  The system provides the capability to sort-track-and-trace any item of baggage item, at any time, which enhances both security and overall operational efficiency.
The increased handling capacity delivered by the ultra-efficient use of space will allow Helsinki Vantaa to meet targets for higher levels of gateway traffic, when it starts serving long-haul passengers from January 2010.
 
Cancun International
Although they have not previously used automated baggage handling, Cancun International Airport, Mexico, has also commissioned a new system based on the Crisplant LS-4000 tilt-tray sorter and Mini SAC control system.  The new system will comprise a 305ft (93m) high-speed LS-4000 sorter, with a capacity of 5,400 items per hour, supported by three inductions and nine chutes via conveyors to carousels.  In addition to increased capacity, the system provides Hold Baggage Screening (HBS).
 
The future of baggage-handling
The baggage-handling systems of the future will help airports to achieve the difficult balance between increasing capacity and reducing their impact on the environment.  Airport operators should demand, and expect to achieve, systems that are significantly more environmentally friendly.  They can also anticipate lower maintenance overheads and ultra-low levels of wear and tear.
A more efficient use of space will add to an airport’s green credentials by allowing significant expansion of capacity within existing sites.  Where new builds are essential, this efficient use of space, combined with specialist simulation and emulation software, will help to ensure that baggage handling systems will cope efficiently with passenger growth forecasts to extend the operational lifetime of the system.
The latest generation of baggage-handling systems is, therefore, helping airport operators to make sure that the future is greener, cleaner and significantly more efficient.