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Reversible Conveyors for Routing

Attached is an example model that shows how you can use reversible conveyors for routing/sorting of items.



Traditionally we've sort of warned against using reversible conveyors for purposes other than accumulation buffers. The main reason I've been hesitant to promote alternative uses is that the routing system for conveyors is, and will continue to be, static. In other words, the path finding algorithm to send an item through a network of conveyors to a destination point does not change when one or more conveyors in the system is reversed. Put another way, "for routing purposes, ..., the conveyor is always assumed to be conveying in its original direction." This naturally makes using reversible conveyors for routing more complex. However, as long as you can still work within those constraints, you can actually get the desired outcome. The attached model does this by 'shortening' the routing decision so that it can always route onto conveyors in their forward direction.

The attached model sorts items by color by moving them between two conveyor via a reversible conveyor that conveys in either direction as needed. In order to still work within the 'static routing' rule, I split the reversible conveyor into two separate conveyors that are directed into each other. This way, I can route items onto the reversible section by referencing a conveyor whose primary forward direction always diverts from the line a given item is on. The critical element is that I have to always make sure that when one conveyor is moving forward, the other is reversed, and vice versa. I also have to implement some mutual exclusion, blocking some items so they aren't sent to conveyors in opposite directions. This all is done in the process flow.

I honestly don't know how close this example is to a real life situation. We've just received some requests for a reversible conveyor that can do more than just accumulation buffers, and routing/sorting is the main alternate example I can think of. This is one way you can achieve such a result.

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