In France’s Bordeaux region, robots autonomously eliminate grass and weeds between the vines, making pesticides unnecessary. To enable the robots to navigate the hilly terrain, the developers looked to the Mars rovers for answers.
The wine region around Saint-Emilion in France is world famous and steeped in tradition. Winemaking here goes back to the Roman age. These days, robots help with the laborious care of the vines. The Vitirover, developed by the eponymous company in Saint-Emilion, is one of these robots. It is a fully autonomous lawnmower powered by solar energy. About twenty of these robotic mowers are in use in the vineyards. This year, Vitirover will deliver 200 more robots, for example for use along railway tracks or in photovoltaics plants. The main benefit of the robot is that it is environmentally friendly and helps to make organic wine. The use of the robot in the vineyards makes pesticides like glyphosate unnecessary. In addition, the robot protects the soil by avoiding the compaction that may be caused by tractors or horses.
The development of the robot, which is able to mow more than two hectares of land, wasn’t an easy task. As it turned out, the unstable soil in the vineyards is quite similar to the surface of Mars. This is why, when drafting the first design specifications, Vitirover collaborated with the European Space Agency (ESA) to review the designs of all of the robots that were developed for Mars missions. “This really helped us, because we couldn’t find any terrestrial robots that came as close to our specifications,” says Xavier David Beaulieu, CTO at Vitirover. He started the company in 2010, together with Arnaud de la Fouchardière. After taking over the Château Coutet winery in Saint-Emilion, he faced the challenge of controlling the growth of grass and weeds between the vines.
The robot negotiates rocky, often steep terrain and is exposed to mechanical stresses every 12 seconds, on average. The requirements for its motorisation were accordingly high. The mechatronic solutions are the result of a partnership spanning more than eight years between Vitirover and MDP (maxon France). The robot is driven by four DC motors, one per wheel. They are brushed DCX 22 L drives that offer maximum power density in a very small installation space. They are highly efficient, which is important in battery operation. Combined with a GP 32 C gearhead, this solution enables the mower to absorb the load on the wheels and deliver the torque required for traction. “In terms of the drive, the problem of the radial load on the wheel axle wasn’t an easy one to solve. However, in the end we did it,” says Xavier David Beaulieu.
The greatest challenge however was elsewhere, namely the three blades that are driven by DCX 32 L series DC motors. The high load tended to damage the ball bearings of the motors, which led to failures. The engineers at maxon finally developed an aluminium bell housing for sustainable protection. Kevin Schwartz, in charge of the Vitirover project at MDP: “Our role is not limited to delivering electric motors. Instead, we supply complete solutions that fulfill the needs of the customer.”
For further information please contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
Designing in the right DC motor and mechatronic drive system for a small precision device can incite challenges on many levels.
With the development and increase of collaborative robots, there has become a need for a wide variety of grippers and end effectors in general. One of the more challenging applications is for automated gauging and measurement of small parts. Such a device must provide high-resolution positioning with resolutions as low as 2.5 micrometers that can be continually available to decision-making software in automation applications. This is why New Scale Robotics (NSR), a Division of New Scale Technologies decided to design and manufacture one of their latest grippers.
Built for the smallest collaborative robots, the NSR-PG-10-20, Precision Parallel Gripper, is a mechatronic system that integrates motor, sensors, precision bearing guides, drive, and control electronics, along with embedded firmware for automation, into one device. During the design process, NSR decided that the gripper had to offer plug-and-play integration that could be installed in minutes to Universal Robotics (UR) line of small cobots. The NSR-PG-10-20 offers users the smallest size and mass with the highest precision. All power and control circuitry is located through the robot tool port and slip rings so that no external cable or electronics boards are required. To install the gripper, simply mount it to the UR robot tool flange and connect the single cable to the UR tool I/O port. Motion commands are received through the robot’s 8-pin tool I/O interface. No external wires or separate electronics are needed, which allows for full 360-degree or infinite rotation of the UR robot wrist joint without cable interference.
The Precision Parallel Gripper incorporates an internal absolute position sensor specifically for automated metrology applications offering high precision for intricate small part handling, measurement, sorting, and assembly. The grippers had to provide fast, precise movements repeatedly over a long life cycle.
Precision Motion Control
During the design process, NSR researched the needs of their Precision Parallel Gripper and selected the EC-20 Flat brushless DC motor (BLDC) designed and manufactured by maxon. This motor offers up to five winding types as well as built-in encoders. Multiple power outputs are available, and the motors provide high stability and quiet operation. The motors were primarily selected because of their extremely small mass of only 15 grams as well as their high continuous torque of 3.75 mN-m. The motors’ excellent torque-to-mass ratio means that the NSR-PG-10-20 can achieve an adjustable gripping force of ±3 to 10 N while using a modest gear ratio of 16:1. The gripper incorporates a symmetric timing belt drive with a range of 20 mm. Plus, the operational voltage, current, and torque were a good match with the internal robot power supply.
The brushless DC rotary motor drives gear reduction to a timing belt that converts rotation to linear motion. A separate angle sensor is used to measure the motor shaft angle, while separate digital electronics are used to generate the three-phase drive current needed for operation. This mechanism provides the linear motion necessary to open and close the gripper fingers used to grab and release small parts. Gripper fingers are able to grip from the outside or inside of the part depending on the application. Through the use of the embedded sensor mentioned above, the linear part measurement resolution of the gripper is 2.5 micrometers. The open/close speed of the gripper is 20 mm/second and the open/close range is 20 mm.
According to David Henderson, CEO of NSR, “The tricky parts of the design were maintaining the small size, height, and low mass of the gripper while providing closed-loop position and velocity characteristics. It was also a challenge to find a low power and current motor that allowed us to use the internal power on the robot.” maxon’s EC-20 Flat allowed NSR the leverage they needed to deliver the product their customers most needed — and still be easy to install and operate. The mechanical integration was the easiest part. The company used an EC-20 Flat without an angle sensor and instead provided their own external angle sensor for commutation. “In the future, we expect to extend our product range to include grippers with higher gripping forces — and correspondingly higher mass and power motors — longer gripping ranges, and embedded force sensors to improve force control,” Mr. Henderson said.
The gripper is equipped with interchangeable fingers. The NSR-PG ships with factory fingers installed so that users can get right to work. The gripper also provides teachable finger positions when used with Universal Robotics’ UR3, UR5, UR10 robots as well as the company’s latest line of eSeries Robots, the UR3e, UR5e, and UR10e robots. Manually move fingers to the desired position and set them using the teach pendant — a process familiar to anyone who has used a UR robot in teach mode. Position is repeatable to 0.01 mm. By setting finger open and close positions that match a user’s workpiece allows the user to minimise the finger motion (stroke) for each operation, saving time and energy. Overall, the NSR-PG-10-20 allows the user to automate repetitive, labor-intensive measurement and quality control tasks so that the UR cobot becomes a powerful tool for metrology applications.
Finding the right DC motor for such specific applications can be a daunting task. Having the availability of the latest technology in the smallest packaged DC motor has allowed NSR to fulfill their customer needs. maxon’s EC-20 Flat DC motor was a key component in the design and manufacture of the NSR-PG-10-20 Precision Parallel Gripper.
For more information: newscalerobotics.com or contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
Where motion is the key to a great cup of coffee, duplicating the precision and reliability of the motion of a person’s hand, wrist, and elbow requires a unique robotic design.
Coffee lovers are passionate about their cup of coffee. Providing a consistent and reliable cup from a coffee shop often takes a lot of time in training your baristas. Gaining that same precision motion control combined with speed and reliability was the utmost challenge for Poursteady’s Chief Engineer, Stuart Heys, who has always loved a good challenge. maxon spoke to Maximilian Babe, Poursteady’s Jack of all trades and current manufacturing manager about the final products.
Poursteady manufactures two different models. The PS1 five-station machine and the PS1-3c three-station machine. Each Poursteady machine automatically produces the perfect pour-over coffee based on the barista’s precise needs. “We wanted to design a tool that the baristas wanted to use, one that would give them the perfect cup of coffee every time while they made sure the grind was just right and that the customer was being well taken care of.” To do this, Stuart and the Poursteady team needed components that were not only accurate, but highly reliable, and offered long life. “Our machines have literally made millions of cups of coffee without a breakdown.”
The idea was for the machine to only automate the steps in making perfect pour-overs that made sense. This means that the recipes are variable depending on what the baristas choose to program into the machine. Hundreds of formulas can be stored and can be perfectly repeated with the push of a single button. Water is measured to the gram.
The robotic system provides the shapes and sizes of the spirals that are poured. Precise motion in multiple directions along with precise timing of each step is tracked and executed by the machine — using the Technosoft VX Intelligent Drive — for up to five cups at a time. Each cup can have a different sequence based on its program. Any combination of pour and motion is possible. This not only allows baristas to do other work and help customers in another way, it reduces the training the coffee shop owner needs to provide. And, it allows the shop to make more cups of coffee in less time, getting through a line of customers faster and more efficiently.
Stuart is a robotics engineer, and he used industrial automation components rated and tested for years of continuous use. Both machines use the same motion control components. Using two maxon DC motors and three belts, the machine is able to manipulate the pour spout any way it chooses. The 3c machine is around 24 inches long, which is much narrower than an espresso machine. One belt runs the full length of the X axis of the brewer. It attaches to a gear and pulley design where a second belt runs from the pulley to the motor shaft, all inside the cage of the system. The Y axis is connected directly to a motor that sits outside the cage and pivots back and forth dependent on the controller signal programmed into the unit.
The combination of motions from the design allows a user to program the unit for any type of flow — simply back and forth along one axis or a wobble along one or two axes, or a circular pattern that can be adjusted for width as well as shape.
The DC motors used in the PS1 and PS1-3c include maxon’s 30 Watt, EC45 Flat motor for the X axis and the EC32 Flat motor for the Y (or tilt) axis. The motors are electronically commutated, thus enabling extremely long motor life, since there are simply no mechanical brushes to wear out. Hall effect sensors are built into some DC motors in order to provide feedback to the control electronics. The motors offer good heat dissipation and high overload capability. Both the EC45 flat and EC32 flat DC motors have a stainless-steel housing, vary widely in diameter, and offer different shaft lengths as well. The motors can be used at any speeds needed to accommodate the application. The dynamic load of the nozzle that is always moving during the pour sequence, is light and requires little torque. Precision of the operation is what’s important, and Poursteady acquires that through the use of a closed loop control system.
“We are not the experts on how a particular shop, or barista, should prepare their coffee. With the Poursteady machine the flexibility is there for the user,” Maximilian explained. Whatever coffee, roast, and dripper preferred can be set and saved in a recipe file. If a user finds they can’t get the perfect pattern on their unit, Poursteady will help provide a custom pour pattern for them.
The next goal for the company is to provide a way to make a one-minute cup of pour-over coffee. This would allow a barista to make over 100 cups of coffee per hour with a single operator and therefore reduce customer wait time, allowing for a better barista-customer experience overall.
For more information, visit Poursteady or to learn more about the DC motor and drive system capabilities please contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
Do you want to work on building the next Emirates Team New Zealand AC75? The team is looking for boatbuilders!
Emirates Team New Zealand is inviting applications for the following roles at our in-house build facility on the North Shore, Auckland.
- Tradesman Boat Builders
- Experienced composite workers
- New or continuing existing apprenticeships for Boatbuilders / Composite Technicians
- Labourers with composite boatbuilding experience.
With an America’s Cup sailing programme about to start with the launch of Boat #1, we are now looking to increase our boat building team to work on future projects. We are on the lookout for full-time tradespeople who can produce top quality work.
We are looking for keen, self-motivated workers who have experience working on composite race yachts. If you believe this is an industry you’d like to train to be part of then there are also options for new or continuing existing apprenticeships as Boatbuilders / Composite Technicians.
Please send your CV along with a covering letter outlining your experience to
firstname.lastname@example.org Applications close on Monday 30 September.
Applicants must have NZ residency or a valid NZ work visa.
maxon motor Australia is an Official Supplier to Emirates Team New Zealand. We follow the progress of their journey as Defender in the 36th America’s Cup campaign, March 2021.
SkyCity and Emirates Team New Zealand are excited to announce their partnership, that SkyCity will be the ‘Official Hotels and Entertainment Partner’ for the teams Defence of the 36th America’s Cup in March 2021.
Through the partnership, Emirates Team New Zealand and their guests will have access to SkyCity’s range of premium accommodation and world-class food and beverage services. SkyCity will provide on-water and onshore hospitality for Emirates Team New Zealand at their waterfront base within the America’s Cup Village.
Come summer 2021, the festivities will continue from the Viaduct with a fan trail to Federal Street, where SkyCity will host an Emirates Team New Zealand Fan Zone and exclusive events at their popular food and beverage outlets. SkyCity’s precincts in Hamilton and Queenstown will also join in the celebration with their own fan zones and race screenings.
Graeme Stephens, CEO of SkyCity Entertainment Group says, “We are absolutely thrilled to be partnering with Emirates Team New Zealand for the 36th Americas Cup and supporting the team in defending the prestigious America’s Cup.”
Callum Mallett, Executive GM, Hospitality says, “The Official Hotels and Entertainment Partner, we can’t wait to showcase our premium accommodation and hospitality services to the world at this iconic event.”
“The America’s Cup is a major event in the New Zealand events calendar, and we’re excited for all of the opportunities ahead of us, both in the lead up to the event and in 2021, that we can share with our customers, employees and Premier Rewards members,” says Mr Mallett.
Grant Dalton, CEO of Emirates Team New Zealand is especially excited with what the relationship with SkyCity brings to the team. “SkyCity is another fully engaged partner to come onboard with the team. They cover plenty of touchpoints within communities throughout the country and are really enthused about joining our existing partners to champion Emirates Team New Zealand Fan Zones across the country come 2021.”
“This relationship is especially relevant when looking out from the Sky Tower today, it would be hard to think of any other single location that has such a spectacular view of the America’s Cup race areas across the Waitemata Harbour including the Emirates Team New Zealand base where our new AC75 will very shortly emerge from to hit the water for the first time.”
The new SkyCity logo will be featured alongside the other major sponsors on the team’s AC75 race yacht when Emirates Team New Zealand launch their new boat for the first time.
maxon motor Australia is an Official Supplier to Emirates Team New Zealand. We follow the progress of their journey as Defender in the 36th America’s Cup campaign, March 2021.
Emirates Team New Zealand christened their first AC75 at their team base in the heart of the America’s Cup village in Auckland today.
The significant milestone was celebrated with the team, their families, sponsors and suppliers. The boat was christened “Te Aihe” (Dolphin) by Marcus Gerbich – member of the MND Foundation – and blessed by Ngati Whatua.
Emirates Team New Zealand COO Kevin Shoebridge, who has overseen the development and launch of plenty of boats over the years, was especially proud to be witnessing the Kiwi AC75 emerge for the first time.
“This is a significant occasion for the team, not just because it is another new boat, but really because when we won the America’s Cup in 2017 we very quickly had to come up with a new concept of boat that would really continue to push the boundaries of innovation and technology in the America’s Cup. So in the relatively short timeframe since November in 2017 when we published the concept, to seeing it in the flesh today is an amazing testament to the entire team willing to push things all the way from concept to design to build and fit out” said Shoebridge.
It has taken over 100,000 man-hours to design and build the boat with a group of about 65 people between designers and boat builders who have been working quietly throughout the past year.
Sean Regan has led the set-up of the team’s bespoke production facility on Auckland’s North Shore from a blank factory floor to producing the first AC75.
“We have had the pressure on since the moment we decided to establish our own production facility very early on in this campaign. We have built up a really great team of 42 fully committed people at the yard who have been working full-on to get this boat out the door,” said Regan.
“Even for the most experienced boat builders on the team, this has been a very unique build because it is such a sophisticated boat. But it is really encouraging that for a number of our junior and apprentice boat builders their first build has been on a boat that is really on the cutting edge of complexity in build, design and performance.”
Emirates Team New Zealand Head of Design Dan Bernasconi was a central figure in the development of the AC75 Class Rule before turning his team of designers’ attention to the specific design of the Emirates Team New Zealand boat.
“There’s a huge amount of innovation in the design and build of the AC75 – more than we saw in the AC50’s in Bermuda” said Bernasconi. “The AC75 is a completely new concept and has presented plenty of challenges across many areas – but this is precisely what the Rule was designed to do – to push development to the extreme. We haven’t been conservative in any aspect of our design; it’s not long until we need to commit to the design of our second boat, which we will ultimately race in the 2021 America’s Cup, so we need to test as many of our ideas as possible in the yacht we’re launching today.”
Unlike the other main Challengers, Emirates Team New Zealand has focused the development of their first boat entirely with their in-house simulator as opposed to building a smaller scale test boat to validate concepts on the water. So once the AC75 goes for its maiden sail, it will be the first time the team has collectively sailed since winning the America’s Cup on June 26th 2017.
“It won’t be without nerves the first time we go sailing, but I am sure that is no different for all of the teams.” said Glenn Ashby
“The AC75’s are big powerful and fast boats so they will be a handful, but from our understanding through our simulations they are inherently a safer boat to sail than what we have sailed in the past two America’s Cups. As with any new boat it is all about slowly getting it up to speed, learning how to sail it most efficiently, pushing the development of the designs and then putting in the hours in getting ready to race for the ACWS Sardinia in April 2020.”
Emirates Team New Zealand will now focus on a busy period of testing on Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf over the spring and summer months having the advantage of developing and training on the race area of the America’s Cup Match which will be raced in March 2021.
Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton concluded: “I wish to thank every single team member for the hard work they’ve done to get us to this day. A special thanks also to all our sponsors and partners for all of their valued support so far and everything they will continue to do during our journey towards the America’s Cup Match in 2021.
It is an exciting time, but things are about to get a whole lot more so from now.”
About the name:
The name Te Aihe (Dolphin) is based on the whakatauki (proverb):
“Mā te Aihe e tuitui ai i te ngaru moana, mā te Rangatira e tuitui ai i te tangata”.
“As the dolphin sows through the seas so does a leader sew people together”.
Using technology to set precedence
The AC75 Class is a 75 foot, high performance monohull governed by the AC75 Class Rule which was published on 29 March 2018. The Class Rule is open enough to guarantee a wide margin of freedom to the designers but introduces certain one-design elements for cost containment also.
The AC75 supplied parts – identical for all the teams – are the foil arms, the foil cant system and the rigging. The shape and base laminate of the mast is also controlled by the Class Rule.
The AC75 rotating mast is a 26.5 meter long one-design ‘D’ shaped section that weighs about 300kg and serves as the leading edge of the double skinned mainsail.
Emirates Team New Zealand’s mast has been built at Southern Spars in Auckland whereas the rigging package was built at Future Fibres in Valencia.
The two other one-design components are key to make the boat fly.
The foil arms, built at Persico Marine in Italy, are the result of a project led by Luna Rossa Challenge with the collaboration of all the America’s Cup teams and New Zealand based composite engineering consultancy Pure Design and Engineering. Each 4.5 metre long carbon foil arm has a wing attached to its tip. The foil wings are custom designed and built by each team.
Driving the foil arms is the electronic and hydraulic foil cant system (FCS), another one design supplied part, which moves the arms and wings in and out of the water. The foil cant system was designed by Emirates Team New Zealand and assembled in Auckland before being distributed to all teams earlier in the year.
The rest of the Class Rule is open and being a new concept, leaves the design quite open as no proven path has yet been defined for these types of boats. Any shrouding of the yachts in the 36th America’s Cup is prohibited so teams won’t be able to hide their different design approaches and subsequent developments.
The most visible differences will be seen in the hull shapes and deck layouts. Despite a number of basic constraints such as the length, the hull shape has few significant limits on shape or structure. Design teams will be looking for a shape with minimal drag in light-wind displacement mode while also addressing the stability required to generate thrust for take-off.
Evident differences will be displayed also in the foil wings and wing flaps as they are also open to design and, being T-style foils, their shapes have been less explored than the L- foils used in the last two Cups.
The double-surface mainsail – a new innovation of the 36th America’s Cup Class Rule – will be key in the performance of the boat and a lot of hours have been invested in its design.
The hydraulic and electronic control systems, powered and controlled by the crew, operate key components of the boat such as the foils and they have been subjected to important developments as well but will they remain a very guarded secret by each team.
All in the numbers
23: the length in metres of the new boat
26.5: the height in meters of the mast from the deck
11: the crew onboard
6.5: the weight in tonnes of the boat
5: the maximum beam of the boat and the foils’ maximum draft
4: the foil wing span in metres
65: number of people working on the design and build of the boat. 30 designers and 35 boatbuilders have put in the hours to design and build “Te Aihe”.
100,000+: number of man-hours it took to design and build the boat.
2021: the 36th America’s Cup will take place from the 6th to 21st of March 2021
1851: the year the America’s Cup was born
3: Times New Zealand has won the America’s Cup.
Maxon motor Australia is an Official Supplier to Emirates Team New Zealand. We follow the progress of their journey as Defenders in the 36th America’s Cup campaign, March 2021.
America’s Cup sailors have proved once again to be at the top level of the sport of sailing, winning two golds and one bronze at the Tokyo Olympic Test Event in Japan. If history can be trusted the outcome of competition at Enoshima is a good indicator of how the medal challengers will fare at next year’s Olympic Games.
Emirates Team New Zealand’s sailors and 2016 Rio Gold medallists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke won the gold medal in the 49ers with an 11-point advantage. Ruggero Tita of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team and his bow, who had topped the Nacra fleet all week long, finished fourth in the Medal Race to get gold by 12 points.
The medal race of the Finn Class was abandoned because of insufficient wind and INEOS TEAM UK’s and Olympic Finn Champion Giles Scott had to settle for closing the event with the bronze medal. Andy Maloney of Emirates Team New Zealand followed in 4th position.
Enoshima, the venue for the 2020 Olympic Sailing Regatta – which was also the venue for the 1964 Olympics – displayed a variety of conditions throughout the week of racing providing the sailors with plenty of experience for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in one year’s time. From the strong breeze and big waves of the first day to the light and unstable winds of the second day, requiring the sailors to adapt quickly in order to maintain consistency.
With a total of 363 sailors from 47 nations – among those 30 individual medallists from Rio 2016, as well as an additional 11 from London 2012 – an extremely high level of competition was guaranteed and the event was made even more fierce by the fact that, for many nations and athletes, it meant the qualification for Tokyo 2020.
With the Test Event now over the focus for the sailors who are squeezing in a Tokyo 2020 Olympic Campaign alongside their America’s Cup commitments will shift again to their America’s Cup teams as the launch of the first generation of AC75 is just around the corner….
maxon Australia is an Official Supplier to Emirates Team New Zealand. We follow the progress of their journey as Defenders in the 36th America’s Cup campaign, March 2021.
maxon Group Australia are excited to announce their collaboration with innovative Australian space company, Space Industries, to develop new mining technologies on the moon.
It’s not every day you receive an inquiry to help build a rover that will mine the surface of the moon. When maxon was contacted by Space Industries CEO, Joshua Letcher, with this exact query, a remarkable collaboration was born.
Specialising in the development of lunar and space mining vehicles, subsystems and systems for space systems, in a world-first, Space Industries are designing and developing revolutionary technology: a rover to mine elements on the lunar surface. “Space Industries are leading the way in space mining by focusing on gas production to produce resources that will sustain life on the Moon and other planets, along with producing Helium-3 for use in Medical and Energy industries on Earth” said Letcher. Soon to be located at Australia’s only dedicated Space Precinct at Perth Airport in WA, Space Industries have strategically positioned themselves amongst other leading global companies involved in civil engineering and research & development within the sector.
It was maxon’s long-standing involvement working with agencies such as NASA, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and European Space Agency, amongst others, that prompted Joshua Letcher to call maxon. maxon DC motors, drives systems and sensor technologies have already been used to drive several Mars rovers and withstood the conditions there. The DC motors resist brutal temperature changes, dust, dirt and storms. They are also built to survive a dynamic entry, descent and landing sequence as well as the harsh daily conditions on the moon. maxon Managing Director, Brett Motum, said “we are thrilled to be a part of not only an Australian first, but a world-first, invention that is going to redefine the term sustainable energy, open up exciting possibilities within the medical and energy sectors and of course, put Australia on the global Space map”.
It’s this type of application that sits at the heart of maxon – working with companies who share the same passion for innovation, technology and development of pioneering inventions. Particularly those that help to shape the future of this planet and perhaps even sustain life on the moon.
For further information please contact maxon Group Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477 or Space Industries email@example.com
Researchers all over the world are looking for new battery types and technologies. The goal is to lower the size, weight, charging time and price of batteries while increasing their safety.
In e-mobility, all is nothing without them: batteries. They deliver the “juice” for countless vehicles and applications that are exciting for the reason they don’t need to be connected to a power outlet all the time. Yet even though the technology has made great progress over the past decades, batteries still seem a little old-school compared with state-of-the-art high-tech electronics. For example, the microprocessor of a smartphone is able to perform billions of operations within seconds. However, charging the battery takes hours. In addition, batteries are the heaviest of all the installed components. Consumers might find this annoying, but it is simply in the nature of things that energy storage devices and the chemical reactions inside them can’t be miniaturised to the same extent as is customary in the semiconductor industry. In our daily lives, we encounter a number of different battery types:
- Cheap alkaline batteries, for example in remote controls and watches
- Nickel-cadmium batteries, with similar uses as alkaline batteries, but rechargeable
- Lithium-ion batteries, for example in cameras, power drills, and electric cars
- Lithium-polymer batteries, for example in smartphones and tablets. Lithium polymer batteries are a special type of lithium-ion battery that can be built very flat, since a gel electrolyte is used instead of a liquid one. However, they are more sensitive than lithium-ion batteries.
Even though lithium batteries are the gold standard today, they have certain downsides that can’t be overlooked. Most people have seen pictures of smartphones or electric cars whose batteries caught fire or even exploded—a horror scenario. This is why researchers all over the world are looking for new battery types and technologies. The goal: Lowering the size, weight, charging time and price of batteries while increasing their safety. In addition, the elements of lithium and cobalt (the main components of many batteries) are not available in unlimited quantities.
Magnesium batteries could be a potential successor. This technology is at the focus of a research project by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the Helmholtz Institute in Ulm. “A magnesium battery would offer decisive advantages over conventional lithium-ion batteries,” the KIT writes in a press release. “As an anode material, magnesium enables much higher energy densities and would be much safer.” Another benefit: Magnesium is about 3000 times more common than lithium and easier to recycle. “If Europe makes good progress with the development, then magnesium batteries might also help to reduce the dominance of Asian battery manufacturers and establish a competitive battery industry in Europe,” the KIT also writes. Another candidate for what is known as a solid-state battery is, surprisingly, glass. The sodium contained in glass is one of the most common elements. Sh batteries with a special glass electrolyte are potentially capable of being charged within minutes, while offering better safety than flammable lithium-ion batteries. However, some time is going to pass before such a battery technology will be ready for the market and will be able to replace lithium-ion batteries.
maxon explores the world of batteries
Batteries manufactured by drive specialist maxon? What may sound like a plan for the future is already reality. maxon began its journey into the world of power storage with the development of the BIKEDRIVE, a retrofitting kit that turns a regular bicycle into an e-bike. After some difficulties with the battery supplier, maxon decided to build its own batteries. However, this is easier said than done. Manufacturing batteries requires engineering creativity, technical knowledge, and specialised equipment. “For us, this is a relatively new, but exciting field,” says Benny Keller of maxon advanced robotics & systems (mars).
A battery pack consists of several individual cells that typically deliver a voltage of 3.7 V. Depending on how these individual cells are wired, the battery pack has different specifications. If the cells are wired in series, their voltage are added. Wiring cells in parallel increases the battery capacity. Creating an optimal combination of such individual cells requires skill and technical knowledge. “In addition, there are many safety standards that need to be met,” Benny Keller explains. A battery pack isn’t finished after the cells have been professionally glued and wired. A battery management system (BMS) is also needed. The electronics are usually installed on a PCB in the battery casing. The specialists at maxon have developed and produced their own BMS. The BMS ensures that the cells are charged and discharged evenly. This is critical for the battery’s service life. There are also safety aspects to a BMS. For example, it prevents that a battery is charged or subjected to load at excessively low or high temperatures.
It’s clear that, as a newcomer to the scene, maxon can’t start mass-producing batteries from one day to the next. However, the workshop in Giswil is very well equipped for the production of prototypes and small output quantities. For larger quantities, maxon relies on the assistance of renowned manufacturers in southern Germany. Naturally, maxon batteries are designed for e-mobility and robotics applications.
For further information please contact maxon Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
A start-up company in Hong Kong has developed an abdominal surgical robot with two small arms that unfold inside the abdomen and controlled by the surgeon using a control panel.
The start-up company NISI (HK) Limited is developing a miniature surgical robot that can be inserted though natural openings in the body and only unfolds inside the abdomen. To achieve this goal, the engineers are pushing components to their limits and beyond.
In the world of medtech, there are many astonishing new developments these days. The world of surgical robots could soon be disrupted: In summer 2018, the Hong Kong-based startup NISI announced that they have successfully performed a series of gynecological operations on live pigs. This may not sound like anything special at first, however: The essence is that the surgeons used a small robot that had been inserted rectally. This is a world’s first in medical history, according to the company.
NISI was founded in 2012 and works with the universities of Hong Kong and Cambridge to develop a robotic system that enables complex, minimal-invasive surgeries in the abdominal and pelvic area without leaving visible scars. “We want to become the world’s leading expert in non-invasive surgical robotic technology,” says Dr. Corinna Ockenfeld at NISI. The successful surgeries in the summer of 2018 have given the medtech start-up a lot of momentum. Initial surgeries on humans are planned for 2021.
The idea behind the NISI’s novel surgical system is as follows: The surgical robot is inserted through a natural orifice, usually the anus or the vagina. By doing so, only a small cut inside the body is necessary to get multiple robotic instruments inside the abdomen. Current systems require several incisions, one for each instrument. The new technology has obvious benefits: Less blood loss during surgery, less wound related complications, shorter recovery time for the patient, and no visible scars.
The robot itself has two small arms that unfold inside the abdomen and can be controlled by the surgeon using a control panel. The two robotic arms are directly controlled by micromotors from maxon and have up to eight degrees of freedom. The system also has a high-resolution 2D and 3D camera and delivers haptic feedback, so that the surgeon is able to feel what is happening at the other end and can work with even higher precision.
Bringing surgical robots to the next level requires more than outstanding technicians and engineers: Quality components are a key element. NISI is therefore testing various concepts and combinations of components. “We want to push the boundaries of medical and robotic technology,” says Dr. Corinna Ockenfeld. With regard to the motors, this requires an extremely small size and extremely high power density. “We are working closely with maxon and have a weekly exchange of information. We really appreciate the support we’ve received over the past years. The collaboration with maxon is highly productive and extremely valuable for both sides.”
The prototypes of the NISI surgical robotic system currently use various brushless DC motors from the EC series, with diameters ranging from 4 to 8 millimeters, complemented by matching customised gearheads. Both partners are pushing the precision drives to their limits, sometimes running them outside the nominal specifications. However, the BLDC motors are customised for the application’s specific needs. They require high power density, must fulfil extremely strict quality standards and be sealed against body fluids. In the future, the drives will also be biocompatible.
The next steps are to make the entire system even smaller, to make the motors even more dynamic and to expand the working range of the robot. “We take care of every little detail and take innovative approaches to solving problems,” says Dr. Corinna Ockenfeld. Step by step, NISI is coming closer in fulfilling its vision of making non-invasive surgery without scars a commonplace reality.
For further information please contact maxon Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.