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A new docking system for space rendezvous

The European Space Agency (ESA) is working on a new system to enable easy docking between two spacecraft. maxon developed two special drive systems for this purpose.

Even though it’s been done many times before, the docking manoeuvre between two objects in space is always a delicate and potentially dangerous procedure. The speed is extremely high (about 28,000 km/h in case of the ISS), and corrections are difficult. For example, when the two objects are about to meet, manoeuvring thrusters can no longer be used, since their exhaust plumes can cause damage. To prevent harm, cargo transporters are caught by a robotic arm installed in the International Space Station (ISS) and berthed manually. Manned spacecraft on the other hand dock directly in a computer-controlled process.

This type of docking manoeuvre is going to become easier and safer in the future, so the European Space Agency (ESA) has commissioned its industry partners to design a new docking system called IBDM (International Berthing and Docking Mechanism). This conforms to the International Docking System Standard (IDSS), a standard on which the leading space agencies worldwide have agreed. The system will therefore be compatible with the ISS and most other spacecraft. The mechanism’s first missions will be with the Dream Chaser, a craft that looks like a compact version of the Space Shuttle and will soon perform cargo flights to the ISS. The craft is being developed by the Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Docking energy is absorbed

The IBDM is an androgynous coupling system. This means that the connector is identical on both sides. It consist of a hard inner ring (Hard Capture System) and a soft outer ring (Soft Capture System) that has six degrees of freedom and force sensors. The outer ring first absorbs the docking energy. Then the final airtight connection is made and secured by mechanical hooks which pull the two spacecraft tightly together.

SENER is in charge of developing and installing the Hard Capture System. The company is currently working on the qualification model, which is due for testing in 2020. “Then the IBDM needs to be used as quickly as possible on a supply flight for the ISS,” says SENER’s Gabriel Ybarra. One of the next steps would be to use it in NASA’s Lunar Space Station, which is planned to go into orbit around the moon and could serve as a launch point for manned missions to Mars in the future.

Dual systems for maximum safety

This is a challenging project for the engineers at SENER: “We first needed to fully understand all the requirements set by ESA and NASA and figure out how to fulfill these requirements. And especially with regard to safety, because the docking mechanism can also cope with manned flights.” As well as being lightweight and delivering the required torque, the electrical drives that are used must also be extremely reliable. This is why SENER has been working with the drive specialist maxon for several years.

maxon’s engineers have developed two drives for SENER that can be used to execute a huge variety of functions. This first drive consists of two brushless EC-4pole motors and a GPX UP gearhead. Twelve of these actuators power the locking hooks in the IBDM docking mechanism. The second drive combines a flat motor with a planetary gearhead. It is used in eleven places, to manage the plug-in connections and the retaining eyes, as well as other ancillary functions.

As the IBDM docking mechanism is a flight-critical application, redundant drive systems are required. The backup must function even if the primary drive fails. This is often solved by means of a backup motor that can take over in an emergency. This is the approach used for the locking hook actuator. For the other drive system however, the maxon engineers found a different, unconventional solution: an additional stator is used instead of an extra motor. The flat motor therefore has two stators and hence two windings, each of which is capable of independently driving the rotor – an ingenuous solution, which guarantees safety while saving space.

Gabriel Ybarra praises the collaboration with maxon: “The team understands our requirements and is very quick with design modifications.” Moreover, both partners have a passion for mechatronic systems. “It feels great to be involved in the entire cycle, from design to production and testing. This makes it extremely interesting. And when the system moves for the first time, it’s like watching your children take their first steps.”

For more information contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

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maxon supplies automatic filter changer for super telescope

maxon has been selected to supply the optical filter changer system for what will soon be the largest wide field telescope in the world. The project, involving five French research laboratories, requires motors and controllers capable of working to an accuracy of 1/10th of a millimetre.

With its 8.4-meter mirror and 3.2 gigapixel camera (making it the biggest digital camera in the world), the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) is a project that is defined by superlatives. Its mission? To extend the boundaries of the visible universe but also to tirelessly survey and map the universe for the next 10 years from the observatory on the summit of Cerro Pachón in Chile.

The LSST: the product of expertise from all over the world

To achieve its mission, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will photograph the entire sky several times each week, allowing it to catalogue changes and measure the movement of the celestial bodies. Its astronomical surveys will contribute to studies designed to elucidate the structure and evolution of the Solar System and Milky Way. The findings will also be applied in various research projects dedicated to unlocking the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.

Coordinated by the USA, the project has a budget of some USD 675 million (approximately EUR 600 million). Almost twenty countries will contribute to analysis of results with inputs from research laboratories from all around the world. Alongside the United States and Chile, France is playing an active part in the construction of the telescope through the French National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics (IN2P3).

Precision engineering in the service of astronomy

The telescope is installed on the 2,680 meter-high summit of Cerro Pachón, a site chosen for its very low levels of atmospheric and luminous interference. It is housed in a dome that is 30 meters in diameter and 17 meters high. The dome is fully motorised, so that the telescope can be rotated to successively point in all possible directions.

The telescope itself consists of three main elements. The first of these is the mount with which the telescope is precisely positioned in preparation for observations. Then there is the optical element, which is made up of three curved, aspherical mirrors, the largest of which has a diameter of more than 8 meters. Finally, there is the digital camera, which is one of the project’s centrepieces.

This camera is built around a 3.2 billion pixel digital sensor that is chilled to -100°C. This is sensitive to a particularly broad range of light, from near ultraviolet to near infrared, so that photometric measurements can be carried out across the entire spectrum. Finally, the camera incorporates a system of optic filters that enable users to select the fraction of the light spectrum that they wish to observe.

Fast-action optical filter changer

All astronomical survey telescopes incorporate a filter changer but most of the systems currently in use are too slow to meet the ambitious performance requirements of the LSST, demanding changeover 15 times faster than that of other instruments of a similar size.

A team of five French laboratories therefore collaborated in the development of a robotic system capable of placing a new filter over the imaging camera in only a few minutes. In meeting this challenge, the team had to deal with major technical constraints, starting with the integration of the automatic filter changer, as all of its components had to be housed in the body of the camera. And there it must remain perfectly stable, even in the event of a strong earthquake.

The team designed a device capable of handling the extremely costly filters – each with a diameter of 75 cm and weighing almost 40 kg – with an accuracy of a tenth of a millimetre. The centre piece of the device is a carousel that can be loaded with up to five filters and present one of them for use in less than 20 seconds. In addition, there is an automatic mechanism for loading/unloading a filter onto the camera and another mechanism for loading filters within the camera. Together, these three elements go to make up the automatic filter changer.

Compactness, reliability, support

It is in this context that the French National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics (LPNHE) sought expert support from MDP – maxon France. The online configurator and associated technical documentation posted on the maxon website served as a starting point for identifying the initial components suitable for integration in the system.

In the course of further exchanges, the suitability of solutions from MDP – maxon France was validated, and the use of the same supplier for the motor/controller combination meant that there would be no compatibility issues. For example, the carousel and the automatic filter changer use maxon EC40/GP42 and RE40/GP52C drive motors along with an EPOS2 70/10 modular digital positioning controller.

Among the various criteria adopted by the teams working on the LSST were the compactness of the components, motors, gearheads and controllers – an essential factor as these had to integrated in the heart of the camera – combined with complete reliability. Indeed, the filter changer must be able to function continuously, with maintenance limited to a period of 2 weeks every 2 years when operation of the telescope is interrupted for re-aluminisation of its mirrors.

Multi-faceted collaboration

The demanding nature of the work carried out on the optical filter changer reflects the ambition of the project and gives some idea of the extent of collaboration required among the various stakeholders in the LSST. For its part, maxon is delighted that its online configurator, its motors, and its electronic systems have contributed to the successful realisation of such a technical and scientific challenge!.

For more information contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

MND New Zealand announced as official charity of Emirates Team New Zealand.

Emirates Team New Zealand are to partner with MND New Zealand (the Motor Neurone Disease Association of New Zealand) as the official charity of the Team for the 36th America’s Cup.

Emirates Team New Zealand June 18, 2019.

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) causes the muscles that enable us to move, speak, swallow and breathe to gradually stop working. New Zealand has the highest known rate of MND in the world, with an average of 2 people diagnosed each week and well over 300 people living with the condition.

Emirates Team New Zealand have first-hand experience witnessing the devastation of MND through team mate and former Emirates Team New Zealand Director and current Director of America’s Cup Event Ltd (ACE) Greg Horton.

“Greg has been and continues to be an undeniable inspiration to the team while fighting MND” said Emirates Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton.

“Whilst the disease is having a devastating effect on him physically he has always remained so strong and optimistic despite his personal hardship, he contributed to our success in winning the Cup in Bermuda, and he still manages to undertake his vital role towards the planning for the 36th America’s Cup in 2021.”

Greg is also a member of the National Council of the not-for-profit charity MND New Zealand which supports people living with MND, their family and carers and health professionals to enable them to have the best quality of life possible.

“MND New Zealand is a vital part of the support network for those with MND and their families.   Emirates Team New Zealand put its hand up early after my diagnosis with team members offering support to me and my family in any way possible, and it is great to formalise a broader support basis today with Emirates Team New Zealand coming on board as our charity partner.” explained Horton.

MND New Zealand General Manager Carl Sunderland says it is a huge honour to be the Official Charity of Emirates Team New Zealand.

“We rely almost completely on the generosity of the New Zealand community to continue to provide free, personalised support to people living with MND, their carers and families and this partnership will help raise awareness of this devastating disease and the vital work we do.”

MND New Zealand also proudly funds vital research at the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland and supports the latest genetics study led by Dr. Emma Scotter.

“MND New Zealand. Together with the Royal Society of NZ and several generous kiwi organisations and families, fund our research into the causes and possible cures of MND. Although the brain tissues of New Zealanders who die from MND show the expected signs of the disease, our research has uncovered a higher rate of MND in New Zealand than in the rest of the world. Our next step is a nationwide genetics study, also supported by MND New Zealand, to determine if our high rates relate to unique genetic factors in New Zealanders.” Said Dr Scotter.

As part of its support for MND New Zealand, Emirates Team New Zealand is giving MND New Zealand a full immersion day at Emirates Team New Zealand as an auction item to be auctioned off at The Grocery Charity Ball in September.

“Through Greg you can see the amazing work MND New Zealand do for the 300+ New Zealanders that are living with MND so we are really proud to be supporting them and everything they do” concluded Grant Dalton.

To make a donation to help MND New Zealand, please go to www.mnd.org.nz

For further information on DC motors for use in underwater and extreme environments please contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

Hollow shaft right angle brushless DC gearmotor

New industrial series IP65 hollow shaft right angle gearmotor.

Featuring high power density this 60mm diameter 400W 48V brushless DC motor and right angle helical bevel gear combination can deliver 25Nm of torque. Loads can be mounted traditionally via keyway or coupling and also through-shaft clamp collar fittings can be used. The brushless DC motor’s rear cable entry housing contains a 5000cpt 3 channel encoder and a DC holding brake for safety critical power failure load holding. Two different 48V windings allow for high speed and low current preferences making control selection easy and cost effective. All surfaces are gasketed, all bearings are rubber sealed and cables are grommeted for industrial operation in harsh environments making the drive particularly suitable for oil and gas, mining and agriculture applications.

For more information please contact maxon motor Australia tel. + 61 2 9457 7477.

Update on the InSight rover on Mars

maxon DC motors are currently on Mars, helping collect vital information on the Red Planet.

On November 26, 2018 NASA’s InSight rover touched down on Mars. maxon DC motors went straight into action to unfold the two solar panels, securing the energy supply that operates the all-important probe. There are two main instruments onboard InSight, a seismometer to measure potential quakes on Mars and a heat sensor designed to drill down five meters into the ground. The sensor was developed by German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). Its rod digs into the hard soil using a hammer mechanism, driven by a DCX motor from maxon. The rate of boring down strongly depends on the composition of the soil, which hasn’t been ideal, the rod hit an obstruction in the very first hammering cycle. However, the engineers at DLR are confident these complexities can be overcome and that the sensor will reach the projected depth.

To efficiently drive the penetrometer into the ground, the DC motor needed to withstand forces in excess of 400 g – and more than 100,000 times. It took a number of variations and failed tests to find the right solution. The result is a standard DCX 22 motor, greatly modified with additional welding rings, bearing welds and specially shortened brushes. The GP 22 HD gearhead, on the other hand, only needed Mars-specific lubrication.

InSight’s mission is to carry out several measurements over a period of two years and provide insights into Mars and the formation of Earth. The mission is being conducted by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for NASA.

For more information on DC motors and gearheads that withstand exceptionally harsh environments, strong vibrations and extreme temperatures contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

e-mobility is changing our world.

The latest issue of maxon’s driven magazine looks at developments and trends in e-mobility.

50 years ago, it wouldn’t have been dreamed of that a family could go on a trip in their car without burning a drop of fuel. Or that inexperienced cyclists could tour vast mountain ranges. Or that robots pull weeds, not humans. These are three, of many, examples that show the influence of electric drive systems on our daily lives and our mobility.

In addition to e-mobility developments, readers get an insight into the battery development at maxon and meet a friendly superhero with a disability. For inquisitive minds, there is an in-depth technical article about inductance in iron-core DC motors.

For more information or to download your free copy of driven click here. Contact maxon motor Australia for application assistance tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

driven, the maxon magazine, appears twice annually in three languages and is full of interesting reports, interviews, and news from the world of drive technology. The current issue is available online or can be ordered in print, free of charge.

Z fuelling success on the water.

Emirates Team New Zealand 03 May, 2019.

Z Energy is to partner with Emirates Team New Zealand for the 36th America’s Cup as an Exclusive Supplier of fuel and biofuel for the 36th America’s Cup being hosted in Auckland over the summer of 2020/2021.

In coming together, both organisations have a strong desire to engage as many Kiwis as possible from around the country in supporting a successful defence.

Grant Dalton, CEO for Emirates Team New Zealand, highlighted why this was a great match. “We’re excited to partner with another prominent national New Zealand business that is passionate about the team and the America’s Cup.

We want to bring as many people throughout the whole of New Zealand together in our journey to defend the America’s Cup in 2021 and believe through working together with Z Energy and all of their stations and touchpoints we can extend our reach to all of our supporters in every small town and community around the country and bring them along for the ride.”

Mike Bennetts, CEO of Z Energy says “Emirates Team New Zealand have shown what it means to be truly innovative. There is a natural alignment for Z as we make a difference to our customers through the provision of sustainable transport solutions and innovation in our customer experience offers. We’re excited about the partnership and being able to help bring it to kiwis around the country.”

The partnership between Z Energy and Emirates Team New Zealand will see Z provide fuel, including options for Biofuel from New Zealand’s only largescale biofuel manufacturing facility located in Wiri, Auckland, along with other fuel transport solutions.

Customers of Z can expect to see opportunities to engage with Emirates Team New Zealand over the coming 18 months. Details of these will be shared as they are finalised.

For further information on DC motors for use in underwater and extreme environments please contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

Getting ready for CYBATHLON 2020

maxon is a Presenting Partner at the second CYBATHLON event in Zurich.

Due to take place on May 2nd and 3rd, 2020, the CYBATHLON is an exciting event run by ETH Zurich where people with physical disabilities compete against each other, overcoming everyday obstacles and showcasing state-of-the-art technical assistance systems. The competition presents new challenges (eg. the wheelchair circuit now includes opening a door with the aid of a robotic arm) and spans six disciplines:

  1. virtual racing using thought control
  2. bicycle racing with electrical muscle stimulation (FES)
  3. dexterity challenges with prosthetic arms
  4. obstacle course with prosthetic legs
  5. obstacle course with robotic exoskeletons
  6. obstacle course for powered wheelchairs.

maxon supported CYBATHLON in 2016 as a Partner. Among other contributions, the trainees of the company built a height-adjustable podium. maxon were keen to join the second event this time as a Presenting Partner. CEO Eugen Elmiger says: “We believe that excellent engineers with a curiosity for new things can make the world a better place. This is why maxon has supported this right from the start.” The company is involved in many of the participating teams, offering support with discounted drives and know-how through its Young Engineers Program. For more information please see https://drive.tech

Nearly all availability across the six disciplines has been taken, with two thirds of the teams coming from universities. The teams are currently in the development and testing stage setting their sights on successfully overcoming the obstacle course in a year’s time. Tickets are available now, for more information please visit www.cybathlon.com.

For more information on robotic technical assistance systems, such as DC motor and drive systems for prosthetics, exoskeletons or wheelchairs please contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

Geared motor for use in large transport wipers.

A robust geared motor up to 220V DC and 230V AC for vehicles across the transport, marine, rail and haulage industries.

The new VIPER3 motor from Parvalux is a high power and reliable geared DC and AC motor solution that has been designed and built to withstand the unrelenting environments that transport sectors face. With IP Protection options ranging from IP42 to IP56, its proven to work constantly in hostile environments. The VIPER3 can comfortably operate when confronted with dust, liquid, high & low temperatures and broad variances in humidity. This design is tailored to vehicles across the rail, marine, haulage and transport sectors. The system can be found on many of the world’s fastest trains and even powers the wipers on the world’s largest passenger ship.

For applications with space constraints the VIPER3 measures at 280 x 126 x 145mm and comes with multiple mounting options allowing it to be easily installed. This, combined with internal wiring and an enclosed commutation brush design, makes this self-contained, IP54 rated, geared motor the ideal solution for use in a large wiper system. The large brush design reduces wear on the brushes in higher speed modes ensuring the VIPER3 works continuously and reliably. A one piece worm spindle, the use of composite materials and a larger diameter gear reduce the wear on the system compared to competitor offerings.

For further information please contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

maxon motor acquired British-based Parvalux Electric Motors Ltd in December 2018. Parvalux has been in operation for more than 70 years, covering three production sites across the UK with more than 185 employees. The new technologies available to maxon include AC motors, worm gearboxes and DC drives with power ranges up to 1.5 kW.

HP to drive peak performance for Emirates Team New Zealand

Emirates Team New Zealand 16 April, 2019.

HP today announced its strengthened collaboration with Emirates Team New Zealand, rejoining for the 36th America’s Cup campaign as an Official Sponsor.

The new level of support will see HP’s logo grace the foils of the boat, while ushering in another three years of innovation through HP technology for Emirates Team New Zealand.

“As the Official PC and Print Technology Supplier for AC35 in Bermuda, HP played an integral part in helping the design team model and simulate the revolutionary foiling catamaran designs. Now we’re taking our support a step further by becoming an Official Sponsor of Emirates Team New Zealand,” says Grant Hopkins, Managing Director of HP New Zealand.

“We’ve worked continuously with HP technology since 2014,” says Grant Dalton, CEO of Emirates Team New Zealand. “HP’s technical support and expertise has always been excellent. We’re excited to have their commitment behind us as we focus on winning the next America’s Cup.”

HP technology is used throughout the team, but particularly by the thirty engineers who make up the design team. HP workstations have enabled the engineers to work on structural analysis, fluid dynamics, software development, simulation and mechatronics – all integral to refining sailing performance ahead of race day.

“Although the AC campaign is three years long, development timescales are very short, and we will have to cycle through several generations of design to be competitive. We need powerful machines to provide overnight analysis of candidate designs, and fast processors to enable us to simulate the boat in real-time in our simulator,” says Dan Bernasconi, Head of Design for Emirates Team New Zealand.

Emirates Team New Zealand will also be working with HP on emerging solutions in 3D printing, a new category HP is bringing to the NZ market. HP 3D print technology will help the team innovate at speed, by enabling parts to be printed and tested quickly using extremely durable and lightweight materials.

HP wide format print technology is used by Emirates Team New Zealand to print graphics on sails, buildings and other large surfaces, as well as the plans used by the boat builders to construct detailed designs.

“Our relationship with Emirates Team New Zealand is a true partnership. The HP local team take great pride in providing specialist technical advice to make sure Emirates Team New Zealand can forge ahead with their cup bid. Our company ethos of innovation, sustainability and fostering a growth culture are paralleled with the values of Emirates Team New Zealand, and we’re really excited to be back on-board with the team in a bigger capacity for the 2021 cup,” says Hopkins.

For further information on DC motors for use in underwater and extreme environments please contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

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