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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.

Multi axis brushless DC motor position controller system

From two to eighty axis – maxon motor release a revised, versatile multi axis motor position system.

Need an eighty axis position control system? Well let’s face it, not everyone does. Though more often than not, in today’s increasingly sophisticated world of motion systems three and four axis systems are required. The trouble for motion control suppliers is being able to meet customer demands for motor position control systems with seemingly infinitely variable requirements.

Three axis controller systems in the past were very common but when you needed to control four motors there were two servoamplifiers paid for but not used. What made this industry standard even more inefficient was that inside the box for these motion controllers was simply three separate motor control units connected on a Bus system. This describes the problem that maxon multi axis system has solved.

Developed as an eleven axis motherboard with snap-apart individual drive segments. The exact number of motor axis can be easily configured simply by separating the required number of drives and jumping both the power and communications along the board. It is an incredibly simple though effective solution that has now been tested and proven in every combination. The most notable application is an eighty axis motor control system for a complex food handling production line.

Technical features include: CANopen control, Interpolation Position Mode, 6 digital inputs and 2 analogue inputs per axis, current regulation and a wide voltage input.

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

Outrunner or Inrunner BLDC motor?

New BLDC design has the advantages of both outrunner and inrunner brushless DC motors.

Outrunner motors offer many advantages, the biggest of them being the maximised distance from the shaft centre to the flux gap of the motor creating a larger lever arm effect from the torque production location to the axis. The larger diameter of outrunner motors therefore gives typically very good torque characteristics. There are also disadvantages of BLDC outrunner motors. The externally rotating rotor and static internal stator is a particular concern in any equipment that is operating near people or in harsh environments. This new design offers an “internal external rotor” that is contained in a aluminium or optional sealed stainless steel motor housing. There are other additional advantages for the new design. The design contains a unique internally mounted 4096cpt incremental encoder and can be assembled with high torque ceramic planetary gearheads, producing a positioning drive system with a slow motion high torque focus. Applications in process control, valve actuation and industrial machinery are particularly suitable for this new motor.

Contact maxon motor Australia for application assistance. Ph: +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.

New levels of power density for brushless DC gearmotor

maxon motor have achieved higher levels of power density for their 4 pole brushless gearmotors.

Up to 96% efficiency and 5Nm from a gearhead that is only 22mm diameter. This new series of ultra-power gearheads has been perfectly matched with a 4 pole 120W brushless DC motor and a 1000cpt 3 channel encoder. With the exception of maxon motors specialist oil filled heavy duty gearboxes the new series gives the highest torque levels available from 22mm. Intermittent torque ratings have increased from 3.8 to 6.5Nm with a maximum speed input of 10,000rpm. The pictured combination is the first of the series supplied to customers in Australia and also exhibits a custom shaft with key and keyway. Additionally, the motor is fitted with temperature sensors in contact with the winding to allow the brushless DC 4 pole motor to be pushed to its continuous thermal capacity. A sealed bearing system and continuous welding of inline components protect the assembly for use in harsh environments and give optimal assembly strength making the gearmotor series particularly suitable for Aerospace applications.

For more information contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 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.

PMDC motors from Parvalux

Parvalux manufactures an extensive range of Permanent Magnet DC Brushed motors that can be combined with their in-house manufactured right-angle or in-line gearheads.

The Parvalux standard brushed DC motors offer a performance range of speeds across 1,000 – 5,000 RPM, power up to 2,030 W and torques of 0.1 to 4.9 Nm. When combined with in-house manufactured gearboxes these systems are suitable for a varied range of applications found in the healthcare, industrial or leisure industries. These PMDC motors can be off the shelf, semi-tailored or custom-made systems dependent on the application needs.

For more information contact maxon motor Australia tel. + 61 2 9457 7477 or visit Parvalux’s website.

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.

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