In February, Solar Orbiter will launch its mission to collect new data about the Sun. Swiss research and industry have played a substantial role in the construction of the space probe – with drives from maxon Group among the contributions.
The European Space Agency (ESA) wants to study the Sun up close. Next month the agency will launch the Solar Orbiter space probe, equipped with ten measuring instruments. Scientists hope that the mission, which will last several years, will provide them with new insights into phenomena such as the solar wind, as well as the complex dynamics that are responsible for solar eruptions. Solar Orbiter will fly to within 45 million kilometres of the Sun – closer than Mercury, its nearest planet. At this distance, the side of the probe facing the Sun will be exposed to intense heat: more than 500°C. A heat shield will protect the important instruments on board the probe, equipped with shutters to provide a view of the Sun only when measurements are being taken.
Studying solar eruptions
The same applies to the spectrometer-telescope for imaging X-rays (STIX), whose purpose is to study solar eruptions more closely, possibly enabling large-scale eruptions to be predicted in future. STIX was developed at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) in collaboration with several industrial partners from Switzerland, including Almatech. Swiss drives made by maxon are among the components used in the X-ray telescope. Two specially modified DC motors with diameters of 13 mm move an aluminium attenuator, which slides in front of STIX’s 30 detectors as required. The micro drives are wired in parallel and can be used together or individually. Thus ensuring that they’ll run smoothly for the entire five years planned for the mission. The design is based on micromotors that will soon be used in ESA’s ExoMars Rover. Key factors when selecting the drives were their low weight, energy efficiency, and resistance to vibration.
Solar Orbiter is one of ESA’s flagship projects and has cost more than 1.5 billion Australian dollars (AUD). After its planned launch in February, the probe will journey for almost two years before it can start taking measurements. The mission is scheduled to end in 2025.
From the Sun to Mars
While Solar Orbiter approaches its launch date, preparations are underway for the next two major Mars projects, which are scheduled to start in the (European) summer of 2020: NASA’s Mars2020 Rover and ESA’s ExoMars Rover. The aim of both missions is to provide new information about the Red Planet, answering questions such as whether there has ever been life on Mars. Mars2020 also carries a small helicopter to deliver a proof of concept that flights are possible on Mars despite the very thin atmosphere.
maxon drives are used for mission-critical tasks in both projects, including wheel drives, handling soil samples, and steering the Mars helicopter.
Please contact maxon media office for more information:
maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477 | maxon Group Headquarters Tel. +41 41 662 43 81
(main picture: The aluminum attenuator, powered by the above pictured maxon brushed DC motor © maxon Group)
maxon motor UK office spoke with Philip Norman at Ross Robotics, who has created greater flexibility with his modular robots via innovative use of hub drives.
Ross Robotics specialises in remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) that are modular. The robots are designed to be made from generic parts to build robots small, medium and large. Tools and sensors are modular too and can be plugged on to suit the application. One robot can then perform different functions, which is highly unusual in the robotic world.
An unusual advantage
The latest modules offer greater flexibility than previously by using hub drives. Hub drives consist of motors and electronics inside a wheel case. These are stand-alone units, one of the advantages being that little maintenance is required. The speed and torque of the ROV can be changed quickly by swapping to a different hub drive. ‘The idea is to hide the complexity from the end-user to provide a range of performance options’ said Philip Norman, Research and Development Director of Ross, ‘If you want a police force robot to travel at 25 kmh or a bomb disposal unit to travel at 1 kmh, the hub drive will look the same from the outside but will be calibrated to perform to a specific task.’
Philip’s team are now using the maxon EC flat motor series with accompanying maxon gearboxes in each hub. Philip explained that initially they were using an alternative gearbox combined with a maxon motor. ‘We thought we needed a customised gearbox. This was expensive and we found they were prone to failure. We then tried an off-the-shelf maxon motor and maxon gearbox and it worked perfectly.’
The modular ROV’s have huge potential from mine inspection in South America to perimeter fence patrolling in Scandinavia. In agriculture, they can be used inside chicken farms. The robots are used to check the welfare of the birds. By using autonomous or remote-controlled navigation, onboard modular sensors can monitor the air quality, as well as the chicken distribution. Chicken aggression can be a big problem. Because robots are not imprinted as predators (unlike the human stockman) they can modify the behaviour of the birds by interacting with them, like ‘super hens’, allowing smaller birds to get to the feeders and drinkers. This is hugely beneficial for the birds’ welfare and results in improved commercial outcomes for the farmer.
The nuclear industry is using robots to explore areas hostile to humans. The robots can endure rough terrain and deploy modular sensors, LIDARs, cameras and Geiger counters to determine the quality of the environment. When equipped with suitable tool modules they also perform useful decommissioning tasks.
Ross Robotics offers a range of hub motors, depending upon customer requirements. They promise quality and reliability. ‘Our biggest worry is failure. No-one wants a call at 2 am from a customer in Australia to say that your robot has failed, and it’s affecting business’, says Philip. ‘This is why we use maxon products. maxon has a great reputation globally, we only have to say that the Hub has maxon motors and gearboxes in it and customers are reassured. If we want to deliver a quality product, the quality of our suppliers is paramount.’
Please contact Karen Whittaker, Marketing Manager maxon UK and Ireland, for more information.
maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
Left to right: maxon EC flat motor with gearbox; hub drive from Ross Robotics; and hub drive.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are most often used in industrial applications to transport heavy materials around warehouses or factories. It is critical AGVs don’t fail. The choice of motorisation is key.
If you’re thinking about motorising an AGV we have five fundamental points to bear in mind and introduce maxon’s IDX drive.
- Choose compact motorisation
Compactness is an important factor in warehouses both in the machinery used and the storage solutions themselves. Customer demands have increased and 24-hour delivery is becoming the norm. As things stand, warehouses can no longer afford to be far from major delivery areas. The price per m2 on the outskirts of a town is not the same as it is in the middle of the countryside, so logistics firms are opting for high-rack storage solutions. This means they need ergonomic robots that can move vertically and reach required heights. However, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have a compact AGV if the motor is bulky, therefore it is essential to choose compact motorisation. Drives must also be able to fit into restricted spaces, as they are sometimes integrated into existing trucks. A small footprint is a major issue for applications in logistics.
- Focus on true plug-and-play solutions
Essentially, robots were designed to help humans, and motorising an AGV is no exception. maxon’s IDX compact drives have all possible connectivity options as standard and are adjustable to suit individual needs. When you plug the IDX drive in, it works immediately, because they are delivered pre-programmed – a true plug-and-play solution.
When you place an order for an IDX motor, you define all the parameters you need through our online configurator. How the product communicates, what cables are needed, the electronics you choose, the motor power, whether or not you want a brake, etc. You can program everything online in just a few clicks. That way, the motor is configured to suit you and is delivered ready to use.
Motors with integrated electronics can be managed remotely because they are connected. The communication buses used can communicate both with the EtherCAT and CANopen systems, and in the future with IoT networks, too. Robots can therefore be programmed by computer and controlled remotely, which makes maintenance much simpler. This means you can work at one time on your entire fleet of AGVs, to run diagnostics or carry out an update, for example.
- Prioritise safety
AGVs operate in close proximity to operators, staff and other AGVs. It is therefore necessary to maintain safe human/ machine interaction, encompassing all of the safety measures. Robots have movement and optical sensors allowing them to detect the presence of humans and avoid any risk of collision. This safety-oriented approach applies also to motorisation. To avoid any danger from overheating, for instance, IDX drives have two integrated temperature sensors, one inside the motor and the other within the electronics. If there is a problem, the motor is secured immediately, without waiting until the whole envelope has overheated. Most motors on the market lack this responsiveness because they have sensors only for the electronics. The motorisation of AGVs can be a technical challenge. To meet customer needs, maxon has designed an exceptionally compact motor, with performance 25% better than its competitors, while keeping pricing competitive.
- Base the design on modularity
Not all AGVs do the same job. Some will carry loads of 1 tonne or more, while others will lift loads of around 100kg; some will travel in a straight line, while others will have an integrated steering function.
Motorisation requirements vary with each application, and that is why it’s essential to have a modular solution as a base. It’s imperative to choose the type of motor, power rating, electronics, connectivity, type of communication, the protection rating of the motor, and whether or not a brake or an encoder is required.
All these parameters can be easily configured online. Maxon’s innovative configuration tool is unique in the market; customers benefit from highly organised production that can develop a drive solution to match requirements in just 19 days.
- Opt for fast delivery
Today, responsiveness is fundamental and expected as standard. maxon is well aware of the challenges in the AGV sector and guarantees delivery of IDX solutions in 19 days.
Irrespective of how you use your AGV, with maxon’s capabilities and tooling, you can be sure you will have the right motorisation. Find out more about maxon’s IDX compact drive.
maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
New products are revealed by maxon at the 30th SPS Exhibition in Nuremburg, from November 26 – 28, 2019. Visit maxon in hall 1, booth 224.
Maxon are excited to reveal a new development by way of a powerful, modular compact drive made especially for applications in industrial and logistics automation. Introducing the IDX drive. It combines a formidable, brushless EC-i motor and an EPOS4 positioning controller, which can be complemented with a maxon planetary gearhead where required. This drive stands out for its high efficiency, maintenance-free components, and a high-quality industrial housing with IP65 protection. It also has configurable digital and analog inputs and outputs. Intuitive software enables easy commissioning and integration in master systems. The new IDX drive will be formally released at a special ceremony at the maxon booth – be there at 4pm on Wednesday, November 27th to be a part of the official unveiling.
Also showcased is the new EPOS4 DC motor controller, now available in a Micro version. As the name suggests, the benefits of these motion controllers are their small size and attractive pricing. This makes the maxon EPOS4 Micro 24/5 particularly interesting for robotics applications where space is at a premium, as well as cost-sensitive multi-axis applications. At the maxon booth you can get a detailed look at the small motion controllers.
Across all three days, maxon experts will stand ready to talk about innovative aerospace and medical applications, share their expertise, and discuss potential solutions.
In addition maxon will have a special guest, Biorobotics expert Kamilo Melo, who will be showing the robotic snake he developed. With 16 maxon DC motors and a specific software, it moves just like one of its natural counterparts. Come along and see the snake at the maxon booth!
Please contact the maxon media office for more information firstname.lastname@example.org.
maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
maxon have modified their EC90 flat DC motor.
The EC90 flat (pancake) 400W DC motor has been upgraded to allow a continuous current of 14.9 A. The re-design of the connector to a mega-fit version is suitable for up to 23 A current and the cable cross-section changes from AWG 16 to AWG 14. The open rotor supports cooling during operation, which allows for greater continuous torques.
The flat design of the brushless EC flat motors makes them the perfect solution for many applications, particularly those requiring high torque and control electronics. The considered, simple design makes it possible to largely automate the manufacturing and this is reflected in the DC motors economical price.
maxons brushless EC90 pancake motors range from 9.2mm to 90mm, 0.2 to 90w. For further information please contact maxon Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.