Customisable drives for precision applications

Paul Boughton

Product development costs continue to grow as the demand for more specialised equipment rises in extreme and niche applications where production batch sizes are shrinking. Standard, off-the-shelf products have traditionally served to bring down costs in the high volume sectors but, until now, this has been out of the reach for niche applications where usage characteristics can vary considerably.

Now gearing specialist Harmonic Drive UK has launched SolutionKit, a range of servo actuators designed to be completely customisable for high precision applications.

The new range offers all of the benefits of an off-the-shelf actuation system, without the typical product development drawbacks. SolutionKit caters for the needs of users in specialist applications including military, aerospace, defence, pharmaceuticals and food processing.

In particular, SolutionKit will alleviate the burden on military, aerospace and defence applications, which often demand that components perform in temperatures from -50 to 120˚C in high and low humidity environments. Similarly, the high salinity of marine and offshore applications can cause corrosion on metallic surfaces as well as water ingress, which can lead to drive failure from prolonged submersion.

Designed to overcome these problems, SolutionKit allows users to specify custom gears, motors, encoder feedback systems, output bearings, sensors, windings, protective coatings and ingress protection ratings up to IP68.

"Traditionally, every time a product is re-developed or re-designed to customise it for a given application it needs to undergo revalidation and retesting to ensure it is safe and fit for purpose," explained Graham Mackrell, managing director of Harmonic Drive UK. This means original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) can incur higher costs. It is for this reason we have made SolutionKit; a completely modular system that uses pre-approved components, which have already been tested.

"For example, mains power varies from 240V in public low voltage networks, 300-560V in high voltage industrial networks and 12V, 24V and 48V in vehicle batteries. To provide the required motor torque constant in these varying applications, we need to customise the windings specification to suit.

"In this scenario we used SolutionKit to take our standard AlopexDrive and customise it for military vehicle use in harsh desert environments. Here, protective coatings, ingress protection and vibration resistance, as well as a hollow shaft to allow services to pass through, are vital to the sustainable operation of the entire system."