Is the defence industry the most demanding for motors?

Jon Lawson

From common household appliances like electric toothbrushes and fans, to larger applications in locomotives and industrial plants, motors are ubiquitous. Some of the smallest motors can be found in the defence industry, where precision, efficiency, reliability and compactness are essential. Here, Stewart Goulding, managing director of precision drive system supplier EMS, explains why small precision motors are so important in the defence industry.

The UK is the third largest buyer of defence equipment in the world and in 2017, UK defence exports were worth £9 billion to the economy.
Defence is a demanding sector. The industry needs equipment that is precise, long-lasting and capable of operating in the most extreme environments. Some of the more specialised equipment used by military personnel include devices such as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), optical reconnaissance equipment and battery-powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs).
ROVs are primarily used for bomb disposal and feature robotic arms designed to handle the suspected bomb. This process requires immense dexterity and precision to allow the operator to delicately manoeuvre the ROV, pick up the package and carry out the bomb disposal. To achieve this, each axis of the robotic arm is fitted with compact and precise motors.
Using motors with a high power-to-weight ratio also helps keep the weight of the ROV down, allowing it to traverse tough terrain while improving operational-time by reducing the load on the onboard battery.
Optical systems are used by military personnel to carry out reconnaissance that helps them gather potentially life-saving intelligence. Here, the optical system depends on compact and precise motors to deliver the zoom, focus and pan and tilt functionality required to gather high quality images and video.
Breathing apparatus such as PAPRS is used in environments affected by life-threatening chemical attacks or outbreaks of disease where it is not safe to breathe the air naturally. Powered by a motor, the fan filters dangerous gases and bacteria out of the environment and forces clean air back into the mask.
In these applications, it is vital that the motor is highly reliable and efficient. If the motor is faulty and stops working, it could result in potentially life-threatening consequences for the person wearing the apparatus. A motor with a high power-to-weight ratio also ensures that the equipment is wearable and light.
While these examples describe a limited number of defence scenarios, they illustrate the need for small, powerful, precise, reliable and efficient motors. However, it can be difficult to find a motor that possesses all these features. In critical operations, there is limited room for error, so choosing a motor that can deliver these requirements is imperative.
For example, EMS is the sole supplier of high-quality precision micro-drive systems from Faulhaber to the UK. The high power-to-weight ratio, reliability and incredibly small size of thse precision motors makes them ideal for the defence industry. In particular, DC, Brushless DC and stepper motors can be used in ROVs, optical systems and breathing apparatus.
To ensure optimal performance and safety, it’s vital that original equipment manufacturers in the defence sector use high precision, reliable and efficient motors. 


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