Extreme tech for extreme environments

Louise Smyth

Harmonic Drive UK has launched a series of offerings designed to meet the specific challenges faced in a range of extreme sectors on the frontiers of human endeavour. Called Special Environment projects, these will include gearing and actuation products for sectors such as space, aerospace, military and defence, as well as offshore and subsea environments.

The vacuum of space can put any piece of equipment through its paces. To ensure that equipment used in space continues to achieve the highest levels of accuracy and repeatability, while still delivering the necessary reliability, Harmonic Drive's space gears, which are used on satellites and on Mars Rovers, are impregnated with phenolic substances to ensure the lubricant remains in situ under vacuum.
Compact dimensions, low weight and high reliability are crucial requirements for equipment destined for use in the aerospace and defence sectors. Harmonic Drive's Force Feedback Actuator is fitted to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) used by the Royal Air Force and gives the pilot better situational awareness in vertical takeoff, landing, subsonic and supersonic flight.
In military and naval applications, Harmonic Drive's actuation systems are commonly used for levelling and stabilisation, whether that's pan and tilt weapon systems mounted on a vehicle or to provide feedback for the pitch, yaw and azimuth elevations for a seaborne vessel.
"Around 70% of our work falls in areas that we call special projects," explained Graham Mackrell, managing director of Harmonic Drive UK. "These are typically extreme applications where a standard off-the-shelf product simply won't do. Here, customers demand bespoke products or ones where factors such as coatings, lubricants, connectors and motor windings need to be customised to meet their needs. The remaining 30% falls in industrial (robotic) and broadcast applications for camera rigs, where our gears have been used in sporting events such as the World Athletics Championships and major football tournaments."

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