August 27, 2019 Volume 15 Issue 32

Motion Control News & Products

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New Cobot Welder is programmable with smartphone app

The new Cobot Welder from Hirebotics is a major leap forward in easy-to-use welding automation that combines industrial-grade robot welding functionality with consumer-level ease-of-use and a phenomenal price point -- especially for small and medium-size businesses. The Cobot Welder's app programmability decreases the time required to teach a new part by 60%. A Hirebotics/Universal Robots launch event will be held April 28.
Read the full article.


Improved low-backlash Slip-Ease clutches

SDP/SI offers a new, low-backlash variant of its existing line of multi-plate in-line slip clutches. Both versions feature an all-mechanical design, which makes them considerably cheaper than electromechanical alternatives. These clutches are commonly used for overload protection to prevent injury and machine failure, but have a wide variety of other applications such as tension control and positioning retention hinges like the ones in reclining chairs. The slip plates are layered with friction pads in between, and an adjusting nut sets the slip torque by squeezing the plates together. The outer plates are tabbed to fit into the output housing and the inner plates are connected to the input hub, so the two ends disengage from one another upon slipping.
View the video.


Pre-Compensated Valve Platform for mobile machines

The Pre-Compensated Valve Platform from Bosch Rexroth makes it easier for mobile machine builders to selectively combine a range of hydraulic control valves into a single, integrated, multifunctional control solution -- with minimal need for adapter plates or custom fittings. All the valves in the platform support pre-compensated load-sensing capabilities that ensure the proper hydraulic flow is delivered to each function. The incorporated load-sensing capabilities improve efficiency, can help reduce hydraulic cooling system size and costs, and potentially lower engine horsepower requirements.
Learn more.


Modular and flexible multi-axis system from Festo

Festo offers a new, flexible mechanical system that consists of electric linear axes ELGC and the electric mini slide EGSC. The components can be used as individual axes or they can be combined quickly and easily to form multi-axis systems. The new system also meets the requirements for compact design and maximum modularity for a broad range of applications in electronics manufacturing and small part assembly such as manifold assembly, bonding processes, and pick-and-place applications.
Watch the new Festo system being used to make batteries.


Optics & thermal imaging -- precise motion required

From scanning buildings for heating and cooling inefficiencies to scanning crowds of people during the pandemic, thermal imaging systems play a critical role in many industries. Thermal cameras rely on many of the same motorized components as standard cameras, since they also require focusing, zooming, aperture adjustments, and quick-moving shutters. Inside these advanced optics systems, micro brush DC motors from FAULHABER make it possible for cameras to capture precise images and temperature readings in a fraction of a second.
Read the full article.


OnRobot launches advanced magnetic gripper for safe and precise cobot applications

OnRobot has launched the MG10, a versatile, high-performance, easy-to-use magnetic gripper for material handling, assembly, and machine tending applications in manufacturing, automotive, and aerospace environments. The gripper is fully compatible with all major robot brands.
Read the full article.


What motor torque constant to use for drive type: Theory and application

Calculating motor torque from available drive current can be confusing due to many different drive types and the multiple ways current is specified. This informative online paper from Celera Motion provides the key formulas for torque constant and motor current from the fundamental principles of three-phase motor theory. It also walks through the many ways torque can be calculated. This information applies to a brushless motor (BLAC or permanent magnet synchronous machines) configuration.
Read the full article.


Easy-integration compact Z-Theta motion platform

The easily integrated Z-Theta motion platform from Haydon Kerk Pittman offers linear and rotary point-to-point motion in a compact footprint. This modular, "bolt-in" package features the patented ScrewRail linear actuator, which combines guidance and linear transmission in a slender co-axial profile. The unique dual-motion integration with a pair of stepper motors adds rotary (theta) motion that reduces motion system size by 50% to 80% and provides as much as a 60% overall cost reduction when compared to traditional design approaches. This setup can be customized with a variety of lead screw resolutions, free-wheeling and anti-backlash nuts, stepper motor options, and optical encoder line counts.
Learn more.


Good beer. Zero packaging accidents.

The Danish division of Carlsberg, one of the leading brewery groups in the world, has significantly improved staff safety and taken steps toward achieving zero accidents since integrating Universal Robots cobots into its Fredericia-based factory. The company invested in two cobots, the space-friendly UR3 and the powerful UR10, to tackle carrying packaging cartons from the pallet to the magazine -- a monotonous and strenuous task that often left staff with repetitive strain or severe cuts. Working in tandem, the cobots can handle up to 500 packaging cartons per hour. Now the company has purchased four additional cobots to further automate its production lines.
Read the full article.


Precise motion for optics and thermal imaging

From scanning buildings for heating and cooling "leaks," to scanning people at the airport for possible fever, thermal imaging systems play a critical role in many industries. Thermal cameras rely on many of the same motorized components as standard cameras: they require focusing, zooming, aperture adjustments, and quick-moving shutters. Inside these advanced optics systems, micro brush DC motors from FAULHABER help cameras capture precise images and temperature readings in a fraction of a second.
Read the full article.


SureStep stepper motor linear actuators

Automation-Direct has added stepper motor linear actuators to its SureStep line of stepper motion control products. These linear actuators are NEMA 17 or 23 frame stepper motors with a stainless steel lead-screw extension of the rotor. In conjunction with the provided screw nut, these units translate motor torque into linear thrust. They can provide up to 193 lb of thrust, or speeds up to 18 in./sec. Eight standard leads (travel per rev) are offered, with screw lengths of 6, 9, or 12 in. They start at under 100 bucks.
Learn more.


Mini actuator with built-in servo drive

The FHA-C Mini Series of extremely compact actuators from Harmonic Drive delivers high torque with exceptional accuracy and repeatability. An integrated servo drive version utilizing CANopen communication is now available. This product eliminates the need for an external drive and greatly improves wiring while retaining high-positional accuracy and torsional stiffness in a compact housing. Dual absolute encoders included. This new mini actuator is ideal for use in robotics.
Learn more.


Mechatronic solution packages from Bosch Rexroth

The Smart Function Kit is a new Smart MechatroniX solution platform from Bosch Rexroth that offers quick and intuitive commissioning and configuration for a range of processes such as joining, pressing, and handling. This modular toolbox consists of an electromechanical cylinder, a force sensor, a motor, a servo drive, and a motion controller, plus a software package that enables easy commissioning and operation as well as comprehensive process analysis. Available soon is a Smart Function Kit for handling tasks and a Smart Flex Effector, which is a compensation module with an active measuring function in six degrees of freedom.
Learn more.


Precision micro stage for high-volume applications

The M3-LS-U2-10 Linear Smart Stage from New Scale Technologies is a direct-drive precision piezoelectric micro stage with embedded controller designed for integration into compact devices. Applications include instruments for DNA sequencing, wearable medical devices, instruments for point-of-care diagnostics, devices for telemedicine, handheld imaging systems, and laser beam steering. The stage has high stiffness with no gears or backlash, low acoustic noise, and no high voltage. It can be powered by batteries or any low-cost DC supply and is suitable for use in near-patient instruments and wearable devices.
Learn more.


Ball rail systems and ball screw assemblies: 20,000 km without relubrication

Good news for mechanical engineers and users: the ball rail systems BSHP and ball screw assemblies BASA from Bosch Rexroth now achieve lubrication intervals that are up to four times longer. In more and more applications, they can even be used maintenance-free over the entire service life of a component. Low-maintenance or maintenance-free linear motion tech minimizes operating costs and protects the environment. Recent tests show the lubrication intervals for BSHP ball rail systems are 2x improved and can cover up to 20,000 km before the first relubrication. BASA ball screw assemblies achieve up to 200 million revolutions with the basic factory lubrication, a 4x improvement.
Learn more.


Gotta work those angles: Stanford study shows how to improve production at wind farms

Four of the turbines on a TransAlta Renewables wind farm in Alberta, Canada, that were used for the wake-steering experiment. The truck in the lower left corner of the photo gives a sense of the wind turbines' size. [Image credit: Calgary Drone Photography]

 

 

 

 

By Vincent Xia, Stanford University

What's good for one is not always best for all.

Solitary wind turbines produce the most power when pointing directly into the wind. But when tightly packed lines of turbines face the wind on wind farms, wakes from upstream generators can interfere with those downstream. Like a speedboat slowed by choppy water from a boat in front, the wake from a wind turbine reduces the output of those behind it.

Pointing turbines slightly away from oncoming wind, called wake-steering, can reduce that interference and improve both the quantity and quality of power from wind farms, and probably lower operating costs, a new Stanford study shows.

"To meet global targets for renewable energy generation, we need to find ways to generate a lot more energy from existing wind farms," said John Dabiri, professor of civil and environmental engineering and of mechanical engineering and senior author of the paper. "The traditional focus has been on the performance of individual turbines in a wind farm, but we need to instead start thinking about the farm as a whole, and not just as the sum of its parts."

Turbine wakes can reduce the efficiency of downwind generators by more than 40 percent. Previously, researchers have used computer simulations to show that misaligning turbines from the prevailing winds could raise production of downstream turbines. However, showing this on a real wind farm has been hindered by challenges in finding a wind farm willing to halt normal operations for an experiment and in calculating best angles for the turbine -- until now.

First, the Stanford group developed a faster way to calculate the optimal misalignment angles for turbines, which they described in a study published July 1 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Then, they tested their calculations on a wind farm in Alberta, Canada, in collaboration with operator TransAlta Renewables. The overall power output of the farm increased by up to 47 percent in low wind speeds, depending on the angle of the turbines, and by 7 to 13 percent in average wind speeds. Wake steering also reduced the ebbs and flows of power that are normally a challenge with wind power.

"Through wake steering, the front turbine produced less power, as we expected," said mechanical engineering PhD student Michael Howland, lead author on the study. "But we found that because of decreased wake effects, the downstream turbines generated significantly more power."

Variability
Variable output by wind farms makes managing the grid more difficult in two important ways.

One is the need for back-up power supplies, like natural gas-fired power plants and large, expensive batteries. In the new study, the power improvement at low wind speeds was particularly high because turbines typically stop spinning below a minimum speed, cutting production entirely and forcing grid managers to rely on back-up power. In slow winds, wake-steering reduced the amount of time that speeds dropped below this minimum, the researchers found. Notably, the biggest gains were at night, when wind energy is typically most valuable as a complement to solar power.

The other is the need to match exactly the amount of electricity supplied and used in a region every moment to keep the grid reliable. Air turbulence from wakes can make wind farm production erratic minute by minute -- a time period too short to fire up a gas generator. This makes matching supply and demand more challenging for system operators in the very short term. They have tools to do so, but the tools can be expensive. In the study, wake steering reduced the very short-term variability of power production by up to 72 percent.

Additionally, reducing variability can help wind farm owners lower their operating costs. Turbulence in wakes can strain turbine blades and raise repair costs. Although the experiment did not last long enough to prove that wake steering reduces turbine fatigue, the researchers suggested this would happen.

"The first question that a lot of operators ask us is how this will affect the long-term structural health of their turbines," Dabiri said. "We're working on pinpointing the exact effects, but so far we have seen that you can actually decrease mechanical fatigue through wake steering."

Modeling and long-term viability
To calculate the best angles of misalignment for this study, the researchers developed a new model based on historical data from the wind farm.

"Designing wind farms is typically a very data and computationally intensive task," said Sanjiva Lele, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics, and of mechanical engineering. "Instead, we established simplified mathematical representations that not only worked but also reduced the computational load by at least two orders of magnitude."

This faster computation could help wind farm operators use wake steering widely.

"Our model is essentially plug-and-play because it can use the site-specific data on wind farm performance," Howland said. "Different farm locations will be able to use the model and continuously adjust their turbine angles based on wind conditions."

Although the researchers were unable to measure a change in annual power production because of the limited 10-day duration of this field test, the next step, said Dabiri, is to run field tests for an entire year.

"If we can get to the point where we can deploy this strategy on a large scale for long periods of time, we can potentially optimize aerodynamics, power production, and even land use for wind farms everywhere," said Dabiri.

Dabiri is also a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy and a member of Stanford Bio-X. Lele is also a member of Stanford Bio-X.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, a Stanford Graduate Fellowship, and Stanford's TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy. Field tests were conducted in collaboration with TransAlta Corp.

Published August 2019

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