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Animatics buys UK’s Harmonic Linear Drive

14 December, 2007

The Californian integrated motors specialist Animatics has bought the UK-based company Harmonic Linear Drive for an undisclosed sum. HLD has developed a linear belt actuator that circulates the belt in an unusual way, resulting in a gearing reduction of up to 40:1 without a gearhead. This reduction is achieved without introducing backlash and is resistant to back-drive, eliminating the need for a brake in most vertical applications.

"When we discovered the HLD technology, we had to buy the company" says Animatics’ chief executive, Robert Bigler. "It delivers ballscrew performance at a belt drive price, and with no practical length constraint. The HLD belongs with the SmartMotor [the brand name for Animatic’s integrated servo motors]."

Until now, the HLD system (shown above) has been sold only in the UK. The acquisition will make the technology available globally, via Animatics’ operations in Europe, Asia and the US. Patents have been applied for to protect the technology in 31 countries.

Animatics will be selling the HLD systems combined with its brushless DC SmartMotors via its OEM Dynamics subsidiary. The combination results in a linear actuator without the cost and failure modes associated with separate controllers, amplifiers, gearheads and brakes, and their cabling.

"The elimination of so many components and their costs makes the HLD a natural extension to the SmartMotor," says Animatics’ president, Jim Hawkins.

As well as costing less – especially compared to ballscrews more than 800mm long - Animatics claims that the actuators are smaller, faster and more reliable than traditional alternatives.

The HLD actuators are manufactured in various grades, ranging from low-cost rollers to dual-profile rails for maximum moment loading. They can be several metres long and can achieve speeds of up to 650mm/s and thrusts of up to 400N. Accuracy is claimed to be ±0.05mm.

The motion controller built into the SmartMotors allows several HLD actuators to be daisy-chained to create multi-axis CNC or pick-and-place systems without much extra hardware.

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