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Synchronised actuators can lift loads faster

11 September, 2017

Thomson Industries has developed a way of synchronising up to four heavy-duty electromechanical linear actuators to allow large or awkward loads to be moved repeatedly and evenly. It has built the capability into its Electrak HD actuators, resulting in what, it claims, will be more stable and potentially quicker lifts, the avoidance of additional guides, and improved handling of uneven loads.

“The ability to synchronise movement of large and potentially awkward loads is something our customers have been requesting as they seek to automate larger applications or improve ergonomics,” reports Anders Karlsson, a specialist in linear actuators at Thomson. He adds that the new capability makes it possible “to achieve synchronisation more easily and cost-effectively than is possible with any other available approach.”

Thomson argues that traditional methods for synchronising multiple actuators can be inflexible. Gas springs, for example, are limited in their application, while hydraulic cylinders can be prone to leaks and costly to maintain. While non-integrated electronic systems are more flexible and cleaner, they need external devices such as encoders or potentiometers to track the position of the actuators and to send feedback to a PLC or other logic solver.

The synchronisation of the Electrak actuators is achieved by embedding all of the load-handling technology into one actuator, which is wired in sequence with up to three others. Users can synchronise the actuators  instantly and operate them together via a simple switch. The system detects speed changes that indicate load imbalances, thus eliminating bouncing or other effects of imbalance.

Thomson says that synchronising several actuators can increase operating speeds. A large load that might normally need a single, heavy-load actuator could, for example, be moved faster by combining multiple, lower-load actuators. The ballscrew-based actuators can handle bidirectional loads up to 10kN, with stroke lengths up to 1m, and an accuracy of 1% of stroke from 100­–1,000mm.

Potential applications for the synchronised actuators include:

•  automatic correction of imbalances between front and back-end loads, which can cause stoppages, noise or wear;

•  smoother, safer opening and closing of large doors;

•  ergonomic patient-handling equipment such as lift tables;

•  smooth, responsive control of marine applications, such as rudder assemblies; and

•  structural engineering applications such as automatic loading doors in factories and warehouses.

Synchronising up to four linear actuators can result in more stable and potentially quicker lifting operations, and improved handling of uneven loads, without needing additional guides.

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