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Gear-free actuators cut lubricants and costs, and save space

10 June, 2021

A Canadian firm has developed a series of direct-drive actuators that eliminate the need for gears and belts, thus simplifying drivetrains, reducing the need for maintenance and minimising the risk of lubricant leaks, while improving performance and cutting costs. Genesis Robotics & Motion Technologies’ LiveDrive LDD 1800 actuators are aimed at applications in robots and other machinery, particularly in the food, packaging, pharmaceuticals, and electronics industries where possible contamination by lubricants has to be avoided.

The high torque-density actuators, based on a brushless, permanent magnet, three-phase synchronous motors, are less than half the length of a typical servo-gearhead drivetrain, making better use of space in machines and on factory floors. Their IP67-protected enclosures have smooth surfaces and can handle washdown procedures.

The direct-drive technology eliminates backlash and improves system stiffness. Coupled with a high torque-to-weight ratio, it will allow robot and machine designers to improve performance in dynamic applications. The actuators have built-in holding brakes.

Avoiding the need for a gearbox removes the risk of oil leakages or contamination. Genesis says it will also reduce downtime, and the need for inspection and maintenance.

The LiveDrive actuators will be available in a variety of configurations and performance options. Standard models will come in four sizes and various operating voltage and torque ratings, and support integration with third-party servodrives. A 177mm-diameter, 124mm-long version weighing 11.5kg can deliver a peak torque of 100Nm (26Nm continuous). Models with peak ratings up to 210Nm (52Nm continuous) are planned for later this year.

There are four feedback options using absolute encoders that support the Hiperface, Hiperface DSL, Endat 2.2 and BiSS-C protocols. With Hiperface DSL, single-cable connections are possible.

The actuators’ low inertia and fast stopping times makes it easier for to comply with the Collaborative Robot Technical Specification ISO/TS 15066 which covers control system safety, making human-machine collaboration possible.

With no gears, belts or lubrication, the LiveDrive actuators are designed to simplify drivetrains, boost performance and cut costs

“We are thrilled to launch this leading-edge actuation technology, making it available to manufacturers and system integrators globally,” says Genesis’ CEO, Chris Di Lello. “A simpler drivetrain empowers a better robot: faster to assemble, and easier to maintain. This creates value for our customers and end users and represents a true breakthrough for the robotics and automation industries.”

One of the first users of the LiveDrive actuators is the Swiss robot-maker Wyzo – a subsidiary of the packaging specialist Demaurex – which has used them in a new delta robot with the safety capabilities of a collaborative robot (cobot). Wyzo describes its Sidebot as “a new class of robot that combines the speed of a delta robot with the safety of a cobot”.

Demaurex’ general manager, Frank Souyris, says that the Sidebot robots would not exist without the LiveDrive actuators: “We’ve been searching for a solution for over a decade and LiveDrive is the missing link for our products. This technology is a game-changer that makes a significant difference in our work and allows us to achieve a high level of performance and safety.”

Genesis was founded in 2014 and in 2017 showed an early version of its technology at the Hannover Fair. In 2018, US-based Koch Industries took a controlling interest in the business.

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