Sept. 27, 2010 (case study)
Hydrotech Motion Control Engineering Uses AC Motor Technology to Simulate Weightless Conditions for Students
Using motion automation and servo motor control technology, Hydrotech engineers have developed a unique solution for simulating weightless conditions, as part of a new Microgravity Demonstrator “drop tower” designed to highlight space research for science, engineering and mathematics students participating in the Aerospace Education Laboratory (AEL) program.
(Left) The 9 ft. Microgravity Demonstrator unit features a “drop tower” that uses AC servo motors and advanced motion control to simulate a frictionless free fall, allowing students to observe experiments in a “weightless” environment.
Cuyahoga Falls, OH – September 21, 2010 – Hydrotech application engineers recently completed development work on a unique motion automation and control solution that simulates a weightless, or microgravity, environment for experimentation by science, engineering and mathematics students participating in Aerospace Education Laboratory (AEL) college-level programs throughout the U.S. Using a sophisticated belt-driven motion control system powered by Bosch Rexroth AC servo motors, this Hydrotech engineered solution was critical to the design of a Microgravity Demonstrator “drop tower” unit, recently provided to six universities by Paragon Tech.
The Microgravity Demonstrator is a self-contained unit with a motion controlled drop tower that precisely accelerates objects to 32 ft./sec.2, simulating a free-fall, microgravity condition that closely matches the weightlessness experienced when orbiting the earth or traveling in space. Aided by a slow motion video camera system, students can observe five prepared experiments in weightless conditions during brief periods.
The servo-controlled system designed by Hydrotech uses motion automation technology to overcome the negative effects of friction that would naturally occur in a free falling experiment. “It took over four months to design, develop and program the motion profiles needed for simulating a frictionless acceleration and deceleration in free fall,” noted Hydrotech engineer David Sopko. “A nearly instantaneous accel-decel was key to extending weightless conditions for the time duration required to observe the microgravity experiments in an earth-bound classroom setting.”
With the help of Hydrotech’s motion control engineering team, Paragon Tech has built six Microgravity Demonstrators for universities in the AEL program, with two more units on order thus far. “This unit applies motion control engineering and AC servo motor technology that Hydrotech typically provides for advanced industrial automation systems,” stated Sopko. “Who would have thought that our expertise could be used to help educate and excite the next generation of space explorers.”