Design by Objective: Space-saving designs

Sept. 1, 2010
Minimizing size and weight continues to be a top objective for engineers designing today's sleeker and more energy-efficient systems. Here we present

Minimizing size and weight continues to be a top objective for engineers designing today's sleeker and more energy-efficient systems. Here we present several space-conscious components, and the winning micro devices from Sandia's student MEMS competition.

Micro-sized lead screws reduce power consumption

Kerk Micro Series 2-mm-diameter lead screw assemblies come in leads from 0.3 to 2 mm per revolution and a variety of nut configurations made of self-lubricating acetal and Kerkite high-performance composite polymers. The new lead screw assemblies allow product miniaturization, reduced power consumption, and weight reduction without sacrificing reliability. Lead screws are available both as standalone components and integrated into Haydon linear actuators. Manufactured of 303 stainless steel, lead screws offer long life and zero maintenance. High accuracy threads with superior uniformity deliver precise motion and reduce noise and vibration.

Haydon Kerk Motion Solutions Inc.
(603) 465-7227

Compact grippers long on power density

The 2-Finger-Parallel gripper type JGP and 3-Finger-Centric type JGZ are now available in sizes 200, 240, and 300. All modules are equipped with a powerful pneumatic oval piston drive and achieve high power density. The integrated jaw guidance is a rigid T-slot that ensures precise and failsafe handling. Due to the compact design, the JGP and JGZ are suitable for space-constrained applications. Grippers are easily and reliably controlled with standard inductive proximity or magnetic C-slot switches.

(919) 572-2705

Gearbox features ultra-compact design

The alpha LPBK+ space-saving bevel gearbox is available in both standard and food-grade versions. The new ultra-compact design consists of an LPK+ right-angle gearbox plus a pulley drive. Optimized for linear drives and available with flexible output variants, the LPBK+ can be used in low-duty as well as IP64 food-grade applications. With space savings of more than 40% compared to conventional linear drive solutions, the new gearbox also saves costs. Available ratios include 3, 4, 5, 7, and 10, and sizes 070, 090, and 120.

Wittenstein Inc.
(888) 534-1222

Servo drive packs power

The SimplIQ Trombone servo drive can operate from a very high-voltage power source, without a transformer, using a “direct to mains” connection to a 400 or 750 Vdc power source. With its small 4.3 × 2.95 × 1.2 in. footprint, the pin-based Trombone can be PCB-mounted or integrated within the motor. Two dc bus options are available, 80 to 400 and 200 to 750 Vdc, with a built-in smart supply for controlling the backup capabilities.

Elmo Motion Control Inc.
(603) 821-9979

Chessboard, barbershop take top honors in MEMS competition

The world's littlest chessboard and a pea-sized barbershop were winners in this year's design contest for novel and educational microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), held at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. Winning teams will see their designs built in Sandia's advanced microfabrication facility.

The micro chessboard, created by Texas Tech students, comes with tiny pieces scored with the design of traditional chess figures. Each piece is outfitted with tiny stubs that allow a microrobotic arm to move it from square to square. The microbarbershop, by University of Utah students, is intended to beautify a single hair with use of a microgripper, cutter, moveable mirror, and blow dryer.

The contest, open to members of the Sandia-led MEMS University Alliance program, enables student engineers to hone their skills in designing microdevices. Such devices are used to probe biological cells and arrange and operate components of telecommunications and high-tech machinery. The contest aims to help engineers develop a sense of the maximum and minimum displacement of a micro object, the amount of force needed to move it, and the degrees of freedom (DOF) needed for a part to accomplish its task.

Texas Tech's chessboard measures 435 × 435 µm, while each piece is approximately 50 µm, half the width of a human hair. The design integrates bidirectional linear drives that enable longitudinal movement of pieces, a positioning stage with two DOF, and the smallest known chessboard.

The University of Utah's microbarbershop consists of a microgripper that reaches off the chip to grasp a human hair and holds it in front of a microbuzzsaw to be cut. Both microtools, driven by a ratcheting actuator, can be observed at a video-enabled station and portrayed on a large video monitor as they move and cut one human hair.

Also included are a moveable micromirror, micro hair dryer, and single-hair “teaser” to complete the full service salon and convey a sense of scale for these tiny machines.

The MEMS University Alliance provides discounted classroom teaching materials and licenses for Sandia's special SUMMiT V design tools, which makes it possible for a university without its own fabrication facilities to develop a MEMS curriculum. As part of the contest, Sandia's state-of-the-art fabrication facility creates parts for each team.

The SUMMiT V fabrication process makes MEMS devices with five levels of polysilicon and is suited for making complex mechanisms such as gear drive trains. Fabricated parts are shipped back to students for testing prior to the competition. For more information, visit

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