Designing a Linear Motion System at sea Presents Challenges for Macron Dynamics Engineers

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When Macron Dynamics, a manufacturer of linear actuators and motion systems, was contacted by a major cruise line about designing a motion system aboard two of their cruise ships, Macron's engineers knew they could meet the proposed specifications. Of course, it didn't hurt that the installation would have to take place while the ships were at sea bound for a sunny Pacific destination.

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This project presented a number of challenges

When a major cruise ship line contacted Macron Dynamics, a manufacturer of linear actuators guaranteed for life and custom mechanical motion systems, about designing and installing a telescoping stage aboard two of the ship's night clubs, Macron's engineers were sure they could design a system to meet the specifications. There was, however, a catch; to eliminate downtime, the system had to be installed while the ships were at sea.

The night clubs were to house a dance floor which a telescoping stage would move across, carrying performers and musical equipment. In addition, the dance floor had to remain flat and free from obstructions that could interfere with normal use of the dance floor.

"This project presented a number of challenges," said Joe Baird, Macron's national sales manager. "The logistics were the biggest hurdle our engineers had to overcome. Of course, the added perk of performing the installation while the ship was bound for a sunny Pacific destination didn't hurt the enthusiasm of our engineers."

Even before the installation at sea, Macron was confronted with the challenge of designing the system without ever setting foot aboard the ships.

"Since the ships were continually operating cruises from ports on the west coast, we weren't able to see the night club space firsthand until boarding the first ship to perform the installation," said Baird.

Working with a general contractor who was hired by the cruise line to carry out the electrical installations and necessary on-site construction, Macron began designing a system to perform to the required specifications at their Horsham, PA facility. Although the ships were operating from ports on the west coast, both Macron and the general contractor were located on the east coast. The general contractor was able to board the ships prior to the design process, gather general information, and relay that information to Macron's engineers.

Macron chose to design the motion components of the stage using a modified version of their 14-Z belt driven linear actuator, a telescoping actuator that uses a stationary motor, a continuous loop belt, and is usually called on for high speed vertical motion and medium load applications. The flat belt, which is routed through the actuator's drive system, would allow the system to be installed flush with the dance floor without interfering with the safety of the guests.

Baird said that the idea was to modify the actuator's drive system to accomplish two goals. The first was to eliminate the continuous loop belt system.

"By modifying the actuator to use the timing belt, which has one smooth side and another with teeth, in a pulley-type fashion, the belt could be flush with the dance floor," said Baird.

The second goal was to route the belt through the actuator, which was to be concealed under the stage.

"In order to accomplish this, a special mechanism was designed to be installed under the stage. The mechanism was to lift the belt out of the floor as the stage passed over that section of belt, feed it through the actuator drive system, and then place the belt back into the floor as the stage continued on," said Baird.

With the design complete, Macron began to assemble as many components as possible at their Horsham facility. When the time came to install the system on the telescoping stage, the assembled components and tools necessary to carry out the installation were shipped to the west coast port.

Once aboard the cruise ships, the week-long installation went smoothly.

"Our team had to work during hours when the ship's passengers weren't using the facilities surrounding the night club," said Baird. "The installation itself presented challenges that we were forced to overcome and troubleshoot on the spot."

Grooves had to be fabricated into the dance floor to accommodate and conceal the belt. In addition, to make the system even more transparent, the belt itself was dyed to blend in with the wooden dance floor.

"The entire system had to be transparent to the audience," said Baird. "Our engineers were able to put together a system that met the specifications, handled the weight of the performers on stage, and remained smooth and accurate over the full range of motion."

Baird attributes the success of this project to the experience of Macron's engineers, as well as their attention to details.

"This project definitely took a lot of forward thinking and preparedness," said Baird.

Macron Dynamics offers customizable linear motion products that offer up to 500 feet of travel length, support up to 10,000 pounds, and operate at speeds up to 600 inches per second. For additional information on this project call Macron Dynamics at 1-800-MACRON-1 or visit http://www.macrondynamics.com/video02.htm for a video demonstration. Macron provides a lifetime warranty on belt driven linear actuators Look for the lifetime warranty seal at http://www.macrondynamics.com.

About Macron Dynamics, Inc.

Macron Dynamics is a leader in the design and manufacture of linear motion control products and systems creatively engineered to improve productivity and reduce costs in commercial and industrial applications. Macron's products include modular belt driven linear actuators, linear drives, rail actuators, robotic positioners, gantries, dumbwaiters, screw driven positioning tables, roller conveyors, and extruded aluminum profiles. In addition, Macron specializes in the engineering of custom linear motion systems from basic assemblies to complete robotic automation units.

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