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High-tech positioning system for material science test facility

21 March 2018

Set up by the Queen Mary University of London, MagMat was developed for the processing and synthesis of materials in strong magnetic fields (SMF).

The project heralds a new era in material science research where magnetic field driven forces are coupled with materials synthesis and processing to produce new materials.

LG Motion was approached by the university in 2014 to develop a positioning system for use within the test chamber at the facility, helping to enable the new technology to test variable experiments for speed, cycles and motion profile. 

Key considerations

The test chamber itself is an environment which requires accuracy under extreme pressures:

• Firstly, there is the magnetic field, which operates at intensities up to 15 Tesla.
• Secondly, the core temperature within the chamber can be as low as -270ºC.
• Finally, the chamber is narrow with a 100mm diameter. The motion control system needed to work accurately across approximately one metre.
• The magnetic field interferes with the operation of controls and motors.

The solution

In an extremely difficult working environment with very limited space for traditional solutions, material and component selection was imperative for reliable motion control under the extreme conditions.

A compact base frame using MiniTec modular aluminium profiles was used to support the positioning system, which consisted of an Arcus stepper motor and control.

Customised software was developed using a VB6 front-end connecting to a PC, which simplifies changes of experiment and enables automated cycles to be set, complete with timed or cycle time variations. This enables the researchers to run many different tests and cycles efficiently throughout the night to maximise research time.

Additional challenges

The completed solution was delivered in 2017 having undergone many design changes over the life-cycle of the project. As the researcher’s technology developed, the system had to be adapted to work.

Dr Salvatore Grasso, Queen Mary University of London, comments; “the LG Motion team was supportive to put into practice our initial idea and we were welcome to sit in their offices to discuss our needs face to face.”

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