Dr Salvatore Grasso, Queen Mary University of London
High-tech positioning system for unique material test facility
Set up by the Queen Mary University of London, MagMat is a unique UK capability 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.
We were 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.
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, interfering with the operation of controls and motors.
- Secondly, the core temperature within the chamber can be as low as -270 ºC.
- Finally, the chamber is narrow with a 100 mm diameter. The motion control system needed to work accurately across approximately one metre.
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.
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.
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, our system had to be adapted to work.
The LG Motion team was supportive to turn our initial idea into reality. I was also welcomed into their offices to discuss our needs face-to-face throughout the project.”
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