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The next best thing to reinventing the wheel

The bright sparks at Google have coined a phrase for their particular brand of innovation: they call it Ten-X thinking. In essence, it involves looking at a problem, disregarding all current avenues to coming up with a solution, and doing something completely different; or it involves looking at a current model, thinking about what it might look like not just in the next step, but ten steps ahead, and coming up with solutions for arriving at that future model. Does it work? Well, when you look at what the company has achieved in the 16 or so years since its inception, it's hard to argue against it. The company started out with a new approach to organising the seemingly infinite amount of information on the web, and has continued to innovate ever since.

Sounds great, but we live in the real world of engineering. What does Ten-X thinking mean for us? Well, let's take the example of the electric motor - surely the workhorse of industry. It has its problems, though, and they include size, weight, efficiency and cost of materials. Every year manufacturers come up with design improvements that address these issues, and the results are certainly impressive. But these are incremental design improvements, not Ten-X thinking.

Of course there are alternative motor strategies, but in many ways these are variations on a theme. Again, it's not Ten-X thinking. But suppose you conceived a motor that operated not on the principles of electromagnetic forces, but instead on the principles of electrostatic forces. That is exactly what C-Motive Technologies has done with its C-Machine - an electrostatic motor designed as a full replacement for existing motors and generators. Achieving smooth rotation with minimal noise, and designed to operate at 95% efficiency, the C-Machine produces high torque at low speed, is lightweight, does not require a gearbox, and features an all-aluminium, fully-recyclable construction. There are no copper windings and no expensive, heavy steel electromagnets.

C-Motive says its innovations prove for the first time that electrical charges can be stored in high enough densities to produce practical motion on an industrial scale. The secret rests within the company's patented design and technology, which controls the potentially unwieldy forces and encloses them in compact, lightweight motors and devices. C-Motive says it has solved the charge-storage problem through a multi-disciplinary combination of engineering solutions, yielding a novel and elegant approach. It is built from low-cost stacked aluminium plates that are flexible and adjust themselves automatically, providing a robust and reliable design that minimises maintenance and reduces repair costs.

The company's boast is that the technology not only reduces the energy losses by a factor of three when compared to conventional motors, but also that it produces high torque at a lower cost than any other motor currently available or under development. You can watch a video explanation and demonstration of the technology a

The cliché in design is that you don't want to reinvent the wheel. Ten-X thinking may agree on that one, but when it comes to reinventing rotary motion, there's plenty of potential.
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