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Custom motion system for sampler manipulator

Custom motion system for sampler manipulator Integration of a vertical positioning system for a CT scanner will help in research aimed at helping to mitigate climate change.

A new CT scanner used for geological studies at the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London is the centrepiece of the Qatar Carbonates and Carbon Storage Research Centre (QCCRSC) - a $70 million, ten year programme to improve the understanding and development of the storage of CO2 in carbonate reservoirs.

The QCCSRC is a multi-scale imaging facility that evaluates the characteristics of various core rock samples combined with high temperature and high pressures in specially prepared capsules which can be up to 100kg in weight and 1000mm in length.

The Universal Systems CT Scanner has a horizontal positioning table which is used to present smaller core rock samples into the machine. To accommodate the larger capsules, and remove the effects of load overhang for the precision measurement required, the CT scanner is rotated through 90 degrees and samples are introduced vertically. For this part of the machine Heason Technology supplied a motorised heavy load hoist mechanism and a large fabricated steel gantry which houses a vertical two-stage positioning table.

The complete solution included a motion and machine control system together with relevant safety relays/interlocks for safe operation. The vertical positioning axis control interfaces seamlessly with the existing CT scanner controller via a LabView programmed GUI operator control interface located on the gantry platform as part of the electrical enclosure.

Two-part telescopic vertical stage
The custom-built vertical positioning mechanics form a two-part telescopic vertical stage. A manually adjusted and lockable axis is used for approximate sample positioning aided by the overhead hoist. For final high-precision sample positioning the second axis comprises a servo driven Thomson M75 Movopart linear actuator fitted with a high resolution linear optical encoder. Both axes utilise linear guide bearing support for maximum stiffness and rigidity.

Heason Technology managing director Jon Howard comments: "From a design perspective this was a very challenging and varied application due to the number of elements within the system. And with the space constraints of the laboratory, which is located in one of the older buildings on the campus in central London, the solution need to be extremely compact." The project allowed Heason Technology to demonstrate its diverse set of skills from designing the custom steel gantry framework and actuator to installing and programming the finished system.

Dr Sam Krevor, the principle scientist for the CT scanner project at QCCSRC, worked closely with Heason Technology engineers throughout the design and installation of the gantry system. He says: "Heason Technology took the design brief and was able to competitively manage the complete gantry and high precision positioning system as a single source supplier. This was important as we only needed to deal with one company which made the process easier and faster for us. The design, manufacture and installation work was carried out quickly and efficiently, and the seamless integration with our CT scanner control system has been particularly effective."
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