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03/11/2021 - 04/11/2021

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Motor sets new benchmark in extreme engineering applications

Motor sets new benchmark in extreme engineering applications
There are no second chances when you're three miles under the sea bed, and the stakes could hardly be higher. So when you're specifying motors for deep drilling, there's a lot resting on the challenging environment in its stride, and working absolutely perfectly, every time.

Deep drilling - or downhole drilling as it's more commonly referred to in the oil and gas exploration industry - permits exploration of oil and gas resources from depths beyond 2,500m. And in conjunction with directional drilling (the dynamic orientation of a borehole), it even allows exploration of previously inaccessible deposits in depths of around 5,000m, with bore lengths of as long as 11,000m. 

None of this would be possible without suitably robust control technology. For example, the drilling head's position and orientation needs to be dynamically measured and adjusted, while in various deep drilling tools there must be reliable operation of hydraulic valves and flaps by electromechanical drives. But the temperature and pressure conditions encountered at these depths, in conjunction with the high levels of vibration inherent in the drilling process, provide a real challenge for electric drives. 

Maxon Motor, however has met this most extreme of challenges with a new motor variant developed specifically to operate in the harsh ambient conditions encountered deep under the Earth's surface. The EC22HD is a heavy duty, electronically commutated motor developed to meet the requirements of deep drilling technology.

Key actuation functions
The motor has been developed and extensively field-tested in conjunction with leading UK oil exploration companies. As well as pump operation, the motors are being used to perform key actuation functions in the borehole, including remote valve operation and crucial pressure testing, giving absolutely no margin for error.

Different variants of the EC22HD have designed for operation in air or submerged in oil, flooded in hydraulic fluid. Their assigned power rating depends on the surrounding medium and averages to 80W in air and, due to remarkably higher heat dissipation, 240W in oil. The motors are designed to cope with ambient temperatures of more than 200°C - with internal components deigned to withstand temperatures of at least 240°C - and atmospheric pressures of up to 1,700bar (25,000psi). Even the optional Hall Sensors available with the motor have been specially designed to operate at a higher temperature range than those usually supplied in the industry, having been tested successfully up to 230°C. 

Further requirements of the 22mm diameter motors are the capability to withstand vibration of up to 25grms as well as impulse and impact of up to 100G, which is 100 times gravitational acceleration. As a parallel, a Formula 1 racing car encounters about 2G, while a fighter jet encounters about 13G. This ability to absorb shock and vibration is crucial in deep drilling, and with the EC22HD these loads can be absorbed across the whole temperature range without damaging the motor.

The motors feature high efficiency (up to 88% in air, and better than 70% in oil) and do meet the needs of battery-operated equipment. With their detent-free running characteristics, they offer outstanding regulation behaviour and are especially suitable for high-precision positioning tasks, even at low speed. 

Maxon senior sales engineer Paul Williams spearheaded the development of the EC22HD. He comments: "We worked with some of the industry's leading names to completely strip down our standard motor, and ensure it's fully equipped to deliver total reliability under some of the most extreme operating conditions this planet has to offer. It is by far the most robust and thoroughly tested motor Maxon has ever produced. Every single parameter claimed has been proven under test conditions (no assumptions or estimations) and it is the first off-the-shelf motor in the world with even close to these specifications." 

In addition to deep drilling, the new motor opens up new possibilities in a number of applications that call for equally high requirements. Suitable for use in full vacuum, it meets the needs of space technology, while the robust specifications meet the needs of power plants, vehicle manufacturing, the aircraft industry, in mining or in applications requiring highly dynamic motion.
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