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Unlocking the actuation market with piezo-ceramics

Unlocking the actuation market with piezo-ceramics Harlow-based Servocell says it has made a real breakthrough in piezo-ceramic actuation which should see the technology finally achieve its potential. Servocell Chief Executive Simon Powell comments: "We've painfully overcome most of the barriers to using this innovative technology. If you looked at the technology in the 80s and rejected it like so many others, then perhaps now is the time to revisit it." Piezo technology is very simple in principle: apply an electric charge to a piezo crystal and it changes shape; remove the charge and the piezo crystal returns to its original shape. With a suitable chunk of material and a power supply of a few milliwatts, and you have the basis of a low power actuator. When Servocell set up, its aim was to look at new areas of actuation, with piezo technology being one idea to explore. And when the company started getting lots of interest from locks and valves manufacturers, it set out to develop a piezo-based lock mechanism that could be sold as a standard mechanical component. Piezo latching holds the promise of a mechanism that uses a tiny fraction of the power of a solenoid-based alternative. Products of note in the Servocell range include the original AL1 Active Latch, and the the more recent AL2 high integrity module. This takes the AL1's proven actuation technology and uses advanced manufacturing techniques to achieve a device that is fully sealed against the elements. Perhaps of most interest to machine builders, though, with an eye on safety guard locking mechanisms, will be the new AL5 release under load module, which combines low power consumption with the ability to change state under a load. Currently in development, successful trials of the concept are being integrated with the advanced sealing of the AL2 to deliver a robust trigger device that can work in all conditions.

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