Special gearheads benefit medical and robotic projects

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maxon motor has produced customised assemblies for every type of gearhead - planetary, spur, worm, spindle. In fact the company has a research and development team solely focussed on producing systems with special gearheads.

Special gearheads benefit medical and robotic projectsCustomers sometimes have very clear ideas about the DC motor and gearhead combination they need but often they look to maxon for find the best customised option. When a customer does not have the time and/or knowledge to design the drive train, maxon can design, manufacture and test assemblies that meet the customer's specifications. The Special Gear Projects team, based at maxon Germany, specialises in creating the best gearhead that fits between the motor and the customer's interface.

The maxon team has a lot of experience in the medical sector as well as industrial applications. Some medical examples are systems for peristaltic pumps, operating robots, injection pumps and surgical tools.

Example 1: Robot-assisted surgery

The Gear Projects team was approached by a customer who had designed a mechanical actuator assembly using standard maxon motor gear combinations for a surgical robot. The actuator was quite complex, with a total of seven motors and gearboxes. The maxon team saw an opportunity to make the system smaller, more reliable and more efficient. maxon's engineers created a concept for a completely new actuator assembly. Not only did this incorporate the most effective standard maxon motors, custom gear trains and worm gears, but the entire actuator assembly was also redesigned. This assembly included six motorised actuator levers that control the fine movements of the robot's medical instruments and a motorised track system that allows forward and backward movement of the medical instruments.

Working together with the maxon sensor and control specialists in Switzerland, a drive train with high accuracy and high signal resolution was designed. The new drive train, which still had to fit within the existing customer design constrains, is half the original size and subsequently much lighter yet also more robust. Altogether it is better for the application and the customer.

Example 2: Robotics/prosthetics

The team has developed a special low-backlash gear motor system (lower than 0.05deg) for smooth motion with high power density. A typical application for this system would be as a prosthetic 'wrist' rotator or various joints for prosthetics, as well as for robotics. This design is especially compact, flat and features a hollow centre shaft so that additional cables or wires can pass through the middle of the assembly. maxon can design a gearhead that has the perfect balance between low backlash and high efficiency for the application.

Example 3: Exoskeleton

The Gear Projects Team recently won the 2018 Automation & Motion Control: Robotics award at the Golden Mousetrap Awards for the development of a superior knee joint for an exoskeleton. The drive system uses a maxon EC 90 flat motor with a planetary gearbox and magnet encoder. By designing the entire joint, not just the motor and gear train, the Specialist Gear Project team can merge the motor and gear train into the overall joint assembly, for minimal size and maximum efficiency and performance. The maxon team is already looking at enhancements for the next generation of knee joint.

If you want to talk to a maxon engineer about your project, telephone +44 (0)1189 733 337 or email (please mention Alternatively use the contact form on the maxon website. maxon finds that customers get the most benefit when they involve maxon at the beginning of a project.

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