Q&a

Electric Actuators with Integrated Control Technology Provide Seamless Installation

Feb. 16, 2023
The Ewellix SmartX platform eliminates the need for a separate controller, easing installation of electric actuators in various applications.

Ewellix has developed the SmartX digital platform which integrates control technology directly into linear motion devices. Doing so not only helps to provide improved control of the device but also simplified installation for OEMs.

Power & Motion spoke with Kirk Martin, Sector Sales Director Mobile Machinery at Ewellix to learn more about the SmartX platform and the benefits it can provide in various applications.

*Editor's Note: Questions and responses have been edited for clarity.

Power & Motion (P&M): Could you provide an overview of the SmartX digital platform – what it entails and how it works or can be applied to linear motion devices?

Kirk Martin (KM): The Ewellix SmartX platform is a CANbus control package with absolute position control, and that's integrated into our CAHB electric actuator product line which has a push force of about 2,500 lbs. What's nice about this is the machine designer can use this platform to control the electric actuator without having to have a separate controller in their system. Typically, you need some type of control mechanism to help drive [and control] the actuator. This integrated control system takes care of that for you; thus, you can simplify your overall machine and not [need] to have a separate controller module.

[The platform also] includes multiple functions, such as parallel mode, soft starts, soft stop, force profiles, and a few others. Those are the main [benefits] that really help designers apply and install linear actuators into their systems.

P&M: What prompted the company to develop SmartX, and what benefits will it bring to the industry?

KM: We saw demand [for it]. Customers are installing more and more electric actuators and having to control them [and creation of] more complex systems, we really saw demand for an integrated package with absolute position control. In fact, that’s a major difference for ours. Absolute position control really allows you to get good position feedback for your system. So, we think we met that demand with this SmartX platform.

Also, we expanded upon that absolute position control with some of the other key features I mentioned previously such as parallel mode and soft starts. You can do some onboard monitoring of your conditions [as well].

P&M: Do you have any examples you could share demonstrating how the technology has been utilized in a heavy-duty mobile equipment or other application?

KM: Main applications so far have been in steering functions for slab scissor lifts. [In that application] they're using SmartX to communicate with the main machine control. Also, there's some built in safety functionality for a steering function. Some other [applications] where people have used it so far are passenger stairs for the airport market. We also have some small dump trucks in the municipal equipment market, street sweepers and various applications in the in the on-road equipment, work truck space.

P&M: Are you able to go into a little more detail about how the SmartX platform is being used in some of these applications?

KM: For the scissor lift, it was predominantly a steering function. The customer wanted to have electronic smart steering functionality instead of a hydraulic system. They eliminated an entire hydraulic system and utilized an electric smart steering actuator with the built-in controller and that allowed them to eliminate the separate controller they had for their traditional steering function. There are some built-in SIL (safety integrity level) safety protocols in the actuator so that helped them apply it for steering where obviously safety is very important.

On the passenger stairs, that was [an instance] where they wanted to use [SmartX] to stabilize [the stairs]. It engages with the ground and allows stabilization of the system while passengers are going up and down the stairs [used] for the airport market.

On the dump trucks, they [the customer] use the actuator in parallel; they needed the parallel function of the SmartX to lift and lower the dump bed of a small dump truck [deployed] in Europe.

READ MORE: Comparing Electric and Fluid-Power Actuators

P&M: What, if any, challenges are associated with integrating or even just developing smart devices like those part of the SmartX platform, and how can those challenges be overcome?

KM: Some of the biggest challenges in the mobile market is, as electrification develops and becomes more prevalent, what voltage does the actuator need to be able to accommodate? So, what are the machine voltages? That's all over the gamut today. There's anywhere from 12V to 800V systems out there [and] the challenge is trying to accommodate a SmartX platform into all these different voltage ranges. We're still coming up with ways to do that.

For an OEM, the SmartX platform offers [fewer] challenges because it really is a seamless integration process as there is no separate controller; it eliminates components and wiring from the machine, thus simplifying the whole design.

P&M: Is that something you’re seeing more, OEMs wanting to simplify their designs?

KM: Yes, absolutely. People want to have less components in the machine. Plug and play [solutions], smart capabilities are very prevalent. They [OEMs] like that plug-and-play, easy-to-use application and installation in their machine.

P&M: How do you see the use and integration of smart technologies like SmartX progressing in the coming years?

KM: We definitely have plans to expand it beyond our standard CAHB product that we have it in today and into our larger actuators [with] up to 15 tons of push force. We want to be able to have this functionality and the SmartX platform across the gamut for all of our product ranges.

That's the challenge we're taking on now. As we talked a little about previously, accommodating the different voltages…is a tough challenge right now [and decide] which voltages and what kilowatt range motors we need to accommodate.

P&M: Is Ewellix working closely with OEMs or other industry partners to help overcome those challenges?

KM: Predominantly we're working with several different OEMs on the mobile machine platform and really relied on them. Obviously, they design and develop what voltage they want for their machines and then we try to help them come up with an actuator for that particular application.

As we develop this database [of customer applications] and see where the market is heading, we'll be able to better design and plan for our SmartX platform and all of our load ranges.        

The SmartX platform will be among the products Ewellix exhibits at IFPE 2023. Visit our IFPE channel for more on this and other content related to the year's largest event for fluid power, motion control and power transmission technologies. 

About the Author

Sara Jensen | Technical Editor, Power & Motion

Sara Jensen is technical editor of Power & Motion, directing expanded coverage into the modern fluid power space, as well as mechatronic and smart technologies. She has over 15 years of publishing experience. Prior to Power & Motion she spent 11 years with a trade publication for engineers of heavy-duty equipment, the last 3 of which were as the editor and brand lead. Over the course of her time in the B2B industry, Sara has gained an extensive knowledge of various heavy-duty equipment industries — including construction, agriculture, mining and on-road trucks —along with the systems and market trends which impact them such as fluid power and electronic motion control technologies. 

You can follow Sara and Power & Motion via the following social media handles:

X (formerly Twitter): @TechnlgyEditor and @PowerMotionTech

LinkedIn: @SaraJensen and @Power&Motion

Facebook: @PowerMotionTech

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