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The University of Ulster has chosen Automation Manufacturing Systems, a Bosch Rexroth sales partner, to supply a mounting frame to support a half-tonne lamp array at a new solar simulator facility.

In its search for a supplier of a suitable frame, the university invited three companies to submit tenders.

Another proposal was for a welded frame fabricated from stainless steel, while one company suggested the use of a heavily modified hydraulic hoist of the type used in garages to raise cars for servicing.

The solution proposed by AMS was a robust frame built from standard aluminium extrusions, coupling products and accessories in the Rexroth mechanical elements range.

The simulator, developed by the University Centre of Sustainable Technologies (CST), will be used to evaluate the performance of photovoltaic (PV) panels, solar water heaters, evacuated glazing and similar products.

In response to a need for dependable and controllable testing, the solar simulator was designed and developed by Dr Mervyn Smyth, Dr Jayanta Mondol and Dr Aggelos Zacharopoulos at the CST.

The selected frame is mounted on castors to allow it to be moved around easily and the necessary vertical motion for the solar simulator itself is provided by two MKK ball-screw linear motion modules, one on each side of the frame.

A small motor is fitted to drive the linear motion modules.

Provision is made to tilt the simulator by means of a simple hand-wheel assembly.

Zacharopoulos said: ‘The most important benefits were undoubtedly the modularity and flexibility provided by the Rexroth system.

‘It’s very easy to make modifications and there is no mess or inconvenience involved.

‘That certainly wouldn’t have been true for a fabricated steel frame, where any but the most trivial modification would have involved welding.

‘With the simulator we can, for example, perform a full experimental characterisation of solar thermal and solar PV products on behalf of manufacturers,’ he added.

AMS said that the weight of the simulator and the height to which it had to be raised meant that a particularly strong and rigid framework was needed.

With the light but strong extrusions from Rexroth, however, this requirement was met.

During manufacture, the flexibility of the extrusion system proved its worth.

After the frame had been built to the original design, it became apparent that an extra safety rail needed to be added at the rear.

The work involved in providing this, which would have taken hours with a fabricated frame, was completed in just 20 minutes.

Zacharopoulos and his team have now placed an order with the company for a second similar frame.

Also built from Rexroth products, this frame will support a 2 x 3m, 190kg glass pane used to filter UV and infrared radiation out of the light produced by the solar simulator.

In the core of the simulator is an array of high-power metal-halide bulbs arranged to produce light of similar intensity and spectrum to the sun.

As a result of the high light output that it must provide, the lamp array is large and heavy – it measures 3.5 x 2.1m and weighs nearly 500kg without cables.

The cables needed to supply power to the bulbs add a further 100kg.

The University of Ulster team commissioned a German supplier to manufacture the simulator itself, but this supplier was unable to offer a mounting frame that would meet the University’s requirements.

In addition to providing dependable and stable support for the costly simulator, these requirements included: mobility, so that the simulator could be positioned wherever it was needed in the laboratory; the ability to tilt the simulator so that it could mimic the effects of sunlight reaching the test object at different angles; and provision for the simulator to be raised to a height of at least 6m to allow the testing of systems mounted at higher elevations, such as evacuated glazing elements.

Bosch Rexroth

Economical, precise, safe, and energy efficient: drive and control technology from Bosch Rexroth moves machines and systems of any size. The company bundles global application experience in the market segments of Mobile Applications, Machinery Applications and Engineering, and Factory Automation to develop innovative components as well as tailored system solutions and services.

Economical, precise, safe, and energy efficient: drive and control technology from Bosch Rexroth moves machines and systems of any size. The company bundles global application experience in the market segments of Mobile Applications, Machinery Applications and Engineering, and Factory Automation to develop innovative components as well as tailored system solutions and services. Bosch Rexroth offers its customers hydraulics, electric drives and controls, gear technology, and linear motion and assembly technology all from one source. With locations in over 80 countries, more than 33,700 associates generated sales revenue of approximately 5.6 billion euros in 2014.

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 360,000 associates worldwide. The company generated sales of 49 billion euros in 2014. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiary and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including its sales and service partners, Bosch is represented in roughly 150 countries. This worldwide development, manufacturing, and sales network is the foundation for further growth. In 2014, Bosch applied for some 4,600 patents worldwide. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to create solutions for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”

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