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Liverpool University’s engineering school has used stainless steel linear and rotary elements from Hepcomotion to build a purpose-built test rig for a naval research project.

The government-funded project required the university to design an instrument that would measure the ship air wake encountered by a helicopter landing on the rear of a moving model warship.

The research will assist naval architects to design and build ships that are more helicopter friendly.

Much of the purpose-built test rig for the instrument is made from Hepcomotion components.

The company’s standard range of products is corrosion resistant.

This allowed Liverpool University to select a range of stainless steel products from Hepcomotion, including a large ring bearing that did not carry a ’special’ price tag.

They were also readily available because, as standard products, they were not subject to long lead times.

John Curran, project engineer at the university, said: ’It is very time consuming, dangerous and expensive to fly a helicopter and land it on a moving ship.

’And it’s essential to be able to measure the effect of the ship geometry on the helicopter at the design stage,’ he added.

By employing the purpose-designed instrument in tandem with other research being undertaken on site, the university’s design team can input the data into flight simulators.

’A test pilot can then try out our ship modifications in safety and experience the effect of design changes very quickly,’ said Curran.

The products supplied by Hepcomotion for the test rig were a precision ring track (PRT), a heavy-duty (HD) linear slide and beam and a low-profile (Lo-Pro) linear slide.

All were specified as stainless steel units to withstand the ingress of water.

Hepcomotion also supplied its MCS system as the framework.

The designers can alter the attack angle of the model ship and helicopter in relation to the wind direction.

The instrument itself is housed within the scale model of the helicopter and measures the forces exerted on the rotors and body in real time as the model reacts to the varying air wake.

An important element of the supporting rig is that it allows the relative position of the ship and the helicopter to be accurately repeated so that quick and precise measurements can be taken.

Curran continued: ’The main criterion for us was the ready availability of stainless steel products from Hepcomotion.

’Their stiffness was also a factor in our choice as, for measurement accuracy, it is very important that any vibration should be minimised,’ he said.

Designing a unique engineering principle and making it a commercial success is quite an accomplishment.  Developing that concept and embracing complementary technologies to the point where the business becomes a world leader in its field takes that achievement into a different league.  HepcoMotion has achieved both and in 2009 celebrates 40th year of trading.   

Today HepcoMotion is one of the world’s foremost innovators and manufacturers of linear motion technology.  And this can be attributed to the important tenet – continued investment in its people processes and products.  This has allowed the company to grow even at times of economical difficulty.  

Although its range of individual, linear motion products remains an important part of its business the growth area for HepcoMotion in recent years is in specials and assemblies.  Almost one fifth of its shop floor space is devoted to assembly and the company has invested heavily in flexible manufacturing to ensure that even last minute changes can be accommodated to customer specification.  

Constantly re-assessing its strengths against changing market demands continues to provide HepcoMotion with the momentum for business growth.  The culture of ongoing investment has certainly worked well throughout its first 40 years and will continue to underpin its business in the decades to come.

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