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Maxon motors are being used to rotate a heavy counterweight in a theatre spotlight to help prevent unwanted oscillation on lightweight structures.

The RSC Lightlock was developed by Vince Herbert, head of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s lighting department, to address the problem of the momentum of heavy, remote-controlled spotlights.

Until now, flexible, lightweight support structures for these lights could not be used, since attempting to stop would set the whole gantry swinging after each motorised movement, sending spotlights all over the stage and ruining the performance.

The only way to use large moving lights was to hang them from heavy-duty mounting infrastructures; this made accessing the lights a lengthy, dangerous and costly process, severely restricting directors’ choices when deciding how to stage a production.

The RSC Lightlock prevents unwanted oscillation on lightweight structures by invoking Newton’s third law of motion – the law of reciprocal actions.

When the light needs to stop moving, a counterweight on an internal disc swings in the opposite direction to its movement, nullifying the momentum.

The heavy counterweight is rotated by a flat, brushless Maxon motor just 90mm in diameter.

‘The EC 90 Flat was selected because the Lightlock requires something small, high performance – and above all – precise,’ said Paul Williams, Maxon senior sales engineer.

‘If the disc is rotated even slightly too little or too much, the whole principle that makes the Lightlock so successful goes out the window,’ he added.

The small motor operates with such speed and exactitude that even with sudden, dramatic movements, the Lightlock can cancel out all unwanted motion in under two seconds.

The RSC Lightlock units will now be incorporated into the refurbished Royal Shakespeare Theatre, scheduled to re-open later this year.

‘The RSC Lightlock allows greater freedom of stage lighting creativity, which could mean we see entirely new slants on old plays,’ said Mervyn Thomas, director of Lightlock, the company that produces the RSC Lightlock.

‘It allows simpler and safer rigging opportunities because the moving light fixture can be now rigged from simple cable suspensions, meaning the crew can maintain and rig the fixture at floor level and simply raise it the desired working position,’ he added.

maxon motor is the world’s leading supplier of high-precision drive systems.

maxon has earned a reputation for constant innovation and unflinching reliability – seeing the company’s products used by the world’s top engineers in fields as demanding as space exploration, formula 1 racing and sub-sea applications.

The maxon product range is developed on a modular basis, giving literally hundreds of thousands of perfectly compatible motor, gear and controller combinations to suit a huge array of applications. With full customisation possible for almost every product, maxon’s experienced sales engineers are on-hand to assist design engineers select precisely the right solution for their needs.

DC motors with ironless winding and flat motors (up to 500W output power, mechanical and electronic commutation).
Planetary, spur and special gears.
Sensors (encoders, DC tachos, resolvers).
Servo amplifiers, position controllers.
High-tech CIM and MIM components.
Customer specific drive solutions.

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