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Rotork has completed a retrofit upgrade of some of the very first valve actuators to carry the Rotork name. Used in the transonic wind tunnel at the Aircraft Research Association and replaced by intelligent IQ3 actuators, the Model 100A actuators date back to 1953 and gave 60 years of unbroken service on this demanding aerospace application.

The transonic wind tunnel is operated by a 25,000hp AC motor and a 13,000hp DC motor. In addition, a 10,000hp compressor is used to provide extra power to enable testing at high transonic and supersonic speeds up to Mach 1.4 (approximately 1,065mph).

Since it was first commissioned in 1956, it has been in virtually continuous daily operation, testing military and civil aircraft including the TSR2, Harrier jump-jet and Concorde.

Although designed for isolating valves, the Rotork 100A actuators have been performing modulating duties throughout their 60 years of service, constantly altering the position of large gate valves by small degrees to control the level of wind speeds and provide the data that is needed for the highly accurate measurement of test results.

The automation of this process with a bespoke control system incorporating a Modbus control network has necessitated the replacement with IQ3M actuators that a specifically designed for modulating duties.

Benefits of application

  • The first two actuators were removed and the replacement IQ3M actuators installed and commissioned in two days — half the allocated time allowed before the wind tunnel was due to resume operations.
  • Richard Harvey, senior systems engineer, experimental aerodynamics, at the Aircraft Research Association, said: ‘The replacement valve drives needed to be very reliable and have an accurate positional indication as they are vital for the operation of the tunnel and the data we collect. We approached Rotork with our specification and it pointed us in the direction of the IQ3M35 actuator.’
  • Harvey said he was delighted with the vast amount of information and precise control that could be achieved using the Modbus interface card. He added: ‘The installation was a success and the tunnel drivers have reported that the new actuators provide them with much better control. We are now looking towards our next maintenance period where the remaining actuators are due to be replaced.’

Rotork is the world’s leading designer and manufacturer of actuators for isolating, regulating and modulating valve duties, valve control systems, valve gearboxes and accessories, serving the international oil and gas, power generation, water and effluent treatment, processing and environmental industries. Capabilities encompass actuators and control systems for new plants, plant extensions and upgrades. Rotork’s global network of more than 350 offices and representatives provides a localised single source for these products, supported by life-of-plant maintenance, repair and upgrade services.

Rotork Controls

  • Market-leading intelligent electric actuator technologies offer a solution to applications of virtually every description, size and complexity, in any environment

Rotork Fluid Systems

  • Dedicated to the design and manufacture of robust and advanced fluid power valve actuators

Rotork Gears

  • Provides an unrivalled service for valve gearboxes and accessories, completing Rotork’s status as the ‘one-stop shop’ for valve actuation and control equipment

Rotork Site Services

  • Offers expertise for the installation and commissioning of retrofitted valve actuators and control systems for plant upgrades and extensions
  • Services provided also encompass site surveys, actuator audits, maintenance, repair and advice on valve actuation equipment from any manufacturer

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