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Critical to the operation of the roof over Wimbledon’s Centre Court is the accurate positioning provided by linear encoders from SICK for each of the 10 77m long, 100-tonne roof trusses.

Engineered, manufactured and assembled by specialist hoist and crane designers Street Crane Xpress for the All England Lawn Tennis Club and its main contractor Galliford Try, the roof trusses run on 80m tracks either side of the court roof.

Each truss has a SICK KH53 encoder read head mounted at either end, which monitors the truss position and progress across the roof from the KH53’s magnetic measurement scale alongside the running track.

They are moved by electric motors on either end of each truss, powered from a bus bar system running the length of the track.

In addition, to the linear encoders, SICK supplied SRM50 Hiperface absolute rotary encoders to monitor the rotational positioning of each motor.

The motors move the 10 trusses across the roof by combining wheel-driven motion along the track with ballscrew actuated opening of the roof panels via restraint and end arms.

Dan Salthouse, project manager for Street Crane Xpress, who oversaw the trialling and installation of the mechanical and control systems, said: ‘The high degree of position accuracy provided by the SICK encoders is essential as each truss has to be driven at the same speed and finish in the same position to avoid crabbing.

‘Any misalignment and the trusses will slew sideways and jam up.

‘For each truss, the linear and rotary encoders at each end provide signals via a Digitronic splitter to a Moog motor controller and two PLCs, a control system developed with Fairfield Control Systems.

‘The PLCs coordinate the motor operation at each end of the truss to maintain perfectly synchronised operation of the truss and the roof opening.

‘In this way, we avoid any undue stress on individual components and reduce the energy load on the motors,’ he added.

In their turn, the 20 PLCs are integrated from a roof control room where, when the referee gives the rain signal, the operative presses the button that starts the roof operation.

There are four positions for the roof trusses: parked, with all 10 locked at the north end of the stand; championships, with five locked at each end of the stand to reduce coverage delays; deployed, totally closed in a time of under 10 minutes; and sunshade, which is designed to shade the Royal Box with a two-minute deployment.

The development of the roof, originally designed by Populous (formerly HOK), took five years, with two years spent on a trial site in Sheffield, building up its operation truss by truss and proving the bespoke control software to ensure the structure could operate without a hitch on Centre Court.

‘The KH53 is highly suited to rugged external operation,’ said Darren Pratt.

‘It operates through the reading of the unique coded spacings of the permanent magnets in the measurement scale, which can be up to 1,700m long.

‘It is unaffected by wet or dirt and is highly reliable; Street Crane Xpress has been using it for years on a number of prestigious projects.

‘The alternative was laser position sensing, but there were potential line of sight, alignment and response time drawbacks,’ he added.

The roof panels are covered with Gore Tenara architectural fabric that, although waterproof, allows some light through to the stadium.

Supplementary direct and indirect lighting will allow prolonged play, although there is no intention of holding specific night-time matches.

A very high power air handling and dehumidifying system maintains the atmospheric conditions suitable for play, and avoids condensation under the roof.

SICK (UK) LTD

SICK is a global leader in sensors and sensing systems for factory automation, logistics automation and process control. SICK’s comprehensive product portfolio encompasses sensors, encoders, machinery safety, machine vision and auto-identification in use by customers all over the world. Established for over 70 years, SICK products range from simple optical devices through to embedded intelligent systems, ready to meet the needs of Industry 4.0.

SICK sensors: At the heart of automation

SICK is one of the world’s leaders in sensors and sensing technologies for factory automation, logistics automation and process control.

SICK’s comprehensive product portfolio encompasses sensors, encoders, machinery safety, machine vision and auto-identification. The company also provides process instrumentation for gas and fluid flow and for chemical and pollutant detection.

From simple optical sensors and barcode readers to complex safety systems; from machine vision to emissions monitoring, SICK’s intelligent sensor solutions facilitate advanced automation and process control.

SICK products are designed with simplicity of installation and operation in mind. They help customers to achieve greater reliability and productivity, increased production flexibility and more efficient use of resources.

Founded in Germany more than 70 years ago, SICK employs more than 7,400 employees worldwide. The company invests heavily in research and development and is leading the way in smart sensor development to support Industry 4.0 objectives.

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