Known for its precision linear guides and self-lubricating bearings and slides, Pacific Bearing tells Design News that its design engineers are working to develop a fully integrated actuator consisting of a linear motor, slide, and encoder. Planned rollout date is September 2003. Calling the new product a "linear slide for the masses," CEO Bob Schroeder says that the company plans to price it at around $2K or less, saying that comparable systems cost on the order of $7 to $8K. Though Schroeder would not reveal exact performance specs of the actuator, he says that its repeatability will be on the order of a couple of microns and that the maximum stroke length will be 1.5m. Force and acceleration will depend on the type of magnets employed, though in order to keep costs down, engineers are likely to employ less expensive magnets, which generate lower forces. However, engineers plan to use a tubular linear motor, a particular motor design that exploits the total available magnetic flux to generate thrust. The thrust block also contains iron to boost the force output. Target markets include packaging and automation, and any high-volume application involving tough or extreme environmental conditions.
A spacecraft on its way to Mars is carrying core structures made with carbon-fiber composites. Launched November 18, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft is the first designed for exploring and understanding the red planet's upper atmosphere.