Electric Automotive Test System Provides an Alternative to Hydraulics

Moog has developed an electric test system that is designed to replace the hydraulic systems presently used by most auto component makers.

Motion control company, Moog, has developed a compact electric multi-axis system that allows auto makers to test components such as seatbelt anchors in a lab setting. Most automotive component makers currently rely on hydraulic systems for testing assemblies. Yet growing concerns about reliability, maintenance, and safety with older hydraulic test systems have led some carmakers to look for alternative test rigs.

Automotive electric test systems, automotive hydraulic test systems, Moog, servo motors

Moog’s engineers designed the electric test system’s actuators to remain stable during use and arranged the harnesses in a way that eliminates interference with the actuators in any position. (Source: Moog)

Moog representatives pointed to some of the specific problems carmakers cite with their hydraulic test systems:

  • Many are large and respond slowly
  • They leak oil and create environmental issues
  • Many of the systems require a complex infrastructure, including a cooling tower

Moog developed an electric system built on recent technology. Prior to advances in servo motors, the hydraulic system was the only choice. “People traditionally did hydraulics because it’s a known technology,” Craig Lukomski, manager for solutions commercialization, simulation, and test, at Moog, told Design News. “Electric test systems have become more prevalent in the last five years. Things have changed in electric. Servo motors offer competitive cost, and the technology has matured in recent years.”

Lukomski noted that the company has created a system that can be installed in less than three days. Lab managers can use the system to reduce maintenance, since the electric servo actuator motors are sealed. That means no need for hydraulic filters or seals that require cleaning and replacement.

Extended Life and Improved Performance

Moog was providing hydraulic test systems for its customers when it developed the electric counterpart. “We had all the necessary building blocks, since we were already working with customers on hydraulics,” said Lukomski. “They wanted to upgrade to extend life of the equipment and improve performance.”

Customers welcomed the electric alternative, noted Lukomski. “We saw that the electric option was better for them. They didn’t want to deal with the problems associated with the support infrastructure of hydraulics. Plus, they wanted the improved performance,” said Lukomski. “The system has a servo motor with fine revolutions within the motion control. Those are the main things that drove us to develop the system, and it drives the customer to choose this technology.”

The brains that run the electric systems are also different from the traditional hydraulic systems. “In the past this would have been controlled with an industrial PLC. Now, the servo motors have real-time controllers and simultaneous control,” said Lukomski. “We use Ethercat, so the motor and actuator communicate, and there’s no grounding issues.”

The decision on whether to use an electric system or a hydraulic system is somewhat dependent on whether the equipment is going into a new facility or an existing one. “If you’re building a new facility and you had to supply the pump and infrastructure, electric is cheaper. If you already have the hydraulic infrastructure, you’ll be looking at payback for the electric system,” said Lukomski. “You only use electricity when you need it. That’s the payback.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

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