Machine builder delivers drives for the space exploration

Project team at INKOMA Maschinenbau. (c) INKOMA Maschinenbau GmbH

In the presence of Saxony-Anhalt’s state secretary Dr. Jürgen Ude, INKOMA Maschinenbau GmbH hands over an elevation drive for the worldwide largest radio telescope currently under construction.

In the presence of state secretary Dr. Jürgen Ude, INKOMA Maschinenbau GmbH in Osterweddingen on Monday handed over an elevation drive for the worldwide largest radio telescope currently under construction, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). This occurred after a successful acceptance for the installation in South Africa. Based on an order by the specialist for telescopes and antenna, MT Mechatronics GmbH, INKOMA developed and produced the drive.

“We congratulate the entire INKOMA team. This drive is a prime example of technical engineering top performances in Saxony-Anhalt. It shows what commerce and science can jointly achieve”, said state secretary Dr. Jürgen Ude. At the same time, he welcomed the growth plans of the worldwide active innovation leader in Osterweddingen and promised the company, which is supported by the Investment and Marketing Corporation of the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt (IMG), the support of the state. Ude: “We are glad that we have such an innovative and attractive employer here and are continuing to support the expansion plans of INKOMA GmbH.”

Manfred Obermeier, CEO of INKOMA AG, emphasized the tremendous technical requirements for this project: “The antenna consists mainly of the parabolic mirror, the drives for the horizontal motion (azimuth) and the vertical motion (elevation), the supporting structure and the electronic devices. Based on the technical requirements for this observation system, INKOMA Maschinenbau GmbH developed the core of the system, a completely new servo-electrical direct spindle lift drive (DSH) for the elevation motion of the parabolic mirror. This is a quantum leap with respect to precision.” Despite its total length of approx. 6,500 mm and a weight of approx. 3 t, the DSH drive represents a compact drive system with a high-power density. Obermeier: “Such master pieces can only be created with people who are qualified, committed, open to technical novelties and always looking out for the most economical solution. That is why I am convinced that the Osterweddingen location has still a lot of potential and that we can grow here dynamically.”

The parabolic antennae now to be installed in South Africa, with a wing-span of 15 meters, are the result of an international cooperation under the leadership of the medium-size company MT Mechatronics. The first SKA prototype was presented during a large ceremonial event on February 6, 2018.

A second prototype, financed by Max Planck Gesellschaft, is currently under construction and will be transported in early April 2018 to the final location in the South African Karoo desert.

First scientific results are expected in South Africa starting in 2020 after a test phase of the drive and the prototype antenna.

Background of the DSH drive: The core of the drive without gear is an integrated spindle drive, which is actuated free from play by a torque motor, which a.o. guarantees the lowest mechanical losses. The lift speed of the DSH drive is continuously adjustable within a range of 0 to 62 mm/s. The maximum spindle lift motion is slightly more than 3,600 mm.

Traction and pressure forces of more than 130 kN act on the spindle in drive mode and up to 300 kN, which are generated by the own loads and the wind loads of the parabolic mirror, when at a standstill. The forces are assumed by adequately balanced axial bearings and are transferred through the cardanic drive bearing into the mounting bracket. An integrated measuring system permits highly precise synchronized speed and positioning accuracies, which means that pivoting angles with an accuracy of one thousandth degree can be realized at the parabolic mirror.

The DSH drive is equipped with additional protective devices such as an emergency and holding brake, integrated hard stops, spindle protection up to safety limit switches.

Background of the SKA project: After its completion in 2024, the SKA will be the most powerful and sensitive radio telescope with a total antenna surface of 1,000,000 square meters. It does not consist of a single telescope, but a network of up to thousands of individual antennae. Main locations are the South African Karoo desert and the West Australian region Murchis.

The SKA is used to explore space and will offer new answers to many scientific question such as the creation of the first stars and galaxies after the Big Bang, about our understanding of space and time and possibly answer the question about extraterrestrial life.

The project is managed by the SKA organization at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester. Member states of the organization are Australia, Canada, China, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands, India and the United Kingdom. Additional companies and research organization in more than 20 countries, also in Germany, participate in the implementation of the project.

Background of the company: INKOMA Maschinenbau GmbH exists for 45 years and looks back on a continuous growth process. The company has a location in Osterweddingen since the year 2000. Additional comprehensive investments are planned on the compound of the newly erected plant due to the headquarter relocation of the company in 2016 from Schandelah/Niedersachsen to Osterweddingen. The company employs currently 160 persons at three locations. (INKOMA Maschinenbau GmbH Osterweddingen, INKOMA Maschinenbau GmbH Schandelah, as well as in Maschinenfabrik ALBERT GmbH in Gampern/Austria). Qualified personnel is also required in the future in all work and apprenticeship areas of the company to achieve the annual revenue increases of more than ten percent. In addition to the existing assortment of gears, couplings and shaft-hub connections, the company significantly expands its product portfolio with the newly developed DSH drive. The INKOMA GROUP consists of several mechanical engineering and distribution companies in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and several European countries.

INKOMA Maschinenbau GmbH

Lange Göhren 14, 39171 Osterweddingen - Germany
Phone: +49 / (0) 39 205 453 - 0
Fax: +49 / (0) 39 205 453 - 433

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