Lamma’s heritage as a place for engineers to meet, discuss and showcase new developments, lives on with the show’s strong representation of component and technology manufacturers.
The move to the NEC, in the UK’s industrial heartland of the West Midlands, has attracted an impressive amount of new companies to the fray and Linak UK is a perfect example.
With its head office in Denmark, the company has a sales and engineering base in Smethwick, a stone’s throw from the NEC, and has targeted agriculture as an important market for its Techline linear actuator range.
Techline division strategic business unit manager Richard Harris explains: “Electronic actuators can carry out the same job as a hydraulic system, lifting up to 10,000N, while providing significant benefits, such as improved integration with control systems, lower cost, easier installation and fewer weak points.”
The business was founded in 1976, when Bent Jensen wasrunning his family’s agricultural component company at Nordborg in the south of Denmark and looking for new business opportunities.
Mr Harris says: “The idea came to Mr Jensen one day while talking to a friend from his student days.
“His friend had a disability and the pair came up with an idea for a way to adjust his wheelchair, and this is how the electric linear actuator was born.”
The agricultural market offered new opportunities too, however, and the company soon received an order from Taarup, now the Kverneland Group, for 2,000 actuator units for its forage harvesters.
In 1984, Christian Jensen and Sons became Linak, short for Linear Aktuator. Linak has since developed actuators for diverse markets. Success with wheelchairs led to demand from the medical sector, for which the company provides systems for hospital beds, patient lifts and comfort furniture.
Scandinavia is known for its commitment to employee healthcare, and the sit/stand desk is a popular product. Linak’s Deskline range includes actuators which can automate adjustment of desk height and alter the height according to time thresholds or alert the user when it is time to stand up.
The Techline division develops and markets robust industrial products designed to withstand the outdoor environment, serving construction, marine, agricultural and vehicle/mobility applications.
THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS
MR Harris says: “We work closely with OEMs to ensure our products meet their needs for force, feedback requirement, operational environment and speed, and fit into the working envelope on the machine.
“Our UK manufacturing clients include JCB, Scarab Sweepers and Caterpillar, while we have also recently started working with PMC, developing header height controls for its harvesters.”
He says the company sees significant potential to work with British machinery manufacturers.
“There is a perception much of the agricultural manufacturing industry has left the UK, but when we started exploring the market further, we discovered a large number of innovative companies which are developing new machinery.”
Mr Harris points to the benefits of electronic actuators for agricultural machinery, citing JCB’s wheeled loaders as an example.
“Using two actuators working in parallel to lift the engine hood makes for simple engineering with just two wires required to connect them and operation is controlled from the cab at the press of a button.
“Where an electronic actuator can be used, it requires just one set of cables and there is no need for a hydraulic oil pump or motor, and no risk of leaks.”
More complex movements can also be controlled, says the company, such as opening and closing shutters on a fertiliser spreader or outlets on a drill, timing valve openings to sprayer nozzles or angling spray bars.
“Electrically actuated systems are easier to integrate in the CanBus control and these can be used to upgrade machines and develop new products,” says Mr Harris.
As machinery gets larger, automating in-cab adjustments boosts operator comfort and convenience, from adjusting mirrors or seats to opening roof hatches and deploying the cab access ladder from the control box.
The opportunities for automation offered by electric actuators also led to a pioneering partnership with Harper Adams University’s Hands-Free Hectare initiative, with linear actuators used to control the steering and implement lift on the project’s autonomous tractor.
RESEARCH and development at Linak’s Nordborg headquarters includes rigorous testing to ensure the actuators can cope with the hostile environment in farming.
Mr Harris says: “Each actuator is tested to twice its safety factor, so if it is rated to 10,000N it will be tested to 20,000N. We also salt spray test and the IP dynamic and static tests are used for dust and water ingress. We know these machines will be jet-washed due to the environment they operate in.”
Vibration, shock and bump testing, and exposure to extreme temperatures are also part of the process.
He adds: “Upgrades for harsh environments are also available, such as special housings for actuators used in pig farming applications where ammonia exposure is an issue.”
‘Bus-link’ software allows the company to connect a laptop to understand the conditions the actuators are working under or to change operating parameters, and OEMs can receive full training so they can use it to provide customer backup, says Mr Harris.
“We are also developing a digital platform so we can support manufacturers remotely via the Cloud.”
Linak UK is looking forward to demonstrating the benefits of electric actuators to Lamma visitors on its exhibition stand, Mr Harris says.
“We are incorporating showpieces into the stand, with the focus on controllability. There will be three main exhibits: one will use two Cancontrolled actuators to draw on a piece of paper, another will use pulse widthmodulation to control movement, while the centrepiece will feature actuators controlling a knife gate valve.”
The latter is seen as a significant growth area.
“This could be used on a vehicle to close a tailgate or outlet, or for feed containers. For example, we are working with the silo manufacturers on actuators to precisely control amounts of product dispensed from their stores.”
The display will also include samples of some of Linak’s Techline range of actuators.
“We believe Lamma’s new location and format encourages networking between exhibitors as well as with visitors, and we are looking forward to meeting anyone who is interested in targeting precise movement on agricultural machinery.”
Mr Harris suggests electronic actuators will offer opportunities for developers of autonomous machines in the future.
“As the Hands-Free Hectare project has shown, actuators can be controlled remotely and do not need physical contact, so these could make the development process easier.”