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Addressing a Common Engineering Challenge

The heavier the load it carries, the thicker the drive tape must be. At least that’s the traditional rule. So, what’s to be done when you require drive tapes with smooth, zero-backlash movement that can manage heavy workloads while operating within a very narrow space? You make them thinner, then you stack them up!

That’s exactly the kind of situation our Multi-Layered Drive Tapes are designed to address. Two to seven tapes, ranging in thickness from 0.003 to 0.005 inches, provide the strength of the combined cross sectional area of all the layers. With the strength of a thicker tape and the greater flexibility of a thinner one, the multi-layered tape sees only the bending stresses attributable to each individual layer, allowing for greater durability and reliability while operating with a reduced pulley diameter.  Properly achieving this effect requires a high level of precision in cutting and welding the individual bands together along with any attachment.

The Ideal Choice for Robotics

Our Multi-Layered Drive Tapes serve a wide range of industries and applications. Steel is the preferred material for timing belts and drive tapes in robotics, providing precision and withstanding long-term repetitive operations with minimal wear and tear. Their resistance to microbes and easy-cleaning surfaces are especially desirable in medical, pharmaceutical, scientific, specialty food packaging and other cleanroom applications. The extremely high modulus of elasticity, or stiffness, of steel means that it is highly resistant to the backlash effect.

When used to actuate a robotic arm, two steel belts can operate in tandem, with one belt oriented to drive the reversing motion. Given the inelasticity of the steel belt, this design can manage rapid acceleration and reversing without inducing a backlash and adds stiffness to the designer’s mechanism.

We were approached by a medical equipment manufacturer based in India looking for technology that could assist them in creating a lower-cost surgical robotic system with the goal of providing increased access to surgery and health care for people all over the world—especially underserved communities.

The system’s robotic arms needed to operate in conjunction with one another in a very confined space while holding small instruments. For this reason, the pulleys included in the system had to be as small as possible and provide entirely jerk-free, zero-backlash motion for delicate surgery.

The biggest constraint our engineers encountered for this system was the need to decrease the size of the pulleys while maintaining the relative strength of a thicker metal drive tape. We incorporated a multilayered belt configuration of two PureSteel® drive tapes, each with six layers of 0.127 mm thick stainless steel, stacked on top of one another and precision welded to form one uniform body. This allowed for reduced pulley diameter while also allowing the system to carry heavy working loads.

The pulleys are designed to only rotate 180 degrees, which means there is zero risk for quick, jerky motions. The two drive tapes work in tandem, with one propelling forward and the other driving the reverse motion.

You can find even more details on this project in our online case study.

Solving Challenges Across Industries

The utility of Muti-level Drive Tapes is not limited to robotics alone. Customers have applied them for solutions to a variety of challenges in industries including:

  • Industrial automation
  • Medical and surgical applications
  • Packaging
  • Pharmaceutical production
  • Semiconductor and electronics production
  • Animatronics for the entertainment industry

Could Multi-level Drive Tapes be the solution to your engineering challenge? Reach out to us today and we will be happy to answer all your questions.