maxon’s ESCON Controllers

Roger Hess, Sales Engineer, discusses maxon’s line of ESCON motor controllers. These controllers were designed for dc brushed and brushless motors. You can configure the drive using maxon’s ESCON studio.


They gliding over water – on solar power

Image © TU Delft

Image © TU Delft

At the world’s biggest solar boat regatta in the Netherlands, everything revolves around sustainable high technology. This year, maxon motor benelux supported two of the leading teams and has thus become part of a completely new technology in the boating industry.

The Netherlands is developing into a hub for solar boat technology. This summer, the world championship for solar boats was hosted there for the fifth time. The DONG Energy Solar Challenge takes place every two years. Starting out as a local initiative, it has developed into a global competition. In 2014, 40 teams from around the world faced the 240 km challenge. The companies and universities that participate are specialists in innovation and sustainability. All are battling from June 28 to July 5 for the first place in several races.

maxon motor benelux supported two of the leading teams in the top class: the CLAFIS Private Energy Solar Boat Team with the boat Furia III and the TU Delft Solar Boat Team of the Delft University of Technology. Both teams have won the race in the past. The CLAFIS team was victorious in 2010. TU Delft won the first race in 2006 and repeated this feat two years later. This year, the TU Delft team built a spectacular boat with a completely new approach that makes use of hydrofoils.

Principles from aircraft engineering
For the TU Delft boat, maxon motor helped to engineer the front hydrofoil. This technology makes use of principles that are common in aircraft engineering. By means of a height sensor combined with a maxon RE 25 spindle drive, the lightweight boat is kept at the optimal elevation above the water as it speeds along. The part of the boat that is underwater is so small that its drag is roughly equal to that of a human hand.

Team spokesman Lenny Bakker does not really know where to start when he is asked about the biggest challenge during the development of the boat: “Our goal was to develop, build and test a boat that had the potential to win and was as easy to handle as a bicycle – with a team of 29 students from different disciplines, all within just a year.”

A setback and an award
The race was indeed a challenge. On the first day, all hydrofoil boats had problems, as they got caught in the seaweed. After that, all went well for the TU Delft team – up until the last day, when a gust of wind capsized the boat just 1000 m from the finishing line. The skipper was rescued quickly. However, the water damaged some of the electrical systems and it was no longer possible to monitor the battery power. Unfortunately just at this time the battery was almost empty. These complications caused the team to lose second place; instead, they came in fourth. Yet TU Delft’s new concept with the special hydrofoils won the Design Award. “It’s a radical new and unique concept with innovative technologies and an elegant design,” praised Douwe Huitema, chair of the jury for the Design Award.

The CLAFIS Private Energy Solar Boat Team, on the other hand, had a very successful race: Their boat won by a long stretch, winning them the World Champion 2014 title.

“It’s a radical new and unique concept with innovative technologies and an elegant design.”
Douwe Huitema, member of the Design Award jury

Work whets the appetite for adventure
Gerwin Geukes, managing director of maxon motor benelux, has a positive view of the experience: “Participating in these high-end projects gives us the opportunity to take a look at new technologies and to learn what’s going on in the minds of the next generation of engineers. Things that are commonplace for our engineers might be new for the students, and vice versa. Apart from that, the fun is of course important too. Solving technical challenges in a team and taking part in events like these not only helps us discover our inner inventor, but also our inner adventurer.”

Inked to precision

Image ©maxon motor/Philipp Schmidli

Image ©maxon motor/Philipp Schmidli

The tattoo scene is driven by younger artists who have little in common with the old stereotypes. They create true masterworks using the latest technology. And they all know the maxon “Swiss motor”.

The age of rockers and sailors is over. The tattoo scene has developed, away from ill-lit chambers with burly, bearded men scratching hearts onto biceps, to well-illuminated studios where young and talented artists do their work. The Swiss tattoo artist Alena Lizier, age 24, already has her own tattoo studio in St. Gallen, Switzerland. “Please take off your shoes when you come in”, she says. Hygiene is a must. Welcome to the new tattoo world.

Kitsch reigns supreme in Alena Lizier’s shop. The colorful decorations filling the studio include an old metal cash register, a large statue of the Virgin Mary, and a gold-plated sofa with blue velvet upholstery. The large windows offer a view of the city. Clients from all walks of life come here – policemen, hairdressers, and even bankers. Tattoos have become socially accepted and are regarded as hip and cool. That’s fine with Alena Lizier. She is a part of the new tattoo era, where the drawings are finer and more detailed than they used to be, and look more like works of art. New technology has played a role in this development. Traditional coil machines are increasingly being replaced with rotary devices driven by small electric motors. These models make it easier to draw fine lines. They are also lighter and much less noisy than earlier models. The motors created by maxon are regarded as the measure of all things. Tattoo machine manufacturers worldwide like to list the “Swiss motor” by maxon in their specifications. It is synonymous with longevity and reliability, very important factors for tattoo artists who use their tools daily and demand that they perform reliably for many years.

The first cordless machine
Enrico Friedli of Swisstattoomachine was among the first to recognize these advantages. His tattoo machines have been on the market since 1998 and enjoy a very good reputation. Right from the start, he chose to use quality motors from maxon. This proved to be a recipe for success. “The motor was what really set it apart from all of the other machines out there. It allowed us to stand out from the competition”, says Friedli. Even today, customers still send in first-generation devices that need only minor maintenance before being put back into service in the tattoo studio.

Today, Swisstattoomachine supplies devices worldwide, from China to the US. Even though other manufacturers have also started to use maxon motors, Enrico Friedli still stands out from the crowd. After three and a half years of development, he introduced the first battery-powered tattoo machine this summer. This widely acclaimed innovation, the “Unchained”, is equipped with a maxon RE 13 motor. This DC drive with precious metal brushes provides 2.5 W of power. Its energy efficiency makes it perfectly suited for battery operation. The low-noise drive is also practically vibration-free. In addition, the drive is lightweight. This is an important factor, as the tattoo machine is frequently held in the artist’s hand for many hours at a time. At 140 grams, the “Unchained” is only 20 grams heavier than its predecessor model, “Heidi”, which has a power cord.

“The motor allowed us to stand out from the competition.”
Enrico Friedli, Swisstattoomachine

More freedom of movement for artists
Alena Lizier is excited when she picks up the new machine for the first time. “Awesome. I have a lot more freedom of movement and don’t have to be careful about the power cord.” Hygiene is another benefit, as the cord of a tattoo machine has to be wrapped in a plastic hose before each work step. The tattoo artist turns her attention back to her customer, on whose leg she is completing a flower pattern. She dips the needle into ink and carefully draws a fine line. The needle carries the ink into the middle layer of the skin, where it will stay for the remainder of the customer’s life – to the satisfaction of everybody involved, hopefully. Alena Lizier has realized her dream: “I am merging my art with real people every day. What could be better?”

Wing-flapping Aircraft Hovers and Flies

The Nano Hummingbird’s string-based flapping mechanism geometry shown illustrates the mechanism configuration (top), then the forestroke (2nd and 3rd from top) motions and backstroke (4th and 5th from top) motions.

The Nano Hummingbird’s string-based flapping mechanism geometry shown illustrates the mechanism configuration (top), then the forestroke (2nd and 3rd from top) motions and backstroke (4th and 5th from top) motions.

Life-sized hummingbird-like unmanned surveillance aircraft weighs two-thirds of an ounce, including batteries and video camera.

The Nano Hummingbird (Figure 1) is a miniature aircraft developed under the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program funded through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA was established to prevent strategic surprise from negatively impacting U.S. national security and to create strategic surprise for W.S. adversaries by maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military. The agency relies on diverse performers to apply multi-disciplinary approaches to advance knowledge through basic research, and create innovative technologies that address current practical problems through applied research.

For the Nano Hummingbird project, technical goals for the effort were set out by DARPA as flight test milestones for the aircraft to achieve by the end of the contract effort. The Nano Hummingbird met all – and exceeded many – of the milestones (see sidebar), even though the goal was never to replicate a hummingbird exactly, but to learn from its remarkable flying qualities, and then develop an aircraft that would look, fly, and sound as much like a real hummingbird as possible.

Over ninety percent of the design and fabrication of the aircraft and its support systems was completed by AeroVironment Inc. (Monrovia, CA). The aim of the project was to use as many off-the-shelf components as possible. The challenge for the completed project was to provide controlled precision hovering and fast forward flight using a two-wing, flapping-wing craft that also carried its energy source and a video camera as payload.

To this stage of the project, the Nano Hummingbird is capable of climbing and descending vertically, flying sideways left and right, flying forward and backward, as well as rotating clockwise and counterclockwise, all while under remote control. The prototype is handmade and has a wingspan of 16 cm (6.5-in) tip-to-tip, and a total flying weight of 19 grams (2/3 ounce), which is less than the weight of a common AA battery.

The prototype includes all the systems required for flight: batteries, motors, communications systems, and video camera. It can also be fitted with a removable body fairing, which is shaped to look like a real hummingbird. Even though the aircraft is larger and heavier than an average hummingbird, it is still smaller and lighter than the largest hummingbird currently found in nature.

The typical flight endurance of the final Nano Hummingbird is between five and eleven minutes, depending on how the aircraft is outfitted with batteries and payload. It is expected that with planned weight reductions and system efficiency improvements that the flight endurance could effectively double.

The hummingbird has an onboard stability and control system that allows seamless and simple remote piloting of hover flight to fast forward flight. It is configured with a micro, color video camera that transmits continuous real-time video to the pilot operator during the flight and is displayed on a small LCD screen on the hand control unit. In the future, AeroVironment plans to develop collision avoidance capabilities to allow for semi-autonomous indoor flying, video aided navigation; GPS aided navigation, and long range communications.

Significant effort was spent miniaturizing the flapping and control mechanisms while maintaining stiffness and precision. Flapping wing designs are heavily influenced by the unsteady aspects of the flapping motion, both structurally and aerodynamically. A large number of possible degrees of freedom in the kinematics of the system made the design problem a complicated one. Nonetheless, based on earlier ornithopter wing design research, a flexible membrane was ultimately used, which allowed the wing to passively deform, since active control of wing shape was infeasible.

Quantitative analysis of the wings was based around the metric of thrust per motor shaft power, as mechanism power consumption is not readily separable from the aerodynamic power. So, shaft power was converted from motor input voltage and current using well-tested model of the drive motor, which was manufactured by maxon precision motors (Fall River, MA). Generally the names of
vendors and component part numbers are held as confidential, but according to Matthew Keenon, Nano Air Vehicle Project Manager, “We can say that the main propulsion motor was supplied as a stock part from maxon precision motors, we just can’t say which model was selected at this time.”

maxon motors provides its customers with a complete line of DC brushed and DC brushless motors to choose from. What makes them unique is their ability to provide a non-cogging brushless DC motor down to less than 6 mm long. Because their motors offer high torque to speed ratios, and low-power versions, they are ideal for unique applications in fields from medical and aerospace to robotics and consumer products. Their motors were used in the Nano Hummingbird for their efficiency and longevity, among other key characteristics.

The final string-based flapping mechanism uses a continuously rotating crankshaft driven by the maxon motor. The pin on the crankshaft (Figure 2 a and b) is attached to two strings, each connected to two pulleys that are mounted on the wing hinge flapping axes. When the motor turns the crankshaft, the pulleys oscillate. Two additional strings connected to the pulleys keeps them (and the wings) matched in phase. This design helped to minimize vibration and maximize thrust.

In all, the Nano Hummingbird is a successful project that is continually under adjustment and innovation. AeroVironment has been involved in the project since its inception, and is excited about the advances made in this technology.


-The Nano Hummingbird technical goals performed:
-Demonstrated precision hover flight within a virtual two-meter diameter sphere for one minute.
-Demonstrated hover stability in a wind gust flight that required the aircraft to hover and tolerate a two-meter per second (five miles per hour) wind gust from the side, without drifting downwind more than one meter.
-Demonstrated a continuous hover endurance of eight minutes with no external power source.
-Flew and demonstrated controlled, transition flight from hover to eleven miles per hour fast forward flight and back to hover flight.
-Demonstrated flying from outdoors to indoors and back outdoors through a normal-sized doorway.
-Demonstrated flying indoors “heads-down” where the pilot operated the aircraft only while looking at the live video image stream from the aircraft, without looking at or listening to the aircraft   directly.
-Flew the aircraft in hover and fast forward flight with bird-shaped body and bird-shaped wings.

DC drives made to order: The selection just got bigger

maxon expands its configuration program

maxon expands its configuration program

maxon expands its configuration program

maxon motor’s successful X drives program is being expanded to include a new motor size and different planetary gearheads. Putting together the right DC drive assembly online has never been so easy.

maxon’s revoluntary X drives of DC motors and gearheads offer customizable choices that are easily and quickly configured online. They are stronger and more efficient than other drives currently available. The product line is now being expanded to include the DCX 12, a micromotor with a diameter of 12 millimeters to close the gap between the DCX 10 and the DCX 14. It is available with precious metal brushes as well as various options for ironless windings and bearings. The matching planetary gearhead (1–4-stage) is also now available.

New versions of configurable planetary gearheads

What’s more, existing gearhead sizes can now be obtained with several new reduction ratios: GPX 14 (new 3 and 4-stage), GPX 16 (new 4-stage), and GPX 37 (new 1 and 2-stage). The planetary gearheads with the sizes 14, 26, and 37 millimeters are also available in ceramic, reduced-noise-level, and reduced-backlash versions.

All the new products are now available in the online shop. Customers choose the desired motor, the matching winding, brushes, and shaft length, as well as the gearhead and encoder. The order is ready for shipment after just 11 days. You can find more at:

Additional information and technical data is available by contacting maxon at For more on maxon, visit

maxon launches New Products

Our drive portfolio will be expanded in April 2015

At the Hannover Messe in Germany, maxon motor will be releasing a multitude of new products.

maxon 2015/2016 Catalog

maxon 2015/2016 Catalog

The maxon X drives family will be expanded featuring new sizes of dc brushed motors and gearheads. These high efficiency drives are configurable online and ready to ship in 11 working days.

In terms of motor size, one new motor stands out: The EC4 is a brushless DC motor with a diameter of only 4 millimeters. It is especially suited for applications in medical technology, and can be combined with a matching gearhead.

For customers who need higher torques, maxon will also be launching the new brushless EC-i40 high torque micromotor with several power ranges available.

New 2015/16 product catalog

The new German version of the 2015/2016 product catalog will be available at the Hannover Messe. We will also be making the e-Paper catalog available online for your convenience at

Visit us at the Hannover Messe: Hall 15, Booth D 05 to see the latest in drive technology from maxon motor.

maxon motors for Space Applications

Check out this video from maxon motor UK on dc motors used in Space applications.

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