Power Electronics

Novel Power Assist Technology

A new technology from Cambridge Consultants Ltd. (CCL) allows power assistance to be applied in highly sensitive ways to everyday consumer and trade equipment, from work tools to kitchen appliances. The concept has the potential to stimulate new generations of products with the capability and throughput provided by motor power, but the feel and interactivity of manual control. Simple to apply, it could provide a rich new seam of differentiators for companies looking for imaginative ways to repackage everyday items based on mature technologies.

Dubbed Power Assist, the technology provides a way of interacting with powered products that replaces crude "on/off" functionality with natural and responsive control that is directly related to a user's hand movement.

"Motorized power can be a very blunt instrument," says Craig Webster, head of Power Products at CCL. "This new concept creates an opportunity to produce a range of high-value, interactive products, at relatively low cost. This is particularly important in markets like power tools, where many products are mature and gravitating towards commodity pricing."

Power Assist is a low-cost control and feedback technique for applying the power of an electric motor based on a hand-wheel user interface. CCL is demonstrating the concept with a power drill, where the normal trigger control is replaced by the kind of hand-wheel used on a manual drill. Motor power is applied according to the wheel's speed of rotation. A novel torque feedback technique also applies varying degrees of reverse pressure to the wheel to give the user the sensation of the load and the force being applied.

In this example, CCL's control scheme gives the tool a much more natural feel, directly translating a user's turning hand movement into powered drilling— or stopping in synchronization with the user's hand and reversing drilling direction if the user changes rotation direction.

The highly precise control this affords can be applied to appliances in ways that appeal to distinct new categories of users. In the case of a power tool, for example, this might range from the less confident user who perceives motorized equipment as difficult to handle or dangerous, through the novice user who lacks skill rather than confidence, to the skilled craftsman who might otherwise choose a hand tool for fine control over critical tasks.

For more information, visit www.cambridgeconsultants.com.

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