The AbiliTrax platform gives upfitters more flexibility in locating seating and access ramps.

Maximizing vehicle mobility for handicapped passengers requires more accessibility features than conventional designs typically provide. Some standard vehicles offer basic wheelchair lifts and options for higher-roofed models; however, many people must improve and augment them with ramps, adjustable seating, hand controls, and other customizations – also known as upfitting.

Adaptive equipment provider Fenton Mobility’s low-angle wheelchair ramp demands smooth, reliable operation to provide safe, easy van access. To achieve this, the design team turned to heavy-duty electromechanical actuators to support an uplifting component.

Reducing angle of access

Fenton Mobility’s AbiliTrax platform – a universal flooring platform that bolts into European-styled Ram ProMaster, Ford Transit, and Mercedes Sprinter vans in the U.S. – offers more flexibility in locating seating and access ramps.

Installing the ramp in the rear of the van offers more convenient access in confined spaces, but wheelchairs need a low access angle to roll in more easily and safely. Actuators mounted inside the back of the van apply thousands of pounds of downward compression force to the vehicle’s standard suspension, requiring careful engineering. Fenton designers considered pneumatic actuators, however, in cold weather, condensation could have jeopardized reliability, leading them in another direction.

Thomson Electrak HD linear actuator

Instead, designers chose Thomson Electrak HD linear actuators for their high load handling capability, environmental resistance, and onboard electronics, which enable low-power switching.

“We can connect the high voltage required to drive the actuator directly to the battery and use low-voltage switching to control it,” says Scott Fenton, president of Fenton Mobility Products. “Any time you can control high-voltage power with lower-voltage signals, it will be much easier, much safer, and less expensive because of the limited and reduced-size wiring needed to accomplish this.”

Electrak HD linear actuators provided the team with digital position feedback, advanced diagnostics, and controller area network (CAN) bus communication. Strong enough to apply at least 2,200 lb of compression force to the van’s rear suspension, the actuators enabled the vehicle to squat down, lowering the ramp by 6".

CAD model of the Thomson Electrak HD electric linear actuator installed on a Fenton Mobility ramp system.

How it works

With low-level switching, actuators can extend or retract with a simple control signal, which is much safer than switching the full current required by the motor. Built-in end-of-stroke indicators inform users when the actuator is fully extended or retracted, and actuator electronics facilitate cycle count data.

Fenton liked that the actuator’s electronics could be overridden manually during a power loss.

“If we ever had a wiring issue or other problem that disabled the actuators, they are easily extended or retracted manually,” Fenton says. “So, if the van experienced an electronic failure or loss of power while in squat position, the user could bring it right back to factory ride height manually.”

Electrak HD actuators run at their rated power or often much lower, perform consistently from unit to unit, and feature simpler cabling.

“You are only running one cable to the battery, and all switching is done in a water-tight enclosure,” Fenton adds.

Everything is built into the actuator, making it easy to work with so the team can customize any function needed.

Fenton Mobility


CNC milling machine servo motors

Servo motors are now available for Tormach’s line of 1100M and 770M CNC milling machines. Servo upgrade kits allow users to transform current M-series machines to M+. Additional available items include an automatic oiler kit.

Later this year, Tormach plans to offer a BT30 spindle upgrade package that will allow users to take their ‘M+’ mills to the MX level with servo motors along with BT30 spindles, encoders, and power drawbars.


Touch panels

Wago’s line of operator interface devices, Touch Panel 600 line, includes high-tech screens and high-quality visualizations to equip machines with advanced features. The engine has a Cortex A9 multicore processor, providing fast operating speeds. On-board security includes a built-in firewall and VPN to help users address cyber-attacks. All panels have future-ready Linux operating systems and support HTML5 technology.

The Touch Panel 600 line includes three versions to fit users’ applications and budget.

  • Control Panel: Offers control and visualization to be performed simultaneously for an all-in-one automation solution
  • Visu Panel: Offers greater performance by splitting the responsibility of control, graphic visualization with the PLC controller
  • Web Panel: Industrial web browser optimized to operate with Wago’s e!COCKPIT-based PFC100 and PFC200 controllers

Each touch panel features an energy-saving standby function, integrated sensors for automatic brightness adjustment, and an easy-to-mount design for simple installation and operation.

Wago Corp.

Open aperture voice coil stages

The compact open aperture HCDS-051-032-013-01-B1-30 and the HCDS-051-032-013-01-B1-01 Voice Coil Stages have a 2.0" x 5.0" (50.8mm x 127.0mm) long footprint and feature positioning resolutions of 30µm and 1µm respectively. The user can select the level of precision needed for an application.

The 1µm resolution voice coil stage features cross roller linear bearings and the 30µm voice coil stage uses linear ball bearings. Each stage has a 0.97" (24.6mm) range of motion with 6.3 lb (28.2N) of continuous force and 20.0 lb (89.9N) peak force.