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Energy-saving shaker technology

Andy Leadbeater has established UK-based THP Systems Ltd as a bridge between suppliers to the environmental test market and customers for their products. THP is offering test equipment, access to a global network of test houses, a global service alliance, on-site repairs and maintenance, spares, warranty claim investigation, technical support and calibration.


Andy Leadbeater has established UK-based THP Systems Ltd as a bridge between suppliers to the environmental test market and customers for their products. THP is offering test equipment, access to a global network of test houses, a global service alliance, on-site repairs and maintenance, spares, warranty claim investigation, technical support and calibration. The company has assembled key partners including IMV, Crystal Instruments, and Centrotecnica.

What is claimed to be the world’s most economical environmental testing shaker is among the range of products and services offered by THP. The company – formed by a former LDS Test & Measurement executive with more than 25 years’ experience of environmental testing – expects big demand for the energy-saving ECO-Shaker built by IMV in Japan, where demand is outstripping sales of conventional shakers.

Left: The ECO-Shaker is proving a great success in the Japan market

The headline product is currently the IMV ECO-Shaker, which was launched 18 months ago after more than four years in development by another former LDS engineer, Dr John Goodfellow, who took his concept of an intelligent shaker manager that would cover energy saving and test and maintenance management to IMV in Japan. IMV is a company he knew well, having worked with them in the past. “We thought it would be an interesting product for them to have in their range,” Leadbeater says. “They saw the most important aspect as the energy manager, so we focused on that as the first module to be developed’’.


Left: Screenshot from the energy manager interface

Leadbeater had already spent a significant amount of time on the concept, although it had to be a part-time project since he was working on other projects at the same time. IMV recognized the potential and developed the product with Dr Goodfellow and in collaboration with a world-renowned UK university.


Left: Andy Leadbeater formed THP following more than 25 years in environmental testing

“The most important benefit of the ECO-Shaker system is that it continuously optimizes and minimizes the energy during any form of vibration testing,” Leadbeater explains. “It can’t always reduce energy usage – for example, if the user wants to run the system at maximum force output. But in any other circumstances it will reduce the energy to the minimum possible level. To do that, it looks at the operating conditions of the system, for example voltage, current and temperature, and the system then calculates new levels for those parameters and adjusts them accordingly to minimize the energy used by the system at all times while achieving the same test results.”


Left: Dr John Goodfellow developed the concept of an intelligent shaker manager

An operator could, says Dr Goodfellow, manually achieve some energy savings by standing with the shaker and controlling it. “However, it would be very difficult because it relies on knowing the thermal characteristics of the shaker. The operator wouldn’t know the internal thermal performance – he wouldn’t know what temperature the coils were running at. So he would be taking the big risk that he could potentially burn out parts of the shaker system.”

The main attraction of the ECO-Shaker is the reduced operating cost. “By optimizing the energy at anything below the maximum, the user saves money. The spin-off from using less energy is that they are reducing their CO2 emissions,” says Dr Goodfellow. “And that will be important for companies who look carefully at their carbon footprint.

“There is also a second advantage that many users really appreciate, in that it lowers the cooling fan speed – which is one of the noisier parts of the system. So it provides a quieter operating environment and less noise pollution.”

So how did Dr Goodfellow’s idea come to be one of the hottest-selling environmental test systems? Having seen the need, his first move was to develop a detailed, complex thermal model for the shaker. “We had to understand all the different operating conditions and how the shaker performed thermally.

“The next step was to develop control algorithms such that we could measure the operating performance of the system under its nominal conditions, and compare that against an optimized level before adjusting the operating conditions to those optimized values.

“The final step was to automate everything so that it all works in conjunction. This means there’s no user intervention. It works in conjunction with IMV’s vibration controller and effectively runs in the background. So from a user point of view, he simply programs and runs his test while the interface between our energy manager and the IMV vibration controller looks after identifying and setting the optimal operating conditions.”

The ‘clever bits’ were, he says, developing the thermal model and finding the algorithms to optimize the operating conditions.

Dr Goodfellow believes that there remains a requirement for both non-ECO and ECO shakers, especially since the ECO-Shaker commands a price premium. However, that premium can – quite quickly, depending upon usage – be recovered through lower energy costs. But he says the appeal of ECO-Shakers is growing rapidly, especially in IMV’s domestic market. “The evidence in Japan is that, over the past 12 months, the volume has switched from conventional shakers to the ECO-Shaker. Almost every shaker they’re now selling is an ECO-Shaker!”

He puts this down to IMV doing a lot of work on payback calculations coupled with the Japanese market being one that tends to be more informed. But he stresses that the noise-reduction benefits of the ECO-Shaker should never be under-estimated. “A lot of tests are run at relatively low levels, and one of the annoying things for the user and the surrounding environment is the cooling fan running at quite high levels of noise. Noise reduction was not originally seen as a particularly important option. However, after the first units were installed, some of the customers came back and said that it was great to have the energy saving, but they really liked the fact that the blower ran at a much lower level and didn’t damage their ears!

“I’d always felt that noise reduction would be a strong factor, having spent hour after hour standing by shakers and knowing how annoying the noise was. But the sales guys were quite surprised at how well it was received.”

The Goodfellow-designed add-on system can be applied to virtually any shaker equipment. IMV own the patents to the core control package and has the rights to market it, including through THP Systems, where Leadbeater anticipates significant demand. “It’s vital to take into account R&D when considering environment impact,” says Leadbeater. “Customers are becoming more discerning and they’ll want to know that companies are not only making environmentally-friendly products, but are also using the most environmentally green equipment when testing and developing those products.


“Our equipment can be used in a wide range of industrial sectors, not just automotive. Anything that needs to be tested environmentally can be embraced. We cover both land transportation and aerospace. Take the testing of an aircraft black box for durability as an example. That test could run for three weeks. You can save a lot of energy over that period. What’s more, if they send us their test specification, we’ll tell them how much they will save with our equipment.”


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