ThinGap Releases Space Qualification Capabilities Statement

As part of regular documentation updates, ThinGap recently outlined the process by which commercial-off-the-shelf motor kits are modified for space applications. Titled “ThinGap Space Qualification Capabilities Statement,” and available on the Compliance Information page, this one-page document provides an overview on how the company handles modifications to meet the needs of both LEO applications typical of NewSpace, as well as more rigorous Government space programs, including NASA and defense applications.

ThinGap’s brushless DC electric motor kits are high quality, high performance motion components. The company has an extensive space heritage with commercial, scientific and military programs, including 2,500 motor kits supplied for an undisclosed LEO satellite constellation, 20+ space-grade programs actively being supported, and delivery of flight-grade kits for NASA’s PACE Program.

ThinGap has a standard approach and delivery set for providing space-grade motors, as well as the capability to support more stringent customer-specific flow downs, in addition to offering the space-rated off-the-shelf TGR Series.

Commercial Space Standard

ThinGap has established a commercial standard to provide “space-grade” motor kits using a set of process and material callouts. Essentially any of ThinGap’s standard motor kits can be upgraded to a space standard. The defined space upgrades provide an affordable option, especially for high volume and rapid reaction programs, such as commercial LEO applications.

The baseline for commercial space motor kits includes the following:

  • A controlled Materials and Processes (M&P) list
  • Use of low outgassing materials, per NASA guidelines
  • Class 3 PCBs
  • Leaded solder and IPC J-STD workmanship
  • Raw material certifications
  • First Article Inspection Reports

Additional Supplemental Deliverables

ThinGap can quote a wide range of customer requested flow downs applicable to motor deliveries. When requested, the company can engage third parties to satisfy requirements outside its on-site capabilities, including certain types of testing and analysis. Optional customer requested deliverables include i.) structural and finite element analyses, ii.) on-site source inspection, iii.) DFARS compliant material sourcing and iv.) thermal vacuum testing conducted by a third party.

At the time of quoting, ThinGap requests a customer-provided compliance matrix with any required callouts or flow downs to be completed and returned by ThinGap.

Summary

The company prides itself on its heritage and being able to support a range of requirements called for by space applications.  Default deliverables are the baseline of the company’s capabilities, and can be supplemented with additional customer-specific requirements as required.

To view and download the statement, click here.

 

ThinGap Welcomes Sierramotion to the Allient Family

ThinGap was pleased to learn of the acquisition of Sierramotion by its parent company Allient, formerly known as Allied Motion Technologies. Sierramotion is a company that ThinGap has a solid history of working with to provide tailored mechatronic solutions for customers in the robotic, medical, defense, semiconductor, and industrial fields.

John Baumann, President of ThinGap commented “I see lots of potential officially being on the same team as Sierramotion, and expect to work even more closely with them going forward.”

Sierramotion and ThinGap’s working relationship was first announced back in 2019 and has been mutually beneficial ever since.  Sierramotion even mentioned ThinGap’s LS Series as a market leader in direct drive motors on their website back in 2021. With such a shared history of collaboration, this news offers great potential for the future.

New LSI 146-16 Motor Builds on ThinGap’s Aerial Heritage

With an outer diameter of 146 mm, the LSI 146-16 fits between the LSI 130 and LSI 152 motor kits

The axial height of the newest addition to the LS Series is only 16 mm tall

ThinGap continues to build out its LS Series of slotless motor kits with the latest release, the LSI 146-16. The new LSI 146-16 kit has an outer diameter (OD) of 146 mm, and an axial height of just 16 mm. With a total mass of just over 460 grams, it offers a continuous torque output of 1.48 N-m, and peak 1 second torque as high as 18.1 N-m.

Despite a maximum operating speed of up to 1,600 RPM, the LSI 146-16 was designed for use in slower speed gimbal systems, joining other LS Series models that have found uses in this application. Multi-axial gimbal systems leverage the benefits of high performance cogless Ring Motors, such as ThinGap’s industry leading LS Series, to directly drive movement and maintain position, while offering significant Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) savings.

Using its proprietary thin wire-wrapped stators and optimized permanent-magnet rotors, ThinGap provides motors with specifications that can match the torque output of slotted motors, while avoiding the cogging, size and weight penalty that plagues them. ThinGap’s LS Series of slotless motor kits range in size from 25 to 267 mm diameter and torque from 0.1 to 12 N-m continuous and voltages from 24-400 volts.

ThinGap Welcomes Visitors From NASA Goddard

 

Left to Right-Joseph Kay, PhD-Director of Engineering, John Baumann, President of ThinGap, and Robby Estep and Dustyn Strosnider from NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center

This past week, ThinGap hosted visitors from NASA who delivered their appreciation for the support of their PACE mission. The team from NASA Goddard gave a progress update on the mission, as well providing a Certificate of Appreciation that the ThinGap team can proudly display. NASA’s PACE mission is focused on monitoring the overall health of worldwide oceans by monitoring the color of the water, as well as atmospheric observation.  ThinGap is honored to support this mission by supplying custom LS Series slotless motors that drive the satellite’s primary sensor, the Ocean Color Instrument. NASA’s PACE Spacecraft is schedule to launch from the Kennedy Space Center in January 2024.

Renewable Energy Innovations, Generated by ThinGap

With the growing urgency for sustainable energy, pioneers are innovating new ways to harness the power of ocean waves.  Southern California based Ocean Motion Technologies is one of those pioneers. The company is developing a zero-emission energy solution using ThinGap’s motor technology in its generator mode.

Ocean Motion’s R&D is focused on sustainable, scalable, and more efficient marine hydrokinetic energy by focusing on small-scale applications like scientific & maritime buoys and moorings, offshore aquaculture, and coastal security and defense. Up until now, oceanic buoys have been powered by solar panels, which have a high cost of maintenance. Ocean wave energy is a natural choice for these use cases, but most wave energy devices are not designed for small-scale applications, as they can only function within a narrow range of sea states.

Leveraging SBIR Grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation, Ocean Motion Tech has designed a wave generating prototype leveraging ThinGap’s TGD-108 (image). Originally designed and optimized for an aerospace application, the TGD-108 is available as a framed assembly with 1.4 kW of continuous power output while weighing only 670 grams or just less than 1.5 lbs.

With the adage that good motors make good generators, ThinGap’s technology is a logical choice for renewable energy applications that require overall system efficiencies. ThinGap’s unique scalable motor architecture and design offer efficiency up to 95%, and largely eliminates internal magnetic losses. The low impedance stator typical in ThinGap designs provides a stable, pure 3-phase sinusoidal, low-droop, with less than 1% harmonic distortion voltage output of clean, conditioned power.

Ocean Motion’s solution for powering data buoys is an adaptive wave energy device, with the ability to scale the technology up, and networking them together for oceanographic monitoring. The primary reason for pursuing marine power generation is due to the inherent energy density of ocean waves, which concentrates solar and wind energy and thus offering far greater energy potential in comparison.

With more than two decades of experience in the design and production of slotless motor kits, ThinGap salutes the novel efforts of customers like Ocean Motion Tech.  Ongoing and future projects designed to combine proven technology in an applied fashion are at the heart of innovative solutions like the ones being actively demonstrated in the Pacific Ocean.

New LSI 85-13 Slotless Motor Kit Set to Take Flight

Designed with airborne gimbals in mind, this new variant builds on the LS Series’ flight heritage

The 85mm OD fills the gap between the LSI 75 and LSI 105 standard models

ThinGap continues the expansion of its LS Series of slotless motor kits with the latest release, the LSI 85-13. The new LSI 85-13 motor kit has an outer diameter (OD) of 85 mm, and an axial height of just 13 mm, making it a little wider than 3 inches and roughly half an inch tall. With a total mass of 232 grams, it offers a continuous torque output of 0.324 N-m and a peak as high as 3.88 N-m.

The LSI 85-13 can operate at speeds of 0-1,760 RPM. Unique to the cogless nature of ThinGap’s slotless architecture, all of its motor kits can effectively operate across its entire range of speeds. Effective low speed is due to not needing to overcome the detent torque typical in a slotted or stepper motors.

Designed from the ground up for use in a gimbal system, the LSI 85-13 joins other ThinGap motors that have found homes in airborne applications. Multi-axial gimbal systems leverage the benefits of high performance cogless Ring Motors to directly drive movement and maintain position, while offering Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) savings, which are all highly desirable traits. ThinGap’s LS Series of slotless motor kits is an industry leader for gimbal applications.

Using its proprietary, thin wire-wrapped stators, and optimized permanent-magnet rotors, ThinGap provides motors with specifications that can match the torque output of slotted motors, while avoiding the cogging that plagues them. ThinGap’s LS Series of slotless motor kits range in size from 25 to 267 mm diameter and torque from 0.1 to 12 N-m continuous, voltages from 24-400 volts, and current from 1 to 100 amps.

Optical Communication Terminals: The Future of SatCom

With the fast and aggressive build out of LEO constellations orbiting Earth, comes the pervasive need for free-space Optical Communications Terminals (OCT) that allow space-to-space, space-to-air, and space-to-ground connections. Point-to-point use of highly collimated light is critical to the utility of mesh networks connecting each spacecraft with each other and the ultimate users on the ground.

Satellites use gimbal mechanisms for the pointing and positioning portion of the Optical Communications Terminal (OCT), commonly referred to as the Coarse Pointing Assembly. Within the Coarse Pointing Assembly is a device called a fast-steering mirror that acts as the Fine Pointing Assembly that ensures a reliable optical connection.

Multi-axial gimbals, like those used in Coarse and Fine Pointing Assembly systems can leverage the benefits of high performance cogless Ring Motors to directly drive movement and maintain position. Frameless motor kits offer the further ability to integrate the actuation function as part of optimized systems, offering Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) savings, which are highly desirable in spacecraft applications.

ThinGap’s LS Series of slotless motor kits is an industry leader for gimbal applications requiring high performance and efficiency, decisive move-and-hold positioning, and smooth motion for long-range target lock. LS motors have been widely used in OCT systems and even NASA’s PACE Mission’s optical scanner payload.

Using its proprietary design, thin wire-wrapped stators, and optimized permanent-magnet rotors, ThinGap provides motors with specifications that can match the torque output of slotted motors while avoiding the cogging that plagues them. ThinGap’s LS line of slotless motor kits range in size from 25 to 267 mm diameter and torque from 0.1 to 12 N-m continuous. With standard and modified configurations, the product line will cover voltages from 24-400 volts and current from 1 to 100 amps.

To learn more about the LS Series, click here.

Tall Motors: Scalable, Cogless Power In Action

With a focus on providing engineered solutions for a variety of high performance applications, ThinGap regularly provides modified versions of its off-the-shelf motor kits to meet customer specifications. Many of these changes include switching a motor’s winding configuration, space rating, high-temperature capability, or custom mounting configurations to create a modified-off-the-shelf product. In some cases, customers request an increase in axial height of an existing motor to improve the torque output of the motor kit without increasing the width.

A graphic showcasing two ThinGap LSI 39 variants, the original 39-10 and taller 39-39, with a caption that reads "Tall Tales," a play on words because this blog is about why ThinGap offers different axial heights, ergo a tale about taller motors, which is a double-entendre on the phrase "tall tales" which is a phrase meaning a lie.

Important to note that with ThinGap’s proprietary slotless motor architecture, torque increases exponentially with the outer diameter, but only proportionally with axial height. So while a larger outer diameter motor is always the better choice, customers often have mechanical constraints that limit their ability to accept a wider motor, making a taller product the next best solution.

ThinGap’s tooling is vertically modular, making it simpler and less expensive to change the axial height of a kit to improve torque output. Tall variants share much of the same material components with their smaller cousins, and can in many case be built in parallel. Many of ThinGap’s tall motor variants began as modified-custom solutions, such as the LSI 39-39, LSI 75-30, LSI 130-40, LSI 152-55, and LSI 267-58. By way of example, several motors sizes offer three different axial highest, such as the LSI 25 that is available in axial heights of 10, 16 and 25mm.

With two decades of experience in the design and production of slotless motor kits, ThinGap leverages its proven designs and analytical modeling that results in highly accurate transitions from predicted performance to real world operation. Furthermore, the process steps needed to produce motors of all sizes are highly scalable and ThinGap has standard products as small as 25mm, up to 393mm in outer diameter.

For a complete listing of our standard products, including our tall variants, please click here.

Space Market Growth and Satellite Constellations

ThinGap’s space related business has been as strong as ever, and its no wonder why.  According to market researcher McKinsey & Company, the space market was $447 billion in 2022, and their estimates put it at more than doubling to $1 trillion by 2030. The growth of the space market, previously the sole domain of wealthy nations, has been attributed in large part to the rapidly decreasing cost and frequency of vehicle launches coupled with the rising demand for intelligence, consumer internet, scientific observations, and high speed communications.

The single largest driver in the explosion of the space market can be attributed to the emergence of NewSpace, which summarily describes all private spaceflight efforts from corporate entities. NewSpace ventures include space tourism, provided by vehicles such as Blue Origin’s New Shepherd, and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two, as well as private launch vehicles such as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Starship and RocketLab’s Electron rockets. With the expansion of space flight and the related demand for applications tied to orbiting the Earth has come a significant increase in the need for systems, the largest being Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites.

Satellite constellations, much like their celestial counterparts, refer to a group of networked satellites working together for a common application, such as defense or telecommunications. The first constellation to be launched was the United States’ Global Positioning System, starting in 1978, which while initially used by the military, later became available for civilian use. Since then, many more satellite constellations have been launched, with a variety of applications such as communications, environmental monitoring, defense, and more recently internet constellations.

The ability to bring broadband connectivity to any point on Earth has been the mission of several internet constellations including SpaceX’s Starlink, Amazon’s Project Kuiper, and Airbus’s OneWeb programs. While most of these satellite constellations aren’t intended for end consumer use, Starlink is unique in that it’s possible to directly buy a receiver from SpaceX for personal use.

While all these constellations have varying missions and designs, there are common needs between the satellites that comprise them. Applications such as Attitude Control systems require high performance motors, with characteristics such as smooth motion, a lack of cogging, highly linear output, and a wide range of speeds, in addition to being lightweight, efficient, and reliable. ThinGap’s TGR Series is the industry’s first motor line designed from the ground-up for Reaction Wheel Assemblies (RWA), along with other ThinGap TG Series motor kits having spaceflight heritage.

Other critical space systems, such as Optical Communications Terminals, use highly collimated light generated by lasers to transmit data at high rates of speed over long distances through free space between satellite-to-satellite, satellite-to-aircraft, and satellite-to-ground. ThinGap’s LS Series of slotless motor kits is an industry leader for these gimbal applications requiring high performance and efficiency, decisive move-and-hold positioning, and smooth motion for long-range target lock.

Since 2015, ThinGap has supplied thousands of motors for space applications, including a major commercial internet constellation, as well as NASA.  The company’s TG Series and LS Series both have significant space heritage and are ideally suited for a number of applications, mostly in satellites.

Zero-Cogging Motors for Precision Industrial Applications

ThinGap’s permanent magnet motors are widely used in airborne and space platforms, but there are more applications that benefit from their zero-cogging technology. With the insatiable demand for high tech devices, comes an equally high demand for precision equipment used to make integrated circuits. Today’s semiconductor equipment and test platforms need high degrees of force density, and decisive move-and-hold steps. Robust, yet compact semiconductor equipment enable inline process functions, yield enhancements, and higher levels of throughput.

Motors and actuators used in wafer processing and test require the benefits of cogless, absolute precision. Low profile motors are ideal because of the large internal aperture so that optics, cabling, or prisms can be routed through the center, yet be compact, enabling deep system integration. Additionally, precision brushless motors are used extensively in optical systems for applications such as beam steering, delivering micron-level resolution.

The ongoing transition to direct-drive solutions enables system-level advancements needed by today’s semiconductor industry. Frameless, slotless motor kits with high torque are in many cases the ideal solution for semiconductor equipment with low profile, high torque coreless motors being the right fit for metrology and optical-based systems.

Beyond zero cogging, ThinGap’s air core motor kits have near zero Eddy-current, and a harmonic distortion of less than 1%, so torque output is directly proportional to current. The resulting smooth motion, linear output makes them perfect for use in precision industrial applications.

ThinGap’s LS Series of slotless motor kits are an industry leader for semiconductor applications. Standard kits range in size from 25-267 mm outer diameter, and a continuous torque output from 0.1- 24.4 N-m. Always cogless, always low profile and with high power density and with standard and modified configurations, the LS Series is ideal for semiconductor applications.