Maine Patent of the Month – September 2023

In the world of mechanical engineering and gear systems, innovation often revolves around improving efficiency, reducing energy consumption, and enhancing safety. WedgeRock, LLC is often at the forefront of this endeavor, developing actuation solutions for any torque, thrust, or environment. Recently, the company has introduced a new hold and release mechanism that promises to redefine how rotational loads are controlled and manipulated.

WedgeRock’s invention tackles the complex challenge of controlling rotational loads while optimizing efficiency. Traditional gear systems often struggle with backdriving issues, making it challenging to maintain stationary positions under load or prevent unintended movements. WedgeRock’s gear apparatus is designed to address these challenges head-on.

The core of this invention lies in its ability to seamlessly transfer torque from an input source to an output load while preventing backdriving. The fundamental components of this gear system include:

  1. Input Member: This component is connected to the input, and any movement of the input causes a corresponding movement in the input member.
  2. Output Member: Coupled to the input member, the output member is responsible for translating the input’s movement into action on the output load.
  3. Selectably Releasable Member: This component is unique in that it remains fixed while the input and output members move. It serves as a key element in preventing unwanted backdriving.
  4. Releasable Member Brake Mechanism: The brake mechanism is connected to the selectably releasable member and is designed to stop the member from moving when both the input and output members are in motion. However, it also has a crucial feature – it can be released to enable backdriving when necessary.

WedgeRock’s gear apparatus offers versatility by providing multiple embodiments tailored to different applications:

  1. Epicyclic Planetary Gear: In this setup, the input member is a ring gear, the output member is a carrier, and the selectably releasable member is a sun gear. The releasable member brake mechanism includes a sun gear brake and a brake release controller. The brake can be decoupled from the sun gear, allowing controlled backdriving.
  2. Load Reducing Gear Train: This embodiment utilizes a gear train to reduce the force required to disengage a brake or clutch mechanism connected to the ring gear. The gear train comprises multiple spur gears, increasing mechanical advantage and making it easier to release the brake or clutch for backdriving.
  3. Epicyclic Gear Set: Here, an input gear (bevel gear) drives one or more rotating gears (bevel gears), which, in turn, engage a fixed carrier gear. The output gear (bevel gear) is part of the arrangement. A locking gear coupled to the carrier gear reduces the force needed to disengage a brake or clutch mechanism.

WedgeRock’s invention is a game-changer for applications that require precise control of rotational loads. By significantly reducing the force needed to release brakes or clutches for backdriving, this gear apparatus promises to improve efficiency and safety across various industries. Whether it’s raising a dam gate or operating heavy machinery, the WedgeRock gear apparatus is poised to redefine the standards of control and energy management.

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