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Curtains up for modernised stage drives

Supplier: NORD Drivesystems
31 August, 2012

After decades or even centuries, these plays, concerts and operas continue to fascinate the audience.

The drive technology for the stage, however, had seen better days and therefore, the theatre had new electrical equipment for back-stage technology installed during the 2010/2011 season.

Hoists, rods and other proven mechanical components as well as most existing geared motors continue to perform their duties, but are now controlled by a new system from industry specialist UNICAN.

The high-availability stage automation system is a complete solution that fulfils the requirements of SIL 3. It includes HMI consoles, high-performance software, and custom-tailored enclosures with state-of-the-art axis controllers that are connected to dozens of drive units via new frequency inverters.

Safety first

Hand-operated spotlights, curtains and stage elements are no longer common in opera houses and theatres.

Today, complex automation technology and many drive units ensure that heavy scenery objects are moved to change sets at the right time during a show, spotlights are repositioned again and again, and sound and video systems are operated synchronously.

UNICAN GmbH from Neuss, Germany, is one of few manufacturers of extensive automation-based operating and control solutions for all types of theatre stages. The OpenCue software solution provides opera houses, theatres, congress centres and similar facilities with a modern system featuring fixed or mobile operating consoles.

The HMI units and their graphical interfaces allow for easy access, continuous monitoring, and versatile show programming of up to 240 drives in the upper and lower machinery area of stages.

In opera houses and theatres, operating many hoists and other machinery in the vicinity of artists, technical staff or even the audience is practically unavoidable. This often involves the lifting or moving of heavy loads, which further increases the risk potential. Safety measures to prevent serious accidents are therefore mandatory.

In most cases, the safety-relevant electrical components must ensure safety integrity level SIL 3 according to EN 61508.

More than one hundred modernised drives

This requirement also applied to the new systems for the Theatre Duisburg. All in all, 74 drives in the so-called upper machinery (that is, drives used to move rope and chain hoists above the stage area) and 39 drives on six podiums and slopes in the lower machinery were modernised.

For the new control solution, UNICAN installed three operating consoles: two with 2 x 22" and one with a 19" screen. The screens can be operated in an upright position or lying on the console.

Input options are the touch-screen display and the keyboard integrated into the aluminium console which features various backlit special keys, two joysticks and a trackball. In addition to these fixed stations, UNICAN also delivered a handheld HMI with a 12" touch-screen.

The largest part of the system installation, however, was taken up by customised enclosures for the more than one hundred drives, each of which is equipped with an axis control computer from the UNICAN ICU series. These intelligent electronic units operate regardless of the type of connected drives, and can therefore be used to control hydraulic and pneumatic solutions as well as electric ones.

The controllers feature a double CAN interface, support CANopen and are equipped with two inputs for SSI encoders and an integrated emergency stop relay.

UNICAN's axis control computers are available as dual channel versions for SIL 3 applications.

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