Smart solutions for the medical sector
Ewellix engineers worldwide develop linear and drive technology products that are ground-breaking in terms of precision and reliability. The components and systems are used, among other things, in surgical equipment, childcare, dentistry, imaging procedures and laboratory equipment.
In Germany, it all started more than 30 years ago in Schweinfurt as SKF Linearsysteme GmbH. But that’s history. The linear technology unit of the Swedish parent company has been going its own way for three years – and has been operating worldwide under the name Ewellix ever since. The globally active developer and manufacturer of linear guidance and drive solutions used in assembly automation as well as in medical and mobile applications currently employs more than 1.250 people at its six production sites and two competence centres around the globe. In summer 2022, the Schaeffler Group announced the acquisition of Ewellix.
“We offer complete solutions for medical technology. The designer benefits from effortless movements and intelligent control functions. The modular units achieve greater productivity, safety and patient comfort,” explains Swen Wenig, CEO of Ewellix GmbH. “In our medical technology team, we bundle valuable knowledge and many years of experience in the development and manufacture of medical devices.”
At home in the entire medical technology sector
Ewellix’s components and systems are used in imaging systems, surgical equipment, paediatric care, dentistry, ophthalmology, imaging and laboratory equipment. “We are at home throughout medical technology and offer tailor-made, innovative approaches for a wide range of applications, from simple mechanical movements to complex module solutions with IoT connectivity”, emphasizes the CEO. “Our products meet the highest safety standards in the industry and offer customers the opportunity to develop new and innovative drive systems.” The linear actuators, lifting columns, linear guides and control units are UL certified and easy to integrate. They are suitable for very different applications in medical technology. In addition to the electromechanical components, Ewellix has a complete range of linear guides in various sizes and designs with medium to high precision and rigidity in its portfolio. “These optimize performance, reduce noise and friction and at the same time maximize service life,” says Wenig and is certain: “Our extensive know-how pays off – for users and patients. Our new and smart products for the X-ray room also demonstrate this impressively.”
Effortless movements in the X-ray room
The X-ray room has recently been the focus of Ewellix’s medical technology team. The specialists developed a trio of solutions that provide greater comfort, safety and precision for medical staff and patients. “Specifically, we are talking about all-electric and synchronized motion profiles for the patient table, grid wall unit and X-ray ceiling stand, which use our SmartX control technology and a modular five-stage lifting column”, says Manuel Doppler, Business Development Manager Medical Sector at Ewellix. “The highlight of the lifting column is the patented ‘Effortless Technology’, with which the user can effortlessly move and position the X-ray machines, which weigh up to 50 kilograms.”
Height-adjustable X-ray tubes are usually equipped with counterweights and are positioned manually or vertically with a motor. Ewellix’s approach does not require any counterweights. With its patent-pending technology, it combines all components – the servo drive and the necessary sensors – in a five-stage lifting column, making it an intelligent lifting column. The user can move the heavy device as light as a feather and with just one finger. “The column travels at up to 600 millimetres per second, depending on the impulse given by the user,” says Marcel Soltermann, Product Development Director at Ewellix. “In this way, the X-ray or grid wall unit can be extended from ground level to head height in two to three seconds without the operator even noticing that he is moving 50 kilograms.” And how does Effortless Technology work? “The sensors detect the speed and strength of the user’s movement. The column supports them accordingly and thus overcomes the mass and inertia of the load,” says Doppler.
Two aspects were essential during development: the natural appearance of the interaction, in which the user does not even notice that an electric motor supports his movement, and above all the safety for him and the patients. “After all, there are 50 kilograms floating directly above humans,” Soltermann points out. “That’s why, for example, all sensors are duplicated and are constantly benchmarked against each other.” In addition, the control software controls all movements. Those that are defined as not possible are not allowed by the control. It is also impossible for the X-ray machine to hit the ceiling attachment or on the patient table by impetuous pressing or pulling. This is given by the sensors. “We deliberately did not integrate the sensor package into the handles, as is customary in industrial systems, but directly in the lifting column,” adds Doppler. “The column immediately detects an upcoming obstacle and counteracts it. Each contact with an obstacle thus leads to a counter-impulse that moves the column away from the obstacle. The user does not have to intervene.”
SmartX lifting columns are also used for the synchronized patient table. The TLT series is compact, fast and powerful and equipped with two DC motors for pressure loads of up to 5.000 Newtons. The low installation dimension offers an optimal ratio between retracted length and maximum stroke. Thanks to their torsion-resistant aluminium profiles and precision sliding system, they can lift high, even off-centre loads without bending. The efficient transmission technology is quiet and resilient in the direction of pressure. “They are synchronized by a SmartX controller integrated into the lifting column, which communicates with each other via a digital bus system,” says Doppler. “This ensures that the two TLTs retract in parallel and evenly under all circumstances.” In this way, the user has the movements under control and ensures the safety and comfort of the patient.
In addition to their use in the X-ray room, the robust, reliable and ergonomic products are used in systems for almost all imaging procedures, including CT, SPECT, PET, MRI, angiography, mammography, mobile C-arms and oncology treatment devices. “But we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time for these different applications,” says Doppler. “Thanks to our modular system, we find the right solution for every application, from purely mechanical to fully digitized and SmartX controlled.” Learn more about Ewellix medical devices
Ewellix solutions in patient chairs and laboratory equipment
Other typical applications for Ewellix products include treatment chairs and operating tables with electromechanical drive and linear guide systems. “With our compact and backlash-free CAMT actuator, for example, wobbling operating tables and patient chairs are a thing of the past,” says Doppler. “The actuator offers the user very good control over the position of the operating table. It has a self-locking and quiet screw jack and can be flexibly equipped with various mounting adapters for one or two degrees of freedom.” Its special design provides greater patient comfort when adjusting the table and chair position, especially when changing the load direction, and thus always ensures a safe feeling for the patient. The CAMT has a maximum stroke of up to 250 millimetres, achieves a force of 6.000 Newtons in the direction of compression and tension and can easily tilt patient seats or operating tables by up to 45 degrees – both around the longitudinal and lateral axes. It reaches a speed of up to 9.5 millimetres per second. For the safety of patients and medical staff, the CAMT has a static safety factor of four, self-locking up to 13,200 Newtons, a safety nut and integrated limit switches as standard. The actuator meets the strict medical EMC and safety standards and is also certified accordingly.
Ewellix linear products also have their place in the laboratory. The high-performance ball screws and LLS profile rail guides of the Miniature series impress with quieter and low-friction operation, high speed and reliable precision. The components boost automation performance throughout the lab, from robotic workstations to clinical chemistry analysers, immune testing, and haemostasis. The LLS systems, for example, are durable and robust, enable precise motion sequences and are inexpensive to purchase and maintain. High availability and minimal maintenance play a crucial role in fully automated applications such as chemical analysers. That’s why Ewellix pre-greases the LLS guide carriages at the factory. The lubricant reservoir supplied in this way ensures the best possible long-term lubrication of the entire linear guide system. The improved seal design also helps to keep the lubricant reliably in the carriage and prevents contamination. In addition, an optimized ball circulation ensures smooth running. This protects the material, reduces friction and increases positioning accuracy – at speeds of up to five meters per second and accelerations of up to 140 meters per second squared. The LLS series is made of corrosion-resistant steel and complies with ISO 12090-2. It’s practically designed ball holder enables reliable and fast installation.