Motorisation Trends

Motor and control manufacturers cannot afford to stand still in their technological offerings to the blind, shutter and awning markets. However, the key is not always advanced technology but the development of appropriate technology, which is of benefit to the specifier, installer and end-user.

Graham Turton, technical manager at technology leaders, Elero UK, considers the latest technological developments in the market, including 868MHz radio frequency control options, wire-free and bus technology.

If talk within the industry is to be believed then the use of 433MHz radio frequency for controllers may soon be a thing of the past, being replaced with 868MHz remote controls. Undoubtedly, there are benefits to using 868MHz, all of which centre on improved product reliability. Not only is the new band less congested than 433MHz (and far less than the highly unreliable 27MHz band some companies still use) but the frequencies have been specifically dedicated to control devices like our ProLine range of controls.

Not only are the frequencies dedicated but the transmission power is tightly controlled too. This means that there is far less interference from other controls in the area – yet you can still control your Elero-powered blinds, awnings and shutters from up to 25m indoors and up to 350m in the open.
According to one manufacturer who makes the transmitter chips for 868MHz, the frequency has at least 100 times more “interference immunity” which, of course, is why at Elero we have engineered all of our new ProLine range to 868MHz!

There is also no need to worry about unsightly cabling or control boxes, which could affect the interior décor or external façade of your clients’ homes. With the now widespread availability of wireless technology from companies such as Elero all that is required is a simple connection to the mains supply.

Another useful advancement has been the development of products that can be retrofitted to existing installations to make them remote controlled. Products, such as those in Elero’s Combio-868 range, are very small and can be easily installed out of sight to remotely control tubular motors on blinds and awnings. Another of the products in the range can even control lighting so rather than have a traditional wall-mounted dimmer switch, the desired mood can now be achieved at the touch of a button from wherever your client happens to be standing or sitting.

You may have seen in major buildings that all of the blinds, shutters, etc are controlled through a centralised building control system. We, at Elero, predicted that there was a need for this sort of functionality in smaller buildings and installations – but naturally without the complex and costly centralised control.
Distributed Intelligence, bus-controlled systems are the solution – taking the new generation of individual blind or awning controllers, which are now software-driven – and giving them the ability to “talk” to each other.

The resulting solution of this creating “everyday” controllers carries almost no cost overheads, simply requiring one extra controller per area to give group control for all the motors in that zone and one further master controller to give full-building control.

Elero’s AstroTec, VarioTel and MonoTel controllers can be combined and the bus is a simple telephone-like cable. Even sun, wind and rain detectors can be added in at building, zone or individual levels.

The whole area of bus-connected distributed control systems will open up new markets and opportunities for you to provide advanced solutions at attractive costs.

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Charity Cricket Match

What started as an excuse for a social event turned in to a successful cricket match in aid of Macmillan Cancer Relief.

Organised by ASAP Shutters of Sunderland, a team made up of employees from ASAP Shutters, 24/7, Armourpost Ltd and Elero UK took on the weather and a team from City of Sunderland Council at Ryhope Cricket Club in Ryhope.
With team polo shirts and T-shirts provided by motorisation and intelligent control specialists, Elero UK, the event raised in excess of £300 for the cancer charity.

Michael Lemon of ASAP Shutters commented: “Macmillan Cancer Relief is a charity very close to my heart and to the company’s employees and I’d like to thank the other companies for their support. Following the success of this event we are hoping to organise a larger family fun day at the Cricket Club later in the summer to raise even more money for the charity”.
“We are delighted that, while having a great time, we were able to help raise money for an extremely worthwhile cause”, added Liam Hunt of Elero UK.

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How Safe Are Your Roller Shutters?

Correctly designed, specified and manufactured roller shutters and doors are safe, secure and efficient. However, they are also powerful pieces of heavy machinery easily capable of causing injury if safety features are not properly designed-in.

Graham Turton, technical manager at motorisation and control specialists, Elero UK, uncovers poor practice, explodes myths and explains how manufacturers, installers and directors / managers at the places where they are used could all be liable to massive fines or even imprisonment if shutters on their premises cause injury or death.

According to unofficial statistics, there is an average of one shutter-related accident per week – many of them due to incorrect design, manufacture and installation.

Dangerous surfing
A potentially deadly children’s pastime is the craze of “shutter surfing”. A child will jump on to the bottom ledge of a shutter when it is opening and ride up on it, jumping off before it is fully opened. But they don’t always make it. One boy was crushed to death while shutter surfing when his fingers became trapped and he was unable to free himself. This tragedy may have been avoided had safety devices been fitted on the shutter to stop its operation.

If a shutter has been fitted with the correct sized motor, it will overheat when there is more weight on the shutter than it is designed to cope with. As a result, the thermal overload will activate and the shutter will stop, but possibly not soon enough to prevent somebody from being trapped in the shutter’s canopy. Alternatively, fitting a photocell close to the top of the shutter would cause the shutter to automatically stop should the beam be broken or obstructed.
It is now also good practice to fit bottom bars or rails that have no ledge capable of being stood upon.
Cowboy installations

A common practice by cowboy installers is to under-specify the diameter of the barrel that the shutter winds up around and the motor type. Driven purely by cost, they will try to fit tubular motors (the cheapest option) into everything rather than have to fit an outboard motor.

But, by doing this, an unsafe load is created because of the deflection of the barrel. This could cause the gearbox to wear out or the brackets supporting the curtain to shear or fail because of the extra stress – which could send the shutter into freefall, causing injury or death.

A horrific example is the recent case of a woman who was underneath a roller shutter when, for reasons still under investigation, the whole several hundred kilos of steel shutter, barrel and motor crashed down on her. Miraculously, she was not killed – but she suffered badly with head injuries and a broken pelvis. Others have not been so fortunate.

As Graham explains: “Responsible manufacturers like Elero publish design charts for motors relative to barrel diameter, span, torque, curtain weight, lath type and application. We don’t do this for fun; we do it because the correct application of these is critical to safety and to reliable long term operation.” A technical information sheet explaining in detail how to make these calculations is also available – just send an email to safety@elerouk.co.uk.

Safety aspects of obstacle detection devices

At a basic level, there is the key switch-operated shutter or door, which should be a dead-man operation. For safe use, the operator must have the door in full line of sight and be paying attention at all times. However, if the key switch is positioned out of sight of the door or if the door is operated by remote control, additional safety devices must be used. This could be a photo cell or a safety edge, preferably both.

Photo cells are positioned on the shutter or door frame at certain heights. As long as the beam is unbroken the shutter will operate, if not, the motor will stop or stop and then retract the shutter. Elero advises that, for optimum safety, photo cell beams should ideally be positioned at an angle to avoid false reflections (e.g. off a car or reflective surface).

Many doors and shutters use conventional pneumatic safety edges. When it touches something, air is forced into a diaphragm switch. This breaks the contact and stops the shutter’s movement. But they fail “unsafe” because when (not if) they get damaged, the air escapes, the contact is not broken and the shutter does not stop.

Elero recommend safety edges which use a light beam within the rubber edge of the shutter or door. This fails “safe” because if the safety edge is compressed and the internal light beam interrupted, the shutter will stop or stop and return, thus preventing a potential crush injury. Also, if the wires to the beam get cut or broken or if the light beam “send and receiver” gets damaged, the control will prevent the door from closing.

Your legal obligations

British law takes a very dim view of anyone manufacturing, supplying or installing machinery or equipment which is not safe, particularly where price is seen to be the motive. The same is true for any employer who operates, or allows to be operated, machinery which is unsafe.
Because roller shutters and doors are, for legal purposes, ‘articles for use at work’, ‘machinery’ and ‘construction products’, you could fall foul of many different pieces of legislation, such as:
• Health and Safety at Work Act 1974;
• Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992;
• Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999;
• Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998; and
• Construction Products Regulations 1991.

Section 6 of the Health and Safety at Work Act says ‘… as far as is reasonably practicable, … the article is so designed and constructed that it will be safe and without risks to health at all times when it is being set, used, cleaned or maintained by a person at work’.

It also states that manufacturers must ‘… carry out or arrange for the carrying out of any necessary research with a view to the discovery and, so far as is reasonably practicable, the elimination or minimisation of any risks to health or safety to which the design or article may give rise”.

Failure to comply with the relevant legislation can have a devastating effect, with your company facing the possibility of substantial fines. However, if you are personally found guilty of reckless killing or killing by gross carelessness, you could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

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Autotech Safety Feature – How Safe Are Your Roller Shutters?

• Roller shutters and doors are powerful pieces of heavy machinery easily capable of causing injury if safety features are not properly designed-in.

• Unofficial statistics: an average of one shutter-related accident per week – many of them due to incorrect design, manufacture and installation.

• Recent example – a woman who was underneath a roller shutter when the bearing plate sheared and the whole shutter, barrel and motor crashed down on her. She suffered badly with head injuries and a broken pelvis.

Under-specifying

• A common practice by cowboy installers is to under-specify the barrel diameter and motor size in order to reduce cost or to use a tubular motor where the design rules specify otherwise. The motor can overheat and perhaps burn out or the overload can cause gearbox failure – which could send the shutter into freefall, causing injury or death. It is vital therefore that garage owners have confidence in their installer’s competence and are sure that no corners are being cut.

Safety aspects of obstacle detection devices

• Basic level – key switch – where operator has to have the door in full line of sight.

• If key switch positioned out of sight of door, there must be a safety device – photo cell and safety edge & control. Likewise, there must be a safety device if the door is operated by remote control.

• Photo cells – these are positioned at certain heights and as long as the beam is reflecting back the door will close. If the beam is broken the motor will not operate. Ideally, photo cells should be positioned on an angle to avoid reflection because of something else.

• Pressure pads

• Safety edge – uses a light beam within the edge. If something is blocking the beam, the control is stopped. Bad practice to use safety edges as ceiling-to-floor seals.

Legal Obligations

• A very dim view is taken of any employer who operates, or allows to be operated, unsafe machinery. Roller shutters and doors are, for legal purposes, ‘articles for use at work’, ‘machinery’ and ‘construction products’.

• Owners could potentially fall foul of many different pieces of legislation, including:

o Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
o Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992
o Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
o Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
o Construction Products Regulations 1991
o Forthcoming ‘corporate killing’ legislation

Brief background to Elero

Elero UK was established in 2000 and is a subsidiary of Elero GmbH which was founded in Germany in 1964. The company manufactures motors and intelligent control systems for blinds, awnings and all forms of shutter, offering a full line of products to drive everything from a lightweight blind to a substantial industrial door. An extensive catalogue of controls and accessories, including programmable, fully automated and even seasonally self-adjusting systems, supports and complements these motors.
Website: www.elerouk.co.uk

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MemoTec – Simply Clever

Using state-of-the-art technology, the MemoTec wall-mounted timer switch from Elero’s blind, shutter and awning control range, ProLine, is appealing thanks to its simplicity.

Operation is simple due to the ergonomic keys and slider switch, therefore meeting the consumers’ need for straightforward technical devices. The functions only need to be set once and are protected against any accidental change, while daily and weekly switching times can be set with the aid of the 24-hour and seven-day keys.

“Elero prides itself on providing impetus for innovation and future trends in the market. The suite of intelligent controls and timers that make up the ProLine range has set new standards for performance, elegance and technology, added Paul Connor, Managing Director of Elero UK.”
For further information on the ProLine range, contact Elero UK on 0870 240 4219 or email sales@elerouk.co.uk.

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Less Interference With 868MHz

Talk within the industry suggests that radio-controlled drive units and controls using the 433MHz radio frequency may soon be a thing of the past. Could the rumours be true?

Graham Turton, technical manager of technology leaders Elero explains: “Drive units and controls using 433MHz radio frequency are, and will continue to be, widely available on the market. However, technological advances by manufacturers in the industry have led to the development of 868MHz options, such as our ProLine-868 range of intelligent controls. Specification of 868MHz technology is on the increase but 433MHz is not going to be wiped out over night”.

There are several major benefits to using the new 868MHz frequency to control blinds, shutters, awnings and garage doors. Any they all help to improve reliability.

Not only is the 868MHz band less congested than 433MHz (and far less than the highly unreliable 27MHz band some companies still use) but the frequencies we operate on have been specifically dedicated to control devices like ours. On 433MHz your signal is competing in a total free-for-all of alarms, controls, telephony and allsorts. Competition which can lead to your control signal being wiped out or distorted, leading to mis-operation of your blind, shutter, awning or door.

Not only are the frequencies dedicated but the transmit power is tightly controlled. This means that there is far less interference from other controls in the area and none from far away ones – yet you can still control your Elero-powered blinds, awnings and shutters from up to 25m indoors and up to 350m in the open.

There’s another feature of 868MHz that really helps control interference too – its called “limited duty cycle”. This means that no device using the 868MHz frequency band is allowed to transmit for more than a few milliseconds every second – so there are far fewer devices transmitting at any one time.
According to one of the manufacturers who make the transmitter chips for 868MHz, the frequency has at least 100 times more “interference immunity” which, of course is why at Elero we have engineered all of our new ProLine range to 868MHz!

We’ve even introduced a retrofit 868MHz controller for blinds, awnings and shutters that are not currently radio controlled or where people want to upgrade from 27MHz or 433MHz. Called the Combio-868, it’s available ex-stock from Elero’s trade counter or by phone on 0870 240 4219.

 

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Poor Design Could Cost Lives

Correctly designed, specified and manufactured roller shutters and doors are safe, secure and efficient. But when manufacturers and installers flout the design rules, serious accidents can and do happen.

In this, the first of a series of articles on safety issues, Graham Turton, technical manager at technology leaders Elero, uncovers poor practice, explodes myths and explains how you could be liable to massive fines or even imprisonment if shutters you manufacture or install cause injury or death.

Roller shutters and doors are powerful pieces of heavy machinery easily capable of causing injury if safety issues are not properly designed-in.
A horrific example is the recent case of a woman who was underneath a roller shutter when the whole several hundred kilos of shutter, barrel and motor crashed down on her. Miraculously, she was not killed – but she suffered badly with head injuries and a broken pelvis. Others have not been so fortunate.
According to unofficial statistics, there is an average of one shutter-related accident per week – many of them due to incorrect design, manufacture and installation. Elero is spearheading a campaign to stop these poor and irresponsible practices and help to rid the sector of its cowboy image.

A common practice is to under-specify the barrel diameter and motor size in order to reduce cost or to use a tubular motor where the design rules specify otherwise. Because far less Newton metres of motor torque are needed to lift any given weight of shutter if a narrower barrel diameter is used, it’s often said in the industry, “let’s use a 4inch barrel and put a couple of extra turns of lath on to bring it up to the 7inches it ought to be”. It does not work like that – and the industry must stop this highly dangerous practice.

As Graham Turton explains: “Responsible manufacturers like Elero publish design charts for motors relative to barrel diameter, span, torque, curtain weight, lath type and application. We don’t do this for fun; we do it because the correct application of these is critical to safety and to reliable long term operation.”

Putting “an extra couple of turns on” does a number of things. It can seriously overload the motor in terms of the Nm required to lift the shutter versus the Nm available from the motor. This can make the motor overheat and perhaps burn out, which is inconvenient, but more frighteningly the overload can cause gearbox failure – which could send the shutter into freefall, causing injury or death.

In many cases where extra turns are added – or the barrel size simply under-specified – a barrel deflection or sag greater than the maximum permissible two millimetres per metre length can all too easily occur. This puts deflection stresses on the motor and the bearing plates that they’re not designed to withstand, and can cause them to shear.

Under-specifying the motor and the barrel diameter can lead to a massive overload on the motor and bearing plates. The unit shown in the photograph had been installed with a barrel that was far too narrow with respect to the span. The motor’s specification stated that it could stand the dead weight of nearly 300Kg and provide the torque required to lift that weight of shutter on a narrow barrel (over a short span) – but using a narrow barrel over a wide span meant that the deflection issue would reduce its safe load to around 80/90Kg depending on the gauge of metal used.

By ignoring this deflection factor it had been subject to a load of over 300% of its safe capability. No surprise, then, that one day the motor end-mounting plate sheared – with catastrophic results.

The design charts show that to safely lift such a weight over a wide span a much greater diameter barrel should have been used – and that this would require a much bigger three phase tubular motor or even an external motor to have enough lifting torque. Which shows the commercial motive behind this unsafe practice.

We cannot stress enough how important it is to correctly calculate and specify the barrel and motor for every job. Elero has directly taken the unprecedented measure of publishing all of the design charts for safe barrel choice as well as correct motor selection on all of its new price lists, in addition to the conventional technical manuals. We will even check calculations for any manufacturer or installer to confirm that they are within our guidelines. A technical information sheet explaining in detail how to make the calculations is also available – just send an e-mail to safety@elero.co.uk

You, your customer and the British law takes a very dim view of anyone manufacturing, supplying or installing machinery or equipment which is not safe, particularly where price is seen to be the motive. The same is true for any employer (your customer) who operates, or allows to be operated, machinery which is unsafe.

You and your customer can fall foul of many different pieces of legislation, such as:
• Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
• Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992
• Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
• Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
• Construction Products Regulations 1991

Roller shutters and doors are, for legal purposes, ‘articles for use at work’, ‘machinery’ and ‘construction products’.
Section 6 of the Health and Safety at Work Act says ‘… as far as is reasonably practicable, … the article is so designed and constructed that it will be safe and without risks to health at all times when it is being set, used, cleaned or maintained by a person at work’.

It also states that manufacturers must ‘… carry out or arrange for the carrying out of any necessary research with a view to the discovery and, so far as is reasonably practicable, the elimination or minimisation of any risks to health or safety to which the design or article may give rise”.

Failure to comply with the relevant legislation can have a devastating effect, with your company facing the possibility of substantial fines. However, if you are personally found guilty of reckless killing or killing by gross carelessness, you could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

In the next article in this series Graham Turton will look at the design and safety aspects of obstacle detection devices.

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New Credit / Debit Card Facility At Elero

Elero UK has set up a credit / debit card facility at its head office and trade counter in Widnes.

As Paul Connor, managing director of Elero UK, explains: “Until now, we only sold products to customers who had a trading account with us. The new credit / debit card facility has primarily been set up with non-account customers in mind who require their order more quickly than the current system would allow. They can now phone through their order one day and receive it the next or come to our trade counter and get their order straight away. In this way, our customers can buy what they need, when they need it, to keep their business moving and their clients happy”.

Payment by credit / debit card is now accepted over the counter at Elero’s Widnes premises or by phone on 0870 240 4219.

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Awnings And Blinds Move With The Weather

Ever wish that your awnings and blinds could move automatically, depending on the strength of the sun?

Shading control specialist, Elero, has devised the Aero-868, a sensor that reacts to weather changes, and controls awnings and venetian blinds accordingly.
This wire-free, wireless sensor can be easily installed and is constructed using transparent, recyclable Plexiglas to blend in with a range of building exteriors. It stores solar energy through an integrated solar cell so, even when the sun isn’t shining, the sensor is still working.

And if the wind starts to blow it will automatically put your awning safely away before any damage is done to its fabric or your brickwork.

In combination with one of Elero’s hand-held, radio-controlled transmitters, you can create a complete sun protection system, guaranteeing optimum shading for you and protection of your awning against weather damage.

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