© Andrea Arzt | Fotogloria

Secu­rity gates: Sure Thing!

Whether it’s at airports, in office build­ings or in metro stations, Gunnebo Entrance Control makes sure that only those who are allowed to get in do get in. Instead of muscular secu­rity guards, the company uses high tech­nology to do this.

Some­times Iain Port can’t help it. He just has to ask other passen­gers — complete strangers — what they thought of the secu­rity gate they just went through. “I usually get irri­tated looks when I ask,” says Gunnebo Entrance Control’s R&D and Oper­a­tions Director, laughing. His colleague Nick Elkins also keeps his eyes open for gates around the world. “But I wouldn’t normally approach strangers to ask their opinion about our gates, I would typi­cally just tell the person I’m with that they’re going through a Gunnebo product,” says the company’s Design Engi­neer New Product Devel­op­ment.

Both of them usually have a lot of oppor­tu­ni­ties to see their own secu­rity gates in action: Gunnebo, based in Göte­borg, Sweden, has 5,800 employees spread across 31 coun­tries. In normal times, busi­ness trips are common­place.

Devel­op­ment of safety gates at four loca­tions

The members of the Gunnebo team that has been working for the last couple of years to design a new secu­rity entrance gate are situ­ated in various different parts of the global Gunnebo Entrance Control busi­ness unit. Port and Elkins work at the British Gunnebo site in Mares­field.

Wanted a new solu­tion for motor control: firmware devel­opers Fran­cisco Kedjagni and Daniele Zanini.(Photo | Mattia Balsamini | Fotogloria)

The firmware devel­opers Fran­cisco Kedjagni and Daniele Zanini are based at the Gunnebo site in Lavis, Italy, and the produc­tion team based in China also played an impor­tant role. The global ebm-papst network also provided support.

The aim of the collab­o­ra­tion, which, before coro­n­avirus, involved a lot of travel, was to opti­mize the perfor­mance of a Metro Fast Lane barrier (MFL), i.e. auto­matic ticket control gate, which can be found in many metro stations. Gunnebo usually develops complete gates, but this time the project involved redesigning the core compo­nent, the mech­a­nism, which ensures that the swing doors open as quickly as possible when someone wants to get through with a valid ticket and then closes shut equally as quickly before the next person, and that anybody without a valid ticket is stopped and prevented from passing.

Gates must open and close quickly

There are a number of chal­lenges that must be over­come when designing a fast moving barrier. After all, they have to open and close very quickly, and there is a risk that it could make contact with a user whilst moving.

 “The problem is the physics: The faster some­thing moves, the more power­fully it can close on ­someone.”

Iain Port, R&D and Oper­a­tions Director, Gunnebo Entrance Control

Port explains: “The problem is the physics: The faster some­thing moves, the more power­fully it can close on someone or some­thing and poten­tially cause injury. But at Gunnebo we are committed to the safety of the user and there­fore we need to find a way to move fast but with very low impact forces.” The experts from Gunnebo also have to provide a door that will stop people from pushing through in normal oper­a­tion but that will also release to allow crowds ‘push through’ in the case of panic, for example, “it must not become a blocking obstacle in an emer­gency,” says Elkins.

The Gunnebo team got support from Germany to outsmart the physics: market manager Stefan Rötzer and project engi­neer Dominik Häßler trav­eled from ebm-papst to Lavis many times. Because, as Fran­cisco Kedjagni explains, “We have a number of existing prod­ucts with really good perfor­mance but for this specific appli­ca­tion we decided to work with ebm-papst to develop a new solu­tion because they are experts in motor control and exhib­ited a real desire to collab­o­rate to find the best solu­tion to this chal­lenge.”

Slim, speedy, and smart drives

But what consti­tutes the best drive in this case? It needs to be slim and speedy, and also smart. The idea behind it is that, if the motor and trans­mis­sion don’t require much space, the gate can be made slimmer. “The ebm-papst drive requires a third less space than its competitor product. At the same time, it’s signif­i­cantly more effi­cient and, there­fore, consumes less energy,” Rötzer explains proudly. “This enables completely new approaches to designing the entire gate and meets the highest envi­ron­mental stan­dards.”

So small and already so smart: the ebm-papst drive requires a third less space than compa­rable prod­ucts and knows when to stop moving the doors. (Photo | Mattia Balsamini | Fotogloria)

The smaller motor frees up space in the gate cabinet for other periph­eral equip­ment to be fitted and also makes the overall package appear more slim­line and aesthet­i­cally pleasing.

To ensure that the impact force from the gate was not too high, the project team not only worked on making it speedy, but also worked on making it smart: with the new drive, the doors complete a 90 degree swivel move­ment at the blink of an eye. If the doors meet an obstacle, the motor detects the impact imme­di­ately through the onboard controller and reacts according to the customer’s preferred option: stop, reverse, or drive with low energy.  “A clean bit of engi­neering work,” praises design engi­neer Elkins.

Testing for secure passage: count­less tests were carried out by design engi­neer Nick Elkins to find out when the doors give way. (Photo | Mattia Balsamini | Fotogloria)

Tests of the swinging doors with phys­ical effort

He would know. He carried out some of the many tests that Gunnebo used to check the quality of the drive and the inter­ac­tion of the compo­nents: On a sturdy test stand, Elkins engaged his strength to test the push-through system design and eval­uate the perfor­mance bound­aries the swing gates would give. His Italian colleagues used the same phys­ical effort to check the impact force of the gates using different motor / controller / gearbox / firmware combi­na­tions. Their labo­ra­tory houses complete gates that have been through a rigorous devel­op­ment and test process “and we have seen some very inter­esting results along the way,” says firmware devel­oper Daniele Zanini.

 “It was an excep­tion­ally smooth process. It’s not usually so easy to get the draw­ings or the CAD models you need, for example.”

Nick Elkins, Design Engi­neer New Product Devel­op­ment

The collab­o­ra­tive work on the MFL was not boring, even outside the labo­ra­tory: There was some time to relax together in the beau­tiful local surround­ings at the end of long days of testing, enjoying the local restau­rants in Lavis.

Daniele Zanini was to find out how the motor, controller, gearbox, and firmware comple­ment each other perfectly. (Photo | Mattia Balsamini | Fotogloria)

But, with the utmost respect, the men from Gunnebo were convinced by some­thing else: “Working together we agreed on the best imple­men­ta­tion of the drive control system and then spent a long time devel­oping and refining it. There were many chal­lenges to over­come throughout the process. But with support from Dominik and Stefan we achieved our main aim of having a low impact force, and a super fast and smooth motion,” says Zanini. Elkins agrees with him: “It was an excep­tion­ally smooth process. It’s not usually so easy to get the draw­ings or the CAD models you need, for example.”

The opti­mized Gunnebo gate is due to be launched soon. So if someone asks you what you think of a secu­rity gate in future, just praise the speed and move­ment of the wings: it could be Iain Port, who would be very pleased. 

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  • Dee Chatterjee on said:

    A very inter­esting appli­ca­tion of Plan­e­tary Gear­mo­tors