© NorthWest Devices

Smart traffic barriers: Stop, and go!

Viewed from above, China’s express­ways often look like ant trails. Toll station busi­ness is booming. At the same time, they are the most unpleasant bottle­neck for flows of traffic. The barrier expert North­West Devices alle­vi­ates these traffic jams with adapt­able, reli­able and durable barrier systems for every toll station, including a drive solu­tion from ebm-papst.

In China, almost all express­ways have tolls. There­fore, busi­ness is booming in toll stations, which control access to the longest network of express­ways in the world. However, at peak times, they also lead to record-breaking traffic jams. And the number of cars on the road continues to increase. Access is controlled the tradi­tional way: with toll booths and barriers.

“I have been working in this area of expressway infra­struc­ture with my Chinese company let’s tech­nology for almost 20 years,” says Jin Chaodong, who is also CEO of North­West Devices, a specialist in toll barriers based in Canada. “The market is very stable and large in China. That is why, in 2016, I decided to use the Cana­dian spin-off company North­West Devices to focus specif­i­cally on vehicle barriers.” According to his research, every Chinese province buys around 300 vehicle barriers every year, whether they are new ones or replace­ments for older systems. Extrap­o­lated, this is likely to be around 7,000 to 8,000 units per year in total. Jin Chaodong bet on a new devel­op­ment, and won. But what was crucial for it to succeed on the market?

According to research of North­West Devices, every Chinese province buys around 300 vehicle barriers every year. (Photo | North­West Devices)

Compact drives enable deli­cate barriers

“We found out that many things depend on our barriers’ drive,” Chaodong explains. “We needed a partic­u­larly small gear motor with high torque. To control our barriers indi­vid­u­ally, it was also impor­tant for us to obtain suffi­cient infor­ma­tion from the motor.” ebm-papst was able to fulfill all three require­ments at the same time.

Our aim was to develop barriers specif­i­cally for toll appli­ca­tions where reli­a­bility, dura­bility and minimum main­te­nance work are of the utmost impor­tance.

Jin Chaodong, CEO of North­West Devices

The size is primarily down to the appear­ance of the vehicle barriers. There is no room for a large drive in a small housing, but this is essen­tial for the barriers’ space-saving construc­tion and their deli­cate design. Never­the­less, the motor needs suffi­cient power and endurance to open and close the barrier arm, which is over three meters long: “Our aim was to develop barriers specif­i­cally for toll appli­ca­tions where reli­a­bility, dura­bility and minimum main­te­nance work are of the utmost impor­tance,” says Chaodong. “Barriers with drives that you install once and then no longer have to think about because they control access smoothly.”

Intel­li­gent motor for every situ­a­tion

No matter whether during quiet or partic­u­larly busy periods: Barriers should open and close precisely at all times. (Photo | North­West Devices)

However, the most impor­tant require­ment was the intel­li­gence of the motor: “Our aim was to be able to check and change the speed of the motor at any time so that we could adapt to any toll situ­a­tion,” says Chaodong. The barriers should open and close precisely at all times – at quiet times at night in Beijing, in partic­u­larly traffic-inten­sive rush hour periods, or at the start of the vaca­tion season in Shanghai – to control the flow of traffic as effec­tively as possible and to reduce traffic jams. Infor­ma­tion about the posi­tion of the motor, the barrier beam, the voltage and torque, for example, were key to achieving this.

Ten years without a drive change

“North­West devices approached our Amer­ican subsidiary with these require­ments at the perfect time,” explains Stefan Rötzer, Market Manager Indus­trial Drive Tech­nology at ebm-papst. “Our newly devel­oped Optimax 63 plan­e­tary gear series from St. Georgen was a perfect match.” In conjunc­tion with the powerful VDC 3 49.15 drive unit with K4 elec­tronics, it ensures very fast opening and closing cycles of up to 0.7 seconds each, with a service life of 10 million cycles. When viewed in the context of China’s toll stations, that means ten years of use without replacing the drive, with one car every 30 seconds. The field stan­dard is only around half this amount. The DC external rotor motor is main­te­nance-free within those ten years.

Our motor enables various speed and torque profiles.

Stefan Rötzer, Market Manager Indus­trial Drive Tech­nology at ebm-papst

The program­ming options also meet the barrier manufacturer’s require­ments: “Our motor enables various speed and torque profiles. As desired, North­West was able to respond to the very special require­ments of each toll station,” explains Rötzer. “With AC, that would mean buying a sepa­rate motor for every indi­vidual customer require­ment.” And another advan­tage of DC tech­nology is that, in the safety extra-low voltage range of 24 to 48 volts, contact does not neces­sarily mean danger to life.

The right barrier for every toll station

“At the moment, we have three kinds of barriers on the market for use on express­ways,” Chaodong explains. “They have a 0.7-second, 0.9-second and 1.3-second opening and closing speed. That covers all the needs of toll stations.” For the coming year, North­West Devices is plan­ning an addi­tional product range to be even more effi­cient and precise. “I am looking forward to contin­uing the great collab­o­ra­tion with ebm-papst.”


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