Today “motion control” implies automation, robotics, and electronics. But you’d be amazed at what you can achieve when you combine old-fashioned mechanical engineering with a creativity-minded manufacturer.
Motion control engineering solutions involving complex industrial hinge design are becoming more popular as product designers realize how much you can do with “just a hinge.” Keep reading (and watching) as hinge solutions expert Mike Fralick explains the benefits of counterbalances and motion control design below.
8 Examples of Motion Control Engineering Solutions
Mechanical motion control engineering serves various markets – including hospitality, appliances, medical, industrial, and ergonomics. These demo videos cover:
- Overview of counterbalances and motion control
- Grill lids
- Counterbalance alternatives for lids
- Bar countertop hinges
- Food prep tables
- Oven doors
- French door ovens
- Ergonomic monitor lifts
1. Weber Knapp Counterbalance and Motion Control
But first, Motion Control 101.
The goal of a counterbalance hinge system is simple: make the product safer and easier for the end customer to use.
Take the classic example of a heavy-duty lid on a grill or smoker. That grill lid could weigh 40 lbs., 75 lbs., or more. You don't want that much force slamming on someone’s hands if the lid drops.
We can create grill lid hinges that control your desired path of motion and give a certain “feel” to your lid. We use compression springs in this application to provide a higher cycle life and are less likely to fail than competing technologies.
We can incorporate them into your available space to stay clear of wires, knobs, and heat concerns. Depending on your needs, we can use hinge materials that can sustain 400° or more.
Matched with the right application, complex hinge design can be a game-changer for user experience and safety. That’s why they’re used in so many industries:
- Medical applications
- Ergonomic equipment
Let’s go into some specific applications below.
2. Grill Lid Hinges
Lift a heavy lid with your finger and have it stay in place when you let go – what better way to say “luxury”?
Your product will stand out from the competition with a counterbalance lift-assist system. Spring-loaded counterbalance hinges make lids feel lighter, safer, and more ergonomic.
The two grill lids in the video are the exact same weight. The lid on the right doesn’t have a counterbalance on it. If you let it go, it slams down immediately and harshly.
The lid on the left is the same, except it adds a counterbalance hinge mechanism. Wherever you let go, it stays. This example lid is actually counterbalanced all the way past 90°, past the balance point. Even on its way down, it will stay right where you want it.
3. Counterbalance Hinge Alternative
Many grill companies try to create that luxurious “feel” by including a simple spring assist in their lids. The grills have tension springs inside to help them stay up. But they’ll never be truly counterbalanced.
Instead, you can take an existing tension spring design and give it a counterbalanced feel by adding controlled friction to your pivot points.
That’s why we developed the Vectis pivot. The friction teams with your tension spring design to give a true counterbalanced feel. Depending on the size and weight of your heavy-duty lid design, you may only need to add friction on one side.
Resource: Want to make your own custom hinge? Our Vectis DYO App can help:
4. Bar Countertop & Counter Pass-Through Hinges
Make your heavy countertop feel lighter. Weber Knapp's bar countertop hinges use our counterbalance lift assists to make your workspace safer and more ergonomic.
This hinge is the perfect solution for a countertop pass-through that wait staff use dozens of times per shift. Many designers don't want to give up that space, so we’ve developed a hinge that allows this 76 lb. quartz top to be easily lifted without slamming down afterward.
Several companies use latches or other DIY solutions to keep the flap up. But why do that when you can have a simple, elegant hinged bar top?
Weber Knapp’s patented technology adds a measure of safety to bar lift gates for the hospitality industry.
5. Food Prep Table
This video highlights the boost that counterbalance hinge technology can give a design.
Many product designers who seek our advice use gas cylinders in their food industry applications. The problem with that is twofold:
- Over time, gas springs weaken and can cause the lid to slam down violently.
- They will eventually start to leak oil, potentially contaminating food.
Spring-loaded counterbalance hinges eliminate both issues while keeping the convenient motion control a food worker needs. The smooth opening and soft-closing features will last for many more cycles than those that use gas cylinders.
6. Soft-Open & Soft-Close Oven Door
Customers look for three things in an appliance design:
- A “feel” that separates it from everything else on the market
To make your oven door design stand out, spice it up with spring-loaded counterbalances.
The soft-open and soft-close features provide a gentle path through the full range of motion. This functionality is our bread and butter and exactly why customers come to Weber Knapp!
7. French Door Oven
Many French door oven manufacturers use a chain-driven mechanism instead of a hinge. The chain loosens over time, leading to reliability and service issues. Manufacturers often use a piece of spring steel to give the oven a self-closing feature.
We recommend you do things differently.
We’ve taken a compression spring hinge design and installed it into French door ovens to combine the self-closing feature with higher cycle life.
As a bonus, you can open the oven with one hand from either the left or right side. This movement is practically a miracle for culinary folks tired of balancing a pan of food while trying to open the oven.
With a spring-loaded French door oven hinge, you get a consistent feel and convenient setup baked into the full range of motion.
8. Monitor Lift
Did you know you can access a hidden computer monitor with one touch using a counterbalance lift assist? No counterweights or spring adjustments are necessary.
Constant-force springs provide a uniform lifting action over the entire vertical range of motion. These springs allow the monitor lift mechanism to work without electricity.
Popular in classrooms, monitor lifts allow users to access the screen easily when needed. When the user needs more desk space or wants to see the instructor better, they can lower the monitor, where it locks safely and securely in place.
The Possibilities of Motion Control Engineering for Industrial Hinge Design
All eight applications demonstrate the versatility of mechanical motion control. But they’re far from the only ways to improve your industrial hinge design.
We love working with fellow engineers and product designers to improve current heavy-duty lid and door designs and to come up with brand-new ideas. Could your project benefit from a more complex hinge design? Learn more about the innovative solutions available to you below:
(Editor's note: This article was originally published in May 2020 and was recently updated.)