That's why the Delta 240 is also the perfect choice for space applications at maxon

Technology & Innovation

The products and solutions from the Komax Group and the specialists for drive systems at maxon have one thing in common: They are always used where there can be no compromises in precision, efficiency, quality and reliability. Whether in cars, in the field of industrial automation or even in space industry, like in this case. Dominik Omlin, Production Engineer Aerospace at the maxon Group, explains in the following interview why the Delta 240 fully automatic wire processing machine from Komax is used for the most demanding aerospace applications and why he values the cooperation with the Komax Group.

Dominik Omlin, maxon produces high-precision drive systems, including for the aerospace industry. What space missions are maxon products used in?
The areas are divided into commercial and scientific research missions. The commercial space travel business area is called "New Space". One example of scientific missions is the international space station ISS, where our drive motors can be found in experimental robots or locking mechanisms. If a manned or unmanned capsule wants to dock on a space station, locking mechanisms are required. The high-precision motors from maxon can be found here. We are also involved in searching for signs of life in space, such as with the Mars Perseverance Rover or the NASA Helicopter Ingenuity. Another interesting application is in a rocket of a private company, where our motors are also used in the blasting system area, because: When a rocket takes off, there's a specific corridor it can move in. If something gets out of control and the rocket deviates from the specified corridor, it must be blown up. Our motors are used in this blasting system and trigger the blasting action. You could say that maxon is responsible for destroying the rocket (laughs).

Dominik Omlin, Production Engineer Aerospace, at maxon.

The systems from maxon drive components that are critical to the mission. How are applications for challenging space missions tested here on Earth?
We receive a requirements specification from every customer with work points to be fulfilled, such as the required speed, the loads to be withstood by the product and how much power is available. All mechanical designs must comply with these specifications. This includes environmental factors such as temperature, pressure, vibration, shock, gravitation, vacuum and radiation. All these points must be tested. We have our own laboratory for this. We have a chamber for our motors, for example, where we can replicate the temperature conditions on Mars. Or we can power our motors, carry out vacuum tests and carry out lifecycle tests in this way. But there are also aspects that we can not test, such as gravitation or radiation. We have external laboratories for this or these tests are carried out by the customer themselves. Our motors are designed for the temperatures of –120 to +25 degrees Celsius found on Mars, the surface temperature on the moon is between –240 °C and +130 °C. All of this project-relevant information must be known to us so we can develop our motors accordingly. Good communication with our customers and an exact understanding of the project are therefore essential.

Ultra-reliable solutions are therefore paramount in the field of space applications. Tell us more about the quality requirements in the field of space travel.
Space travel requires systems that work reliably under the highest loads and can also withstand even the harshest conditions, because it's not possible to repair or replace a component. Our motors must work perfectly in space, there's no room for error. This means that the employees at maxon – or in my case myself and my team in production – must deliver perfect work. Maximum quality is therefore our top priority, and not speed. When customers visit our company, they want to get to know us really well and focus carefully on the details. They watch, for example, how we approach motor production and the care we take during this process. This is very important and is monitored extremely closely by our customers, which is why we often have customer visits at maxon. Trust is an essential foundation.

The topic of traceability is also extremely important in the space industry. Customers place some extremely high demands on us. They even want to know which furnace the metal was melted in. All components in a system can be traced. This also makes them more expensive compared with a standard product. We can document everything and provide our customers the information along with the product.

In order to produce drive systems, also cables must be processed. This is where the Komax Group comes in. Why did maxon decide to work exclusively with machines and solutions from Komax in the field of wire processing?
Because the space industry has extremely high requirements, high-precision machines and tools must be used to guarantee maximum quality. Most failures in the space sector are due to electrical connections, because they are subject to extreme stress due to high temperature fluctuations, for example. That's why we have to pay particular attention to solder points or contacts. The service life of a product can only be extended with optimal quality.

Due to the high and strict requirements, it is extremely important to find partners like the Komax Group that can guarantee this quality. Komax is a company that stands for quality and that's why we have been working together for a number of years. Service is also important to us. Until a few years ago, a stripping device from the older generation was used in our company. Then Komax made us aware of the Mira 340 Q with ACD, which enables the stripping quality and incision depth to be checked automatically and with outstanding precision. This made life extremely easy for us in production, because the Mira 340 Q removes the need for the visual inspection of a wire under the microscope. That's exactly the kind of service we need. We value partners who think about our needs and make our work easier with their products and solutions and therefore also increase the quality of our products. Errors that were previously caused by the visual inspection and the human factor have been practically eliminated.

Interview with Dominik Omlin

Which products from Komax are used in production for space applications?
We use the Mira 340 Q with rotating blades, which we also use for standard applications. One of the things we value most about the Mira 340 Q is the functions, the user-friendly design and the fact that we can also strip challenging wires. We value the ACD incision monitoring. It fully automatically detects the smallest contacts between the blade and the conductor tips and has made my work and the work of my team much easier, because we now have reliable process monitoring and have managed to eliminate the human error quota. Added to this is the Delta 240 fully automatic stripping and wire processing machine with outstanding repeat accuracy and crimp force monitoring, which guarantees extremely reliable process stability and can be used flexibly. We need this flexibility at maxon. We must be able to replace the tools without significant effort and also use the machine for higher quantities One thing we value in particular about the Delta 240 is the ease of use.

The programmable Delta 240 fully automatic wire processing machine from Komax is designed for applications with high demands on processing quality and qualify monitoring and for processing small quantities. What experiences has maxon had with the Delta 240?
We previously crimped all wires with manual crimping pliers, we commissioned an external partner to process higher quantities. This manual process relies heavily on the skill of the employees processing and crimping the wires. To achieve the optimal quality, employees must have the relevant skill. But these specialists are in short supply. That's why we chose the Delta 240 with crimp force monitoring. If an error should occur during the mechanical process, the machine intervenes immediately and reports it. Our experiences with the Delta 240 have therefore been extremely positive. Including with regard to the visual inspection requirements. In the past, we had to inspect all contacts visually. This is now carried out by the machine. Last but not least, I have to mention the quick changeover times of the Delta 240. The machine can currently be changed over in ten minutes and we are then ready to crimp a new contact.

The Delta 240 was designed for industrial applications. How did it end up being used in production for space applications at maxon?
We use the Delta 240 for a wide range of applications in the industrial and medical sector, which is why we already had experience with it before it was used in the aerospace field. In the space division, there is definitely a reluctance to work with special solutions and special processes, which involve high development costs. In the new space travel industry, there is the general desire to use high-quality industrial solutions. Because the Delta 240 fulfils many standards and works reliably, there was nothing standing in the way of use in the space division.

And what can you tell us about the Komax products for quality monitoring?
In addition to the machines from Komax, maxon also has quality measurement devices like the Komax341 crimp height measurement device and the MicroPull 10. Here too, we looked for solutions that offer versatile use and that can measure within the required precision tolerances. The Komax341 suits our needs very well and we are very happy with it, because we can carry out numerous measurements, even with air pressure and constant contact pressure. The same applies to the MicroPull 10 pull-out force measurement device, which is an outstanding system for us. I was fascinated in particular by the simple design of the clamping system, which enables crimps to be clamped cleanly. I have been able to measure every crimp clamped to date precisely and reliably. The data output is also extremely easy and user-friendly. Only a USB stick is required.

maxon doesn't just rely on the machines and solutions from Komax, but also on the service. To what extent is maxon supported by the expert service teams from Komax? The thing that impresses me most about the service from Komax is the response time. I always get a response within 24 hours. And not just a response, but a suggested solution too. The technicians from Komax are on-site extremely quickly, adopt an uncomplicated approach to work and are really willing to help. I've also noticed how friendly the technicians are. Some Komax service technicians are well known and valued at maxon. The open and honest communication between maxon and Komax is exemplary. We have also signed a Komax Care service agreement with Komax, which guarantees that we receive regular services over the entire lifecycle of the machines. For the MicroPull 10, for example, Komax Care includes preventative maintenance, as well as recalibration including certification.

Now let's take a look into the future: Could you tell us about the exciting space projects maxon is currently working on?
The search for life in the universe is not over and maxon is heavily involved. One example is the MSR project, Mars Sample Return, where the focus is on bringing the samples collected on Mars back to Earth. The Mars Perseverance Rover has numerous laboratory units for analysis in a system and has taken rock samples from the surface of Mars, for example. maxon is involved in and working hard on the upcoming missions aimed at bringing these samples back to Earth for much more precise testing.

Project Dragonfly is also extremely interesting - a planned space mission to the Saturn moon Titan with the goal of collecting and analyzing samples from the icy surface of the moon. The project is due to start in 2028 and the landing is expected to take place around six or seven years later. For this project too, we are already building high-precision motors at maxon.

Thanks to our experience, we are also involved in the booming privatization of space travel, i.e. New Space. Known companies such as SpaceX or Blue Origin offer transport services such as satellite starts and astronaut transports, where rockets or systems can be used multiple times. The privatization of space travel has resulted in increased competition in the space industry, which is leading to progress and lower costs. This obviously means that higher quantities are required, and maxon has already compiled a Space catalog in this field and will offer relatively low-cost motors and industrial solutions such as standard space products. Here too, we have benefitted from our experiences and projects in the field of Mars motors.

Dominik Omlin (left) with Roland Keller from Komax and a Delta 240, at maxon in Sachseln.

Find out more about the Delta 240 from Komax here

Click here to go to maxon


Roland KellerTechnical Sales Engineer

Roland Keller, Technical Sales Engineer, joined the Komax Group in 1989. He was a service technician for ten years, then headed the service department for 16 years and has been responsible for sales in Switzerland since 2015. He has a degree in electrical engineering and attended the business school in Lucerne.

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