Rotalink motor gearboxes chosen for hairdressers' machine

Hairdressers demand efficiency and reliability - new foil preparation machine for hair colourists sells on time and cost efficiency and reliability

Recognising the need for increased efficiency through time and cost savings, improving reliability and increasing final product quality are familiar objectives for all machine designers. These concepts are just as familiar to the world of hairdressing, and the British manufacturer Foila International recently demonstrated this with its new "˜Foila Baby' automated foil preparation machine for hair colouring, which not only ticks all of these boxes for professional hairdressing salons but is also creating a new trend as a "˜must have' product within the high end of the industry.

Foila International worked closely with the chartered designers Pemberton Dear and the design team from Rotalink Limited to develop the compact foil preparation machine. The neat and elegant machine saves hair colourists substantial preparation time by dispensing consistent and repeatable aluminium foil strips from a roll by cutting it to a specified length with a varying number of folds; the colourist's experience and preference determines these factors depending upon the colour treatment being performed. The Foila Baby's smart appearance and functional design includes a simple membrane keypad and digital display, with the foil feed, fold and cutting phases of the machine handled by a miniature 3-motor motion transmission system developed with Rotalink.

From the outset, the design objectives for the overall machine and the transmission system centred on compactness, simplicity, competitive cost and most importantly by maintaining reliability. The average salon is, in fact, quite a hostile environment with heat, humidity and chemicals in profusion. Whilst similar machines designed to dispense foil are available from overseas manufacturers, most have suffered reliability problems which had tarnished their reputation with salon owners. Foila took the decision to design and manufacture in the UK where they felt more able to control these important reliability aspects, and to drastically reduce the potential for costly returns and repairs.

During the early development phase, Rotalink contributed its expertise and supplied various samples to assist with the decision for motor technologies that would address all of Foila's needs. The final design centred on a stepper motor to increment the foil roll through a pinch roller mechanism, a brushed dc motor and gearbox with a built-in mechanical clutch for the fold, and a dc motor/gearbox to drive a guillotine which cuts the foil to length.

Quiet operation

The gearboxes used for folding and cutting the foil are Rotalink's new generation 222 series. These are especially compact pressed steel-cased gearboxes featuring Rotalink's 4-hole mounting which provides higher stiffness, increased torque and smoother speed than traditional 2-hole ovoid alternatives. Also, with much reduced size compared with a traditional 2-hole mount version for a similar torque output, the miniature ovoid style makes the overall foil dispensing machine very compact. The gear design, using engineering polymer spur gears, also contributes to the quiet operation of the machine. The tried and tested mechanical clutch was selected as a low-cost yet effective alternative to providing feedback to closely control the torque for the fold axis. The clutch limits the amount of force applied to the foil material when producing a crease prior to folding, but ensures the material is not damaged. The field-proven clutch also ensures very high reliability and long working life.

Grant Peck, the Technical Manager at Foila International, was more than pleased with the cooperation and service from Rotalink. He says: "The Rotalink engineers were talking to us from the very beginning of the project, advising the best combination of motion products to meet our performance and reliability needs, as well as helping our designers to optimise the control electronics. The first-hand engineer-to-engineer contact and the availability of Rotalink's in-house design and manufacture service made the process fast and efficient."

Rotalink's in-house design and manufacturing programme extends across a wide range of precision miniature gearboxes, drive electronics, motion controls and ancillary miniature transmission components. Gearbox types include spur, combined spur-planetary and planetary gear systems with a choice of polymer and ultra-polymer gear materials. Range options also cover nylon, sintered and roller bearings with shaft and mounting interface customisation. Rotalink's extensive gear motor range is characterised by much improved torque-to-size ratios, quieter operation and longer life with reduced maintenance. Furthermore, Rotalink's design innovation extends to features including integral mounting of its own miniature incremental feedback encoders between the motor and gearbox, which not only allows lower-cost standard single-shaft motors to be used, but also offers more compact and competitively priced packages than more expensive rear motor shaft-mounted encoders.

For further details about transmission systems from Rotalink, please go to

Rotalink Ltd

TA18 7HQ

+44 (0)1460 72000

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