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Title:
FAULT-TOLERANT ELECTROMECHANICAL LINEAR ACTUATOR
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/220554
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present disclosure relates an electromechanical linear actuator (1) of the type comprising a containment structure (2), a pushing member (3) designed to translate relative to the containment structure (2) to at least partially project out of the containment structure during operation of the actuator, a mechanical reduction apparatus (4) disposed in the containment structure (2) and rotating about an axis of rotation (X), motor means (5) arranged in the containment structure (2) and operably connected with the mechanical reduction apparatus (4) to rotate it about the axis of rotation (X), a shaft (6) inserted in the mechanical reduction apparatus (4) and connected to the pushing member (3), the shaft (6) being mechanically connected with the mechanical reduction apparatus (4) such that a rotational movement of the mechanical reduction apparatus (4) will cause a translational movement of the shaft (6) along the axis of rotation (X) and a rotation-preventing mechanism (7) operable on the shaft (6) to prevent rotation of the shaft (6) about the axis of rotation (X), the mechanical reduction apparatus (4) comprising first and second lead nuts (8, 9), independent of each other and each having its own thread and its own thread direction, the first and second lead nuts (8, 9) being able to rotate about said axis of rotation (X) under the action of the motor means (5) and coupling means (10, 15, 11) configured to mechanically couple the first and a second lead nuts (8, 9) with the shaft (6), such that a rotational movement of the first and/or second lead nuts (8, 9) will cause a translational movement of the shaft (6) along the axis of rotation (X). The linear actuator (1) is characterized in that the coupling means (10, 15, 11) comprise an intermediate coupling stage (10) inserted in the first and second lead nuts (8, 9), respective first mechanical connection means (15) for coupling the intermediate coupling stage (10) with each lead nut (8, 9), second mechanical connection means (11) and the shaft (6) is inserted in the intermediate coupling stage (10) and is connected therewith via the second mechanical connection means (11).

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Inventors:
BORGARELLI NICOLA (IT)
PIZZONI LUCIANO (IT)
NARDESCHI MARCO (IT)
D'ANDREA MORENO (IT)
BOCCALI GIULIANO (IT)
Application Number:
IB2018/053852
Publication Date:
December 06, 2018
Filing Date:
May 30, 2018
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
UMBRAGROUP S P A (IT)
International Classes:
F16H25/20; F16H25/22
Domestic Patent References:
WO2010027701A12010-03-11
Foreign References:
US20150308549A12015-10-29
EP1359345A22003-11-05
US20150276029A12015-10-01
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CICERI, Fabio et al. (IT)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. An electromechanical linear actuator (1), comprising:

- a containment structure (2);

- a pushing member (3) designed to translate relative to the containment structure (2) to at least partially come out of the containment structure during operation of the actuator;

- a mechanical reduction apparatus (4) disposed in the containment structure (2) and rotating about an axis of rotation (X);

- motor means (5) disposed in the containment structure (2) and operably connected with said mechanical reduction apparatus (4) to rotate about said axis of rotation (X);

- a shaft (6) inserted in said mechanical reduction apparatus (4) and connected to said pushing member (3), sad shaft (6) being mechanically connected with said mechanical reduction apparatus (4) so that a rotational movement of said mechanical reduction apparatus (4) will cause the shaft (6) to translate along said axis of rotation (X); - a rotation-preventing mechanism (7) operable on said shaft (6) to prevent the shaft (6) from rotating about said axis of rotation (X);

- said mechanical reduction apparatus (4) comprises:

- first and second independent lead nuts (8, 9), each having its own thread and its own thread direction, said first and second lead nuts (8, 9) being adapted to turn about said axis of rotation (X) by the action of said motor means (5);

- coupling means (10, 15, 11), which are configured to mechanically couple said first and second lead nuts (8, 9) with said shaft (6), so that a rotational movement of said first and/or second lead nuts (8, 9) will cause a translation of said shaft (6) along said axis of rotation (X);

characterized in that said coupling means (10, 15, 11) comprise: - an intermediate coupling stage (10) inserted in said first and second lead nuts

(8, 9),

- respective first mechanical connection means (15) for coupling said intermediate coupling stage (10) with each lead nut (8, 9),

- second mechanical connection means (11);

- said shaft (6) being fitted into said intermediate coupling stage (10) and being connected with the latter through said second mechanical connection means (11).

2. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in claim 1, wherein said shaft (6) is a screw shaft and said second mechanical connection means (11) comprise a nut and screw assembly between said screw shaft (6) and said intermediate coupling stage (10), such that a rotational movement of said first and/or second lead nuts (8, 9) will cause a rotational, translational or rototranslational movement of said intermediate coupling stage (10) along said axis of rotation (X) and such that said intermediate coupling stage (10) in turn causes a translational movement of said screw shaft (6) along said axis of rotation (X).

3. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in claim 1, said second mechanical connection means (11) comprising a satellite rollers or recirculating roller coupling or a recirculating ball screw, so that a rotation of said first and/or second lead nuts (8, 9) will cause a rotational or rototranslational movement of said intermediate coupling stage (10) along said axis of rotation (X) and said intermediate coupling stage (10) in turn causes a translational movement of said shaft (6) along said axis of rotation (X).

4. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in claim 1, wherein each of the respective first mechanical connection means (15) comprises a nut and screw assembly, a satellite rollers or recirculating rollers coupling or a recirculating ball screw.

5. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in claim 2, wherein the thread pitch (6A) of said screw shaft (6) is different from the thread pitch of said first and second lead nuts (8, 9). 6. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in claim 1, wherein the pitch of said thread of said first lead nut (8) is opposite to the pitch of said thread of said second lead nut (9).

7. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in claim 2, wherein said intermediate coupling stage (10) has:

- externally a first and second threads (10A, 10B), each being configured to couple with a respective lead nut (8, 9) and

- internally a third thread (IOC), configured to be coupled with said thread (6 A) of said screw shaft (6).

8. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in claim 7, wherein said first thread (10A) is placed near a first terminal end (10') of said intermediate coupling stage (10) and said second thread (10B) is disposed near a second terminal end (10") opposite to the first terminal end (10') of said intermediate coupling stage (10).

9. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in claim 1, wherein said shaft (6) is coaxial with respect to both said intermediate coupling stage (10) and with respect to said first and second lead nuts (8, 9), along said axis of rotation (X), said intermediate coupling stage (10) being coaxial with respect to said first and second lead nuts (8, 9) along said axis of rotation (X).

10. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in any of the preceding claims, wherein said motor means (5) comprise two electric motors (5A, 5B), each of which being active on a respective lead nut (8, 9), each electric motor (5A, 5B) being controlled by its own control and command electronics.

11. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in claim 10, wherein each electric motor (5 A, 5B) is directly connected with its respective lead nut (8, 9) and comprising a stator fixed to the containment structure (2) and a rotor fixed to respective lead nut (8, 9).

12. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in any of the preceding claims, comprising braking means (12) active on said first and second lead nut (8, 9) to brake the rotation of said first and second lead nuts (8, 9) about said axis of rotation (X).

13. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in claim 12, wherein the braking means comprise two electric brakes (12A, 12B), each of which being active on a respective lead nut (8, 9).

14. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in claim 11 comprises fixation means (5D) for fixing each rotor to an outer surface of respective lead nut (8, 9).

15. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in claim 14, wherein said fixation means comprise:

- an adhesive layer (20) interposed between the outer surface of the lead nut (8, 9) and the respective rotor;

- a sleeve (21) disposed outside the rotor and configured to hold the rotor in a predetermined position.

16. An electromechanical linear actuator as claimed in any of the preceding claims, comprising control and command electronics for controlling and monitoring each electric motor (5, 6).

Description:
TITLE: "Fault-tolerant electromechanical linear actuator."

DESCRIPTION

Field of The Invention

The present disclosure relates to an electromechanical linear actuator as defined in the preamble of claim 1.

Particularly, but without limitation, the present invention relates to an electromechanical linear actuator for controlling a control surface of an aircraft, a boat or the steering system of a vehicle or similar applications.

Description of prior art

Electromechanical linear actuators are known, which are equipped with command and control electronics, are driven by an electric motor, and have the task of converting the rotary motion of the electric motor into a reciprocating linear motion of a pushing member to control the position of a control surface.

For this purpose, the electric motor is connected, via a reduction apparatus, to the pushing member, which is in turn connected to the control surface to control the position that this surface is to assume in response to the controls received from the command and control electronics.

Usually, the reduction apparatus comprises a lead nut with a screw sliding thereon (or a screw with a lead nut sliding thereon), and in turn connected to the pushing member, whereby a rotation-preventing device only allows a linear, non- rotational movement of the screw (or the lead nut), thereby providing the linear reciprocating motion of the pushing member.

Such electromechanical linear actuators have been used, for example, to control the secondary control surfaces of an aircraft, such as air brakes, spoilers, flaps, trim tabs, but also to open hatches and other uses requiring low power, speed and response time i.e. for the so-called "non-safety critical" applications.

Prior art problem

However, the reliability of an electromechanical actuator as defined above does not allow it to be used in installations designed to control primary control surfaces of an aircraft, the swashplate of a helicopter, the steering system of a vehicle or the rudder of a ship, i.e. more generally all "safety critical" applications.

This is because the above described electromechanical actuator is poorly reliable both in its electrical part, i.e. the electric motor, and in the command and control electronics, as well as the possibility of a seizure of the mechanical part (the so-called mechanical "jamming").

In an attempt to obviate this drawback, for example, architectures have been used which either include two identical actuators that move the same control surface, thereby providing electrical, electronic and mechanical redundancy, but also generally increasing the weight and complexity of the system, or have a single actuator equipped with a differential gear box, which affords the use of two independent electric motors and two independent electronics to move the same mechanical system.

Furthermore, the aforementioned "safety critical" applications require very fast operation, which does not allow the use of differential gear boxes, generally characterized by excessive working clearances.

US 2013249464, WO2010027701 and US 2005269887 disclose examples of electromechanical actuators that do not provide enough redundancy to ensure "fault tolerance" against mechanical, electrical and electronic faults.

Namely, "US 464" and "WO 701" disclose actuators equipped with two mutually dependent electric motors, directly coupled to the shaft to be driven via ball nuts/screw. Therefore, a mechanical fault, e.g. at the motor-shaft coupling, for one or both motors, will cause the actuator to stop. In addition, motors must be sized to be able to generate a torque that can ensure operation both in a fully operational state and in case of electric and/or electronic fault occurring in one of the two motors.

On the other hand "US 887" discloses an actuator having a set of electric motors, directly coupled to the shaft to be driven via recirculating rollers. Therefore, also in this case, a mechanical fault occurring in the motor-shaft coupling will cause the actuator to stall and prevent the shaft from being driven.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The object of the present invention is to provide an electromechanical linear actuator that can solve the above described prior art problems.

These objects are fulfilled by an electromechanical linear actuator as defined in claim 1 hereinbelow.

Advantages of the Invention

One embodiment of the present invention can provide an electromechanical linear actuator of the Fault Tolerant Differential Direct Drive type that can be also used for the control of primary surfaces, as it allows the translation of the pushing member even in case of failure in the electric part, in the control electronics and/or in case of mechanical jamming.

Furthermore, one embodiment of the present invention can provide an electromechanical linear actuator whose dynamic performances are considerably improved as compared with electromechanical actuators that use differential systems such as gear boxes.

Also, one embodiment of the present invention can provide an electromechanical linear actuator that typically has a lighter weight and reduced overall dimensions as compared with electromechanical actuators that use gear boxes and other differential devices.

In addition, one embodiment of the present invention can provide an electromechanical linear actuator that is more reliable than electromechanical actuators that use gear boxes and other differential devices.

Furthermore, one embodiment of the present invention can provide an electromechanical linear actuator that can ensure fault tolerance against electronic, electrical and mechanical faults. Particularly, the use of an intermediate stage increases redundancies in the system, thereby ensuring high reliability as compared with the electromechanical actuators that are currently employed in the above described prior art.

Finally, one embodiment of the present invention can provide an electromechanical linear actuator that can minimize friction, especially at low temperatures, thereby optimizing the overall efficiency of the actuator as compared with electromechanical actuators that use gear boxes and other differential devices.

BRIEF DETAILS OF THE DBA WINGS

The characteristics and advantages of the present disclosure will appear from the following detailed description of a possible practical embodiment, illustrated as a non- limiting example in the set of drawings, in which:

- Figures 1A and IB show two possible implementation scenarios for the electromechanical linear actuator of the present invention, where in the Figure 1A is schematically depicted a primary control surface of an aircraft operated by a single- acting actuator (i.e. with a single pushing member projecting out of one side of the actuator) and in the Figure IB is schematically depicted a steering assembly of a vehicle operated by a double-acting actuator (i.e. with two pushing members projecting out of both sides of the actuator); - Figure 2 shows a sectional view of the electromechanical linear actuator according to a first embodiment of the present invention;

- Figure 3 shows a schematic view of the actuator of Figure 2 in which certain elements of Figure 2 have been omitted or simplified in view of highlighting the characteristic features of the actuator of the present invention;

- Figure 4 shows a sectional view of the electromechanical linear actuator according to a second embodiment of the present invention;

- Figure 5 shows a perspective view of a possible embodiment of the coupling between an electric motor and the mechanical reduction apparatus of the actuator, according to the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Even when this is not expressly stated, the individual features as described with reference to the particular embodiments shall be intended as auxiliary to and/or interchangeable with other features described with reference to other exemplary embodiments.

Referring to the accompanying figures, numeral 1 generally designates an electromechanical linear actuator of the present invention and particularly Figure 1A schematically depicts a primary control surface of an aircraft operated by the single- acting actuator 1 (i.e. having a single pushing member projecting out of one side of the actuator) and Figure IB schematically depicts a steering assembly of a vehicle operated by a double-acting actuator (i.e. having two pushing members projecting out of both sides of the actuator).

Referring to Figures 2 to 4, the actuator 1 comprises a containment structure 2, preferably rigid, and a pushing member 3.

The pushing member 3 constitutes the active element of the actuator 1. Particularly, the pushing member 3 is designed to translate, relative to the containment structure 2, to at least partially come out of the containment structure 2 during operation of the actuator 1.

The translation of the pushing member 3 happens through a special aperture formed in the containment structure 2.

The actuator 1 comprises a mechanical reduction apparatus 4, disposed in the containment structure 2, which is configured to rotate about an axis of rotation X.

The actuator 1 comprises motor means 5, disposed in the containment structure 2, which are operatively connected with the mechanical reduction apparatus 4 to rotate it about the axis X.

The actuator 1 comprises a shaft 6, inserted/located into the mechanical reduction apparatus 4, which is connected with the pushing member 3.

Particularly, the shaft 6 comprises a first terminal end 6' and a second terminal end 6", where the first terminal end 6' is connected to a coupling/hooking eye 3' . The second terminal end 6" may come out of the containment structure 2 with the pushing member 3 at least partially during operation of the actuator 1.

The actuator 1 comprises a rotation-preventing mechanism 7 which is active/ on the shaft 6 to prevent the shaft from rotating about the axis of rotation X.

Therefore, the shaft 6 is connected with the mechanical reduction apparatus 4 in such a manner that a rotation of the mechanical reduction apparatus 4 will cause a translation of the shaft 6 along the axis of rotation X and hence a linear reciprocating motion of the pushing member 3.

Advantageously, the mechanical reduction apparatus 4 comprises a first lead nut 8 and a second lead nut 9 which are independent of each other, i.e. two separate and distinct lead nuts. Each lead nut 8, 9 has its own thread and its own thread direction, and adapted to rotate about the axis of rotation X under the action of the motor means 5.

Each lead nut 8, 9 has a main direction of extension which coincides with the aforementioned axis of rotation X.

Each lead nut 8, 9 is enabled to only rotate about the axis of rotation X and is prevented from translating along the axis of rotation X, for example by means of appropriate stopping shoulders or other solutions known to the skilled person and not described herein.

In order to allow each lead nut 8 and 9 to rotate about the axis of rotation X, the actuator 1 comprises a pair of bearings 13-14 and 13'-14' for each lead nut, disposed in the containment structure 2.

For example, the pair of bearings 13-14 are designed for the lead nut 8 and 13'- 14' are designed for the lead nut 9.

Thus, the lead nuts 8 and 9 are able to rotate about the axis of rotation X under the action of the motor means 5, which are connected to the lead nut or by means of a kinematic chain (e.g. a gear box comprising differential gearing), or are preferably directly connected to such lead nuts as better explained hereafter.

In one aspect, the mechanical reduction apparatus 4 comprises coupling means 10, 11 and 15, which are configured to mechanically couple the first and second lead nuts 8, 9 with the shaft 6, so that a rotational movement of the first and/or second lead nuts 8, 9 will cause a translation of the shaft 6 along the axis of rotation X.

In other words, the actuator 1 is able to ensure a translational displacement of the shaft 6 along the axis of rotation X even in failure conditions of the motor means 5, or their respective electronics, or in case of jamming of the coupling means 10, 11 and 15 with one of the two lead nuts 8, 9 indistinctly. This is achieved without using differential systems, such as gear boxes.

For this purpose, the coupling means 10, 11 and 15 comprise:

- an intermediate coupling stage 10 inserted inside the first and second lead nuts

8, 9.

- respective first mechanical connection means 15 configured to mechanically couple each lead nut 8 and 9 with the intermediate coupling stage 10;

- second mechanical connection means 11.

Particularly, the shaft 6 is fitted into the intermediate coupling stage 10 and is connected with the latter via the second mechanical connection means 11.

In one aspect, the intermediate coupling stage 10, extends about an axis that coincides with the aforementioned axis of rotation X.

The intermediate coupling stage 10 has an inner cavity, preferably a through cavity, which extends along an axis that coincides with the aforementioned axis of rotation X, and which imparts a tubular shape to such intermediate coupling stage 10.

Therefore, also referring to Figures 2 to 4, the shaft 6 is coaxial with both the intermediate coupling stage 10 and the first and second lead nuts 8 and 9 along the axis of rotation X, so as the intermediate coupling stage 10 is coaxial with the first and second lead nuts 8 and 9 still along the axis of rotation X.

In one aspect, still referring to Figures 2 to 4, it shall be noted that the first mechanical connection means 15 preferably comprise a nut and screw coupling or, alternatively, a satellite roller or recirculating roller coupling or a recirculating ball screw.

Referring now to Figures 2 and 3, which shows a preferred embodiment of the coupling between the intermediate stage 10 and the shaft 6, it shall be noted that the shaft 6 is a screw shaft and the second mechanical connection means 11 comprise a nut and screw coupling between the screw shaft 6 and the intermediate coupling stage 10.

With this embodiment, a rotary motion imparted by the motor means 5 to the first and/or second lead nuts 8, 9, will cause a rotational, translational or rototranslational movement of the intermediate coupling stage 10 along the axis of rotation X, and the intermediate coupling stage 10 will in turn cause a translational movement of the screw shaft 6 along said axis of rotation X.

Therefore, in the preferred embodiment, the intermediate coupling stage 10 is interconnected with each lead nut 8 and 9 via a respective nut and screw coupling obtained with the respective first mechanical connection means 11 and, after a rotation of the first lead nut 8 and/or the second lead nut 9 imparted by motor means 5, will cause a rotational, translational or rototanslational movement of the intermediate coupling stage 10 along the axis of rotation X, and that the latter, i.e. the intermediate coupling stage 10, will cause a translational displacement of the screw shaft 6 along said axis of rotation X.

For this purpose, in the preferred embodiment, the intermediate coupling stage 10 has externally a first external thread 10A and a second external thread 10B i.e. formed on its outer surface, each being designed to be coupled with a respective thread of a lead nut 8 or 9.

For example, the first thread 10A is coupled with the thread of the lead nut 8 and the second thread 10B is coupled with the thread of the lead nut 9.

In one aspect, it is expected that the first thread 10A is located proximate to a first terminal end 10' of the intermediate coupling stage 10 and said second thread 10B is located proximate to a second terminal end 10" opposite to the first terminal end These first and second threads 10A and 10B preferably cover only a portion of the outer surface of the intermediate coupling stage 10, and particularly a portion that starts from the respective terminal ends 10', 10" and extends toward the central zone of the intermediate coupling stage 10.

Since the first lead nut 8 and the second lead nut 9 are independent of each other but are still mechanically connected by the engagement of the screw lead nut with the intermediate coupling stage 10, then also the first and second threads 10A and 10B of the intermediate coupling stage 10 are fastened together, as they are formed on the same outer surface of the intermediate element 10.

In one aspect, still in the preferred embodiment of the actuator 1 as shown in

Figures 2 and 3, it is expected that the intermediate coupling stage 10 has internally a third internal thread IOC, i.e. formed on its inner surface, which is designed to be coupled with a thread 6A of the screw shaft 6, such thread 6A being formed on the outer surface of the screw shaft.

In other words, the screw shaft 6 has the thread 6 A with a given pitch and a given direction, which is interconnected with the third thread IOC formed in the intermediate coupling stage 10, such that a nut and screw coupling is created thereby.

In one aspect, the pitch of the thread 6 A of the screw shaft 6 is different from, for instance greater or smaller than, the pitch of the thread of the first and second lead nuts 8 and 9.

In particular, it is expected that:

- the thread pitch of the first lead nut 8 is left-handed, whereas the one of the second lead nut 9 is right-handed, or vice versa (i.e. the thread direction of the first lead nut 8 is right-handed and the one of the second lead nut 9 is left-handed).

Referring now to Figure 4, which shows an alternative embodiment of the coupling between the intermediate stage 10 and the shaft 6 (which is not a screw shaft as shown in Figure 2), it shall be noted that the second mechanical connection means 11 are embodied by bearings. If the coupling between the intermediate stage 10 and the shaft 6 is provided by bearings, then the shaft 6 will only translate in response to a translation or rototranslation of the intermediate stage 10.

If the intermediate stage 10 rotates, then the shaft 6 cannot translate. In this case, the actuator 1 still ensures electrical and electronic redundancy, but loses its mechanical redundancy (jamming). For example, if jamming occurs between a lead nut 8 or 9 and the intermediate stage 10, then the intermediate stage 10 will not be able to translate and then it can not drive the shaft 6.

Alternatively, the second mechanical connection means 11 can be embodied by a satellite rollers or recirculating roller coupling or a recirculating ball screw.

As discussed above, the lead nuts 8 and 9 are able to rotate about the axis of rotation X under the action of the motor means 5, which are preferably directly connected to such lead nuts.

For this purpose, the motor means 5 comprise two electric motors 5A and 5B, each directly operable on a respective lead nut 8 or 9.

Particularly, each electric motor 5A, 5B comprises a stator fixed to the containment structure 2 and a rotor fixed to its respective lead nut 8, 9.

Therefore, the rotor of each electric motor 5A and 5B is rigidly connected with a respective lead nut 8 or 9, one or both of the latter being rotated by the electromagnetic interaction of their respective rotors (generally with permanent magnets) and the stators.

For example, also referring to Figure 3, it shall be noted that the rotor of the electric motor 5A is fixed to the first lead nut 8, whereas the rotor of the motor 5B is fixed to the second lead nut 9.

In an alternative embodiment, the motor means 5 are designed to be connected with a respective lead nut 8 or 9 via a kinematic chain (not shown) to distribute the torque to one and/or both of said first and second lead nuts 8 or 9.

In one aspect, in order to fix each rotor of the electric motors 5A and 5B to its respective lead nut 8 and 9, the actuator 1 comprises fixation means, generally referenced 5D.

Particularly, the fixation means 5D comprise:

- an adhesive layer 20 interposed between the outer surface of the lead nut 8, 9 and the rotor associated therewith to rigidly j oin it thereto;

- a sleeve 21 disposed outside the rotor to hold in a predetermined position. Also referring to figure 5, which shows the lead nut 8 and the rotor 5C in the motor 5A, it shall be noted that the rotor 5C is composed of a plurality of magnetic elements circumferentially arranged on the lead nut while the sleeve 21, for instance made of metal, surrounds the rotor 5C along the outer surface of the lead nut 8.

The actuator 1 comprises braking means 12, operable on the first and/or second lead nuts 8, 9 to brake the rotation about the axis of rotation X of one and/or both of said first and second lead nuts, according to the operating conditions of the actuator 1 as described in greater detail hereinafter.

Particularly, the braking means 12 comprise two electric types brakes 12A and

12B, each operable on a respective lead nut 8 or 9.

The brakes are, for example, electromagnetic coil brakes. Namely, they are of the normally open configuration (with the brake being closed by actuating the electromagnet), or of the normally closed configuration (with the brake being opened by actuating the electromagnet). For example, also referring to Figure 3, it shall be noted that the brake 12A operates on the first lead nut 8, and the brake 12B operates on the second lead nut 9.

It shall be noted that each electric motor 5 A and 5B as well as each electric brake 12A and 12B is controlled by its own control electronics (not shown in the figures), which is designed to check and command the operating state and effectiveness of the aforementioned electric motors 5 A and 5B and electric brakes 12A and 12B.

Therefore, in the preferred embodiment as described herein (i.e. the one as shown in Figure 2 or 3), the actuator 1 comprises two independent electric motors 5A and 5B and two independent electronics which drive a fully redundant mechanics (i.e. two lead nuts 8 and 9, an intermediate stage 10 and a screw shaft 6) without using gear boxes and comprises the use of two independent lead nuts 8 and 9, one with a right- handed thread direction and the other with a left-handed thread direction, with which the rotors of the two electric motors 5A and 5B are directly connected. The two lead nuts 8 and 9 engage the intermediate stage 10 which has two distinct external threaded portionslOA and 10B, one that engages with the left-handed lead nut and one that engages the right-handed lead nut. Therefore, the intermediate stage 10 has a thread IOC that engages the thread 6 A of the screw shaft 6 which does not rotate thanks to the rotation-preventing device 7.

It should be further noted, still in the preferred embodiment as described herein with reference to Figure 2 or 3, that the right-handed and left-handed coupling between the intermediate stage 10 and the respective lead nuts 8 and 9, can indicate the position of the intermediate stage 10 with respect to the lead nuts and the screw shaft 6. This will define a much smaller positioning range in which jamming may occur between the intermediate stage 10 and the lead nuts 8 and/or 9 or between the intermediate stage 10 and the screw shaft 6 as compared with prior art actuators. Thus, a much more compact actuator will be advantageously obtained, which has a lighter weight while ensuring that the actuator 1 will cover its entire stroke even under a jamming condition.

The operation of the actuator 1 will be now described with reference to its preferred embodiment (Figure 2 or 3).

Normal operating mode

During normal operation, the two electric motors 5A and 5B may drive the two lead nuts 8 and 9, upon request by respective electronics, in the same direction of rotation or in opposite directions of rotation with respect to each other.

If the operation of the two motors 5 A and 5B moves the two lead nuts 8 and 9 in the same direction of rotation, then the intermediate stage 10 rotates in rigidly joined fashion with the two lead nuts 8 and 9. Due to the rotation-preventing device 7, the screw shaft 6 translates.

If the operation of the two motors 5 A and 5B moves the two lead nuts 8 and 9 in opposite directions, then the torque of one motor is counterbalanced by the torque of the other motor and the intermediate stage 10 translates. The screw shaft 6 translates in rigidly joined fashion with the intermediate stage 10.

As a result, in the normal operating mode, the intermediate stage 10 may rotate, translate or roto-translate and the screw shaft 6, due to the presence of the rotation- preventing device 7, translates along the axis of rotation X to thereby provide a linear reciprocating motion, still along the axis of rotation X, of the pushing member 3.

Operating mode in case of failure (indistinctly failure of one of either electric motor or respective electronics)

In case of indistinctly failure in either of the two electric motors 5A or 5B or their respective electronics, then the electric brake 12A or 12B is actuated and stops the rotation of the lead nut 8 or 9 on the side of the faulty motor/electronics, e.g. the brake 12A stops the rotation of the lead nut 8 if the failure is in the motor 5A and/or its command and control electronics.

In this scenario, the intermediate stage 10 will roto-translate along the axis of rotation X, due to the rotation of the lead nut 9 actuated by the electric motor 5B. Due to the rotation-preventing device 7, the screw shaft 6 will translate along the axis of rotation X in response to the translation and rotation of the intermediate stage 10, as the latter is coupled by its thread IOC with the thread 6A of the screw shaft 6.

The translation of the screw shaft 6 provides the linear reciprocating motion, still along the axis of rotation X of the pushing member 3.

Operating mode in case of failure (jamming of the intermediate stage of the screw with either of the lead nuts)

This mode is applicable in case of mechanical failure (jamming) of the intermediate stage 10 with either of the two lead nuts 8 or 9, e.g. jamming of the intermediate stage 10 with the lead nut 8.

In this scenario, the two electric motors 5 A and 5B are actuated by their respective electronics in the same direction of rotation. The intermediate stage 10 rotates about the axis of rotation X in rigidly joined fashion with the two lead nuts 8 and 9. The screw shaft 6, due to the presence of the rotation-preventing device 7, translates along the axis of rotation X to thereby provide a linear reciprocating motion, still along the axis of rotation X of the pushing member 3.

Operating mode in case of failure (jamming of the screw shaft with the intermediate stage of the screw)

In case of failure (jamming) of the screw shaft 6 with the intermediate stage 10, then the two electric motors 5 A and 5B are actuated by their respective electronics in opposite directions of rotation. The torque of one motor is counterbalanced by the torque of the other motor and the intermediate stage 10 only translates along the axis of rotation X. The screw shaft 6 translates along the axis of rotation X in rigidly joined fashion with the intermediate stage 10, to thereby provide a linear reciprocating motion, still along the axis of rotation X, of the pushing member 3.

Those skilled in the art will obviously appreciate that a number of changes and variants as described above may be made to fulfill particular requirements, without departure from the scope of the invention, as defined in the following claims.