Strengthening the chain: How APC support helped to create a revolutionary new power transmission concept

Sometimes it’s the little things that can have the biggest impact. Amid all the new technologies that have shaped the industrialised world, New Motion Labs founder Marcel Fowler believed that there was one fundamental aspect that had been overlooked.

“Almost everything that moves, from factory robots to spacecraft, contains one of three power transmission systems: a roller chain, gear drive or belt drive. The design principles behind these haven’t changed greatly in upwards of a century and that got me wondering if there was a better option,” he explains.

Fowler’s solution is a technology known as Link Drive, which takes the basic principle behind a roller chain and addresses its key weaknesses: frictional losses, durability and noise. These all stem from the fact that a roller chain only transmits power across a handful of teeth on the sprocket. Link Drive, on the other hand, uses a double roller mechanism to engage all of the teeth that are in contact with the chain. This spreads the load more evenly, greatly reducing the peak stresses.

The end result is that the Link Drive is quieter, more efficient and lasts longer than a normal chain. It’s also quieter and lighter than a gear drive, while reducing the frictional losses and eliminating the risk of slippage that come with a belt drive.

A keen cyclist, Fowler first came up with the concept while studying a bicycle chain, but it soon became apparent that its potential applications could be far more widespread. What he lacked at the time was the resources to develop the idea and form a company. But, after securing £104,500 of grant support from the APC’s Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP), that all changed – what started off as a one-man band has now grown to become an ambitious start-up company with seven UK employees and a working prototype of its technology.

“Having a good idea is only a fraction of what makes a business,” comments Fowler. “The experts at the APC helped us to understand how we could build a business around that and how we could progress towards commercialisation. That was a massive opportunity in itself, while the funding allowed us to produce a proof of concept and take on our first staff. That simply wouldn’t have been possible without the help from the APC.”

Twelve months down the line, New Motion Labs is pushing ahead with its technology. The support from the APC has not only allowed a working prototype of the Link Drive system to be developed, but it has also enabled the company to successfully compete for an Innovate UK Smart Grant.

“Being able to show potential investors that we have matched funding from a professional institution that’s so respected in our target market has been a real help,” comments Fowler. “The fact that the APC reviewed our technology and chose to support it is an accolade in itself.”

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