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Automated Window Shades and Miniature Motors are a Winning Combination

September 1, 2022

Whether you’re one of the passengers that are given a coveted window seat or one who chooses to take an aisle or middle seat, you can appreciate the important role that automated aircraft window shades play in air travel! While these electromechanical window shades are found in all shapes and sizes of aircraft, from small private airplanes to long-range passenger airliners, they’re most frequently found in private jets and in the first and business class cabins of premium airlines to create an unparalleled luxurious travel experience.

Aircraft shade systems rely on miniature brush DC motors to work effectively, as these motors are what power the up and down motion of the window shades. Powered shade systems also commonly use a gearbox in conjunction with the motor to increase the torque output and lower the motor diameter, as well as a brake to hold the system’s position. Key application considerations answered by the motion solution include:

  • Quiet Operation. One thing that does not improve passenger experience? A noisy flight! Miniature motors that are quiet in operation help to limit audible noise in the aircraft – though they can’t help with fellow passengers who may be louder than necessary.
  • Lightweight. Space matters in an airplane. Lighter weight and smaller motors contribute to the lower overall weight of the plane, thereby reducing the plane’s fuel consumption.
  • Reliability. A reliable motion solution ensures the uptime of the automated window shades system, reducing passenger discomfort and minimizing repair costs; this reliability helps make sure that flights are as pleasant and enjoyable as possible. Just try to imagine what a flight would be like without a window shade blocking the sunlight!

By prioritizing a motion solution that is precise, lightweight, and compact, aircraft manufacturers ensure that the shades operate smoothly and quietly. But unlike other applications in the commercial aerospace industry, window shade systems do not require motors that feature very high torque and very high speeds; in fact, operating the motor at a lower speed while still allowing the window shade to be raised and lowered at an acceptable rate is ideal and helps reduce the motor noise. Additionally, the ability to withstand extreme temperatures (-55°C) or shock/vibration is not essential for the miniature motors powering these systems.

Portescap's broad portfolio provides unparalleled reliability and power density to meet the specific requirements for window shade applications. While these applications typically use 12mm to 24mm brush DC motors due to the familiarity with the technology, brushless DC (BLDC) motor solutions may prove to be a better option for some systems, given that they are typically lighter and provide longer life. Most solutions are also a mix-and-match of standard components; this means that Price to Performance, or balancing motor performance with motor cost, becomes a key factor in the final selection. In some cases, there is also an opportunity to differentiate with a more customized solution, such as adding special shielding when very low EMI/EMC is required.

Looking to select a motor for powered shade systems? Our engineering expertise and customization capabilities position Portescap as an ideal partner to deliver lighter and quieter solutions. Explore our motors for automated window shades or reach out to us directly to discuss your applications!