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Clutches and actuators provide a smooth ride on Great Wheel

Warner Electric has provided both stabilising clutches and door actuators for the 48 observation carriages on the Great Wheel of China

In Beijing plans are underway to build a giant Ferris wheel which, when completed, will hold the record as the world’s highest observation wheel, with views reaching the famous Great Wall of China. Warner Electric, part of worldwide power transmission group Altra, has supplied the wheel manufacturer, SIGMA, with linear actuators to open the doors and electromagnetic clutches to control the yaw of each of the cabins. Warner Electric’s expertise in diverse power transmission applications has proved vital to the operation and comfort of the wheel.

What will be the world tallest observation wheel being built in Beijing is planned for completion in late 2009, it will eventually stand at 208m (680ft) high, over 40m taller than the current highest wheel which is in Singapore. The wheel will have 48 air conditioned carriages which will each be able to hold 40 passengers, giving it a total of capacity of 1,920 passengers. The wheel will be so high that on clear days passengers will have a view stretching all the way to the Great Wall of China.

The wheel is predicted to make 750,000 rotations over a period of 50 years so only products that are designed to deliver extended service life were considered. Warner Electric has been a leader in the field of power transmission for over 70 years.  Warner Electric's industrial electromagnetic clutches and brake products represent the industry standard, with the broadest range of packaged and custom designed products available. Its industrial range of clutches and brakes is further complemented by a complete offering of tension control systems, sensors, switches, and linear actuators and guideways.

Linear actuators have been provided for each of the 48 carriages. These will be used as a secondary lock to prevent the door from opening during rotation. The actuator was designed in accordance to customer specifications which included an adjustable end limit switch, end stroke signalling, specific stud, nut and washer arrangements, a manual release lever and extruded aluminium tube bodies to avoid corrosion and reduce weight.

Warner Electric has a wide range of linear actuators. Each actuator has an ingress protection rating of IP65 meaning they can be subjected to low pressure jets of water from all directions. A full line of actuators are available which are designed to meet the demands of any use from light to rugged duty applications. The actuators are maintenance free and long lasting, offering maximum value. All products can be ‘mixed and matched’ to accommodate custom orders quickly and effectively.

Pierre Lootvoet of Warner Electric says: “We are very prod that our products are being used for such an exciting project. The linear actuators that we have provided will help to ensure the enjoyment of everyone who rides on the wheel. We have also supplied electromagnetic tooth clutches which will provide stability to the carriages.”

Each cabin has been equipped with an electromagnetic tooth clutch that prevents the carriages from swaying in the wind which is necessary to prevent passengers suffering from motion sickness throughout the 20 minute ride. The clutches keep its axis vertical as the wheel rotates. If the cabins were left to hang free then they could sway too much for comfort in the strong winds that are present at such a height.

A tooth clutch provides higher torque in limited areas which means that the relatively small clutches provided are able to stabilise the cabins. The clutches have flexible coupling which compensates for misalignments and allows for easy mounting. In the event of the transmission locking on the wheel the clutch will be disengaged to leave the cabin free, there will also be a hand release lever.

Warner Electric is part of Altra Holdings Inc. Altra is a leading multinational designer, producer and marketer of a wide range of mechanical power transmission products. The company brings together strong brands covering over 40 product lines with production facilities in nine countries and sales coverage in over 70 countries and so can provide all its branded products with worldwide support.

Altra’s other leading brands include, Matrix International Wichita Clutch, Stieber Clutch, Twiflex Limited, Bibby Transmissions, Huco Dynatork, TB Wood's, Formsprag Clutch, Ameridrives Couplings, Industrial Clutch, Boston Gear, Marland Clutch, Nuttall Gear, Inertia Dynamics, Warner Linear and Kilian Manufacturing.


For reader enquiries contact: Thierry Denarie Sales Director, WARNER ELECTRIC EUROPE SAS, 7 rue Champfleur 49182 St Barthelemy d'Anjou  Tel:: +33 241 21 24 76  Fax: +33 241 21 24 70 E-mail:

For editorial enquiries contact: David Bedford, DMA Europa Ltd, 2nd Floor, Snuff Mill Warehouse, Park Lane, Bewdley, Worcs. DY12 2EL. Tel: 01299 – 405454 Fax: 01299 403092 E-mail:


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