Shake tables and Stewart platforms are both well-established technologies in the field of motion control and simulation. While shake tables are predominantly used for simulating earthquakes and testing structural responses, Stewart platforms are highly versatile and can be utilized in a variety of applications, from flight simulators to robotic surgery. In this blog post, we will discuss the key differences between shake tables and Stewart platforms including their applications.
Shake tables are mechanical devices designed to simulate ground motion, typically for the purpose of testing the response of structures to earthquakes. They consist of a large, flat surface (the table) that is moved in one or more axes by a set of actuators. The main components of a shake table include the table surface, a set of actuators, and a control system.
Actuators are responsible for generating the precise movements required to simulate ground motion. There are various types of actuators available, each with its unique advantages and limitations, including hydraulic, electric, and pneumatic actuators. To learn more about these different types of actuators and their specific applications, check out our blog post for more information about actuators.
In earthquake engineering, shake tables play a crucial role in understanding the behavior of structures under seismic loading. They are used to test scale models or full-size components of buildings, bridges, dams, and other infrastructure elements to evaluate their performance during simulated earthquakes. This enables engineers to identify potential failure mechanisms, validate analytical models, and develop improved design methodologies and guidelines to enhance the seismic resilience of structures.
Shake tables can also serve as educational tools for students, researchers, and professionals in the fields of civil engineering, architecture, and geophysics. By observing the behavior of structures and materials under simulated ground motions, students can gain a better understanding of the principles of structural dynamics and earthquake engineering. Moreover, shake tables can be used in public outreach programs to raise awareness about earthquake risks, and during earthquake emergency training for first responders, emergency management personnel, and community members.
By simulating realistic earthquake scenarios, shake tables can help participants understand the potential impacts of earthquakes on buildings, infrastructure, and human lives, as well as practice crucial skills such as search and rescue operations, emergency medical response, and hazard assessment in a controlled environment. This hands-on experience using shake tables can help build community resilience and better prepare individuals for dealing with the challenges that arise during and after an earthquake event while emphasizing the importance of seismic-resistant design.
Shake tables are valuable tools for studying the dynamic response of structures and materials under various conditions. Researchers use shake tables to analyze the damping characteristics, natural frequencies, and mode shapes of different structural systems, providing insights into their behavior under dynamic loading. This information can be used to optimize structural designs for better performance in real-world conditions, such as wind-induced vibrations or traffic-induced vibrations.
Accurate earthquake simulation: Shake tables can reproduce a wide range of ground motions with high fidelity, which is crucial for assessing the structural responses of buildings and infrastructure to earthquakes. They can be programmed to simulate specific seismic events or generate synthetic ground motions based on statistical models, ensuring that the tests are representative of real-world conditions. This accurate simulation enables researchers and engineers to study the effects of earthquakes on structures and develop improved designs and materials to enhance safety and resilience.
Shake tables provide a controlled environment for studying the effects of ground motion on structures and materials, allowing researchers to isolate and examine specific variables without the uncertainties and complexities of field testing. This controlled setting enables more accurate and reliable results, contributing to a better understanding of structural behavior under seismic loading and facilitating the development of improved design methodologies and guidelines.
Shake tables can be tailored to specific testing requirements, offering flexibility in terms of size, payload capacity, and degrees of freedom. Depending on the application, shake tables can be designed with one, two, or three axes of motion, allowing for a comprehensive assessment of structural behavior under various ground motion conditions. In addition, shake tables can accommodate a wide range of test specimens, from small-scale structural models to full-size components or even entire structures, making them a versatile tool for earthquake engineering research.
Stewart platforms, also known as hexapods, are parallel manipulators comprising six linear actuators connected in parallel between a fixed base and a movable platform. This configuration allows for precise motion control in six degrees of freedom (DOF): three translational (X, Y, and Z) and three rotational (pitch, roll, and yaw). More information about Stewart Platforms can be read from our other blog posts such as ‘what are hexapod robots used for’ blog:
Stewart platforms are commonly used in flight simulators, where they replicate the motion and forces experienced by aircraft pilots during flight. The six degrees of freedom provided by a Stewart platform allow for realistic simulation of pitch, roll, yaw, and translational movements, enabling pilots to train for various flight scenarios, including takeoff, landing, turbulence, and emergency situations. Flight simulators are essential for both civilian and military pilot training programs, improving safety and proficiency.
In recent years, Stewart platforms have emerged as an effective tool for drone testing and development. The high precision and six degrees of freedom provided by Stewart platforms enable researchers and engineers to simulate various flight conditions, such as wind gusts, turbulence, and rapid changes in orientation. By subjecting drones to controlled motion, engineers can evaluate their stability, control algorithms, and overall performance under challenging conditions. Additionally, Stewart platforms can be used to test drone components, such as sensors, cameras, and propulsion systems, ensuring that they perform optimally in real-world scenarios. Check out Fotokite’s case study and see how they are using Stewart platform for their manufacturing tests:
Stewart platforms can be used to simulate the motion and forces experienced by vehicles during operation.This enables engineers to test and optimize vehicle designs, including suspension systems, chassis, and powertrains, as well as evaluate the performance of various components under different operating conditions.
Stewart platforms can be used to precisely position and orient satellites or antennas, ensuring optimal communication and data transmission. The high accuracy and repeatability of Stewart platforms make them suitable for applications that demand precise alignment and pointing, such as satellite ground stations, radio telescopes, or radar systems.
Stewart platforms offer excellent precision and accuracy in motion control, making them suitable for applications that require delicate and complex movements.
One of Stewart platforms' main advantages is their ability to offer six degrees of freedom (DOF) motion control, including three translational (X, Y, and Z) and three rotational (pitch, roll, and yaw) movements. The versatility of Stewart platforms is further strengthened by their modular design, which makes it simple to integrate them with other systems or components.
Stewart platforms are known for their excellent load capacity and stiffness, as the parallel actuator configuration distributes the load evenly across all actuators. This allows Stewart platforms to support heavier loads without significant deformation or loss of accuracy. The rigidity of the platform and its ability to maintain its shape and position under load makes it suitable for applications that require high payload capacity and stability.
While both shake tables and Stewart platforms are used for motion control and simulation, they serve different purposes and excel in distinct applications. Shake tables are specifically designed for simulating ground motions and testing structural responses, whereas Stewart platforms are versatile motion systems that can be employed in a wide range of applications requiring six DOF motion control. It is possible to use Stewart platforms for some of the shake table applications, particularly when high precision, multi-axis motion simulation is desired. Stewart platforms can provide six degrees of freedom, allowing them to reproduce complex motion patterns that may be required for certain seismic simulations. This versatility enables engineers and researchers to use Stewart platforms as an alternative or complementary tool for shake table testing, depending on the specific requirements of the experiment or application. For example, Stewart platforms could be used to test the performance of smaller-scale structures or components under a variety of dynamic loading conditions, including seismic forces. However, it is important to note that Stewart platforms may have limitations in terms of payload capacity and motion range compared to large shake tables. Therefore, the suitability of a Stewart platform for a particular shake table application will depend on the specific demands of the test and the capabilities of the platform.
Despite their differences in design and primary applications, shake tables and Stewart platforms share some similarities in terms of their underlying principles and motion control capabilities:
Both systems use a combination of actuators and control systems to achieve precise motion control in one or more axes. This allows them to simulate various dynamic environments and test the response of structures, materials, or systems to those environments.
Both shake tables and Stewart platforms can be tailored to specific requirements, offering flexibility in terms of size, load capacity, and degrees of freedom. This enables them to cater to a wide range of applications and testing scenarios.
Both technologies can be integrated with data acquisition systems and software, allowing for real-time monitoring and analysis of the systems' performance and the response of the objects being tested. This provides valuable insights for researchers, engineers, and product developers.
Shake tables and Stewart platforms are both widely used technologies in motion control and simulation, each with its own unique set of applications and advantages. While shake tables excel in simulating ground motions for structural testing, Stewart platforms offer versatility and precision in a wide range of applications, from flight simulation to robotic surgery. Acrome is committed to providing customized Stewart platform solutions tailored to your needs, ensuring you receive the best motion control system for your specific application.
Get into contact with ACROME if you think that using a Stewart Platform will be beneficial instead of using a shake table or similar. Our engineers can walk through with you to understand and identify the needs.
References for further information:
For Shake Tables:
For Stewart Platforms: