NSK Ltd. developed a compact actuator whose operability of gear shift was enhanced for outboard engines. With the adoption of a high-efficiency automotive ball screw and a high-power motor in combination, the company improved the gear shifting capability and responsiveness while reducing the size of the actuator. The new actuator has been employed in F350, an outboard engine featuring an output of 350 ps commercially available from Yamaha Motor Co. Ltd. Although an inboard engine installed in the cabin were pervasively used in large boats, an outboard engine is reportedly taking their place, with an increasing number of boats employing it, because an outboard engine are easy to be installed and maintained and they are able to provide larger space in the cabin. In addition, the existing mechanical gear shifts involve problems in that a long cable is required because they are located away from the operator's seat and that they are unsuitable for the maneuver with multiple engines and plural operator's seats. As a result, power-by-wire operation became increasingly popular for large boats. It is expected that more number of medium-size boats will employ by-wire-operation as well. Thus, NSK developed a high-power actuator operable under severe conditions to meet the demand for an engine with higher power and applicable to power-by-wire operation. The actuator uses a ball screw with a conversion efficiency of 90%. It also achieved higher speed and power by reducing the energy loss of the actuator, thereby providing smoother gear shifting for the outboard engines with higher output. It also ensures a reliable shift-out of gears by producing a thrust that is greater than that produced by manpower. Meanwhile, because the actuator is subjected to heat and vibration when it is directly mounted on the engine, it employs a motor with high resistance to vibration and a non-contact position sensor. A metal housing of the actuator adopted a sealing structure to prevent the infiltration of seawater and, at the same time, to avoid the influence of electromagnetic waves generated by sonar and radio transmission. Further, it is provided with a waterproof seal and shield against electromagnetic waves. The actuator is also equipped with double sensors, which results in a higher reliability.
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