When you attend a stage production, the performers are typically just one part of the show. Sometimes the components behind the scenes are just as important to a show’s success. That’s especially true whenever scenery or performers must be raised, lowered, or positioned safely and conspicuously. Elevators and lifts make it all happen, and almost any spectacular effect is possible with creativity and engineering.
Specialized kinetic structures take the stage
Show Canada Industries is one of the world’s foremost fabricators of kinetic stage architecture. The company has built specialized structures for performance spaces, sports venues, and casinos in over 30 countries. Some of their most notable projects include the main ramp lift at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi and The Sun Kinetic Sculpture at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
For many of its major projects, Show Canada uses Andantex gearing. The company typically employs racks and pinions inside its specialized elevators and lifts. According to David Boulay, Show Canada’s vice president of design and engineering, “Andantex products are reliable and give us a lot of precision and speed.” Three such projects appear prominently inside the Rotunda Atrium at the Wynn Palace in Cotai, near Macau, China: the Iris Ceiling, the Dragon of Fortune, and the Tree of Prosperity. Here’s how they work:
The Iris Ceiling — This 65-ft diameter sculpted-dome ceiling is divided into 12 sections, or wedges, and each depicts a figure from the Chinese zodiac. When closed, they form a seamless ceiling over the atrium. The wedges open like an iris, revealing an LED screen that shows various scenes. The screen also opens to lower a 30-ft crystal chandelier.
Each 14,000-pound wedge has a built-in 7.5-horsepower gear motor and linear guide to move it into its open or closed position, along with an Andantex Module 4.0 Rack and Pinion. The motor holds the integrated pinion, while the rack is installed next to the track.
Dragon of Fortune and the Tree of Prosperity — For four minutes every hour, a 28-ft golden dragon sculpture with an animated head, glowing eyes, and a lotus blossom rotates amidst a rolling fog. A “jade-like” partial dome in the Rotunda’s floor opens, and the mechanical lift elevates the dragon sculpture into full view.
The Dragon of Fortune alternates at 30-minute intervals with the Tree of Prosperity, a 36-ft diameter tree that ascends from the atrium floor as the crystal chandelier descends from the ceiling. This spinning tree consists of 60 limbs, 2,000 branches, and a combination of 98,000 gold and brass leaves which interact with video elements to depict the four seasons.
Show Canada built a lift that shuttles back and forth between the Dragon of Fortune and the Tree of Prosperity via a wagon and trolley. Inside the lift, which can support up to a 42,000-pound payload, four Andantex rack and pinions — two Module 10.0 systems per column — are at the heart of the linear drive systems. The drive systems also link together four 180-horsepower motors with gearboxes, and each motor provides between 38 and 41 rpm and 372,000 pounds-inch of torque.
The rack and pinions easily meet the speed requirement for raising and lowering the Dragon of Fortune and Tree of Prosperity sculptures — three feet per second.
Designed to deliver trouble-free operation over a long lifetime, the rack and pinions are especially appealing for specialized applications like theatrical lifts and other kinetic architecture. Compared to other technologies such as wire rope, roller chains, and push chains that typically must be replaced within ten years, the rack and pinions usually last up to 20 years in Show Canada equipment and often outlast the life of the production.
Andantex rack and pinions are available in straight or circumferential pitch versions and offer an exceptional combination of power and precision. With their modular design, rack segment lengths from 0.5 to 2 meters can be linked together end-to-end so users can achieve any desired travel length from standard components.
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