Design runs like clockwork at the London Olympics

Nov 23, 2012 | Electrical & electronics

When The Hawkins Clock Company of Peterborough needed a solution to ensure the clocks on the ‘Time Line Fence’ at this year’s London Olympics were perfectly in time, it turned to Winter and Smith Electronics of Rochester, Kent.

The fence – one of the jumps faced by the equestrian riders during the cross country events – featured 22 clock faces to show the local time of each competing nation. However, not only did these need to show the correct time, but all the second hands needed to move in synchronisation.

Already familiar with the engineering skills offered by Winter and Smith, having worked with the team on a number of previous projects, Hawkins Clock tasked the company with designing and manufacturing the electronics to drive the clocks.

“We set about designing a system where each clock face had a sophisticated GPS receiver, dedicated microprocessor and bespoke software,” explained James Winter, technical director. “As the clocks were to be installed within the jump and also needed to withstand the demands of the English summer weather, the electronics were enclosed in an IP65 enclosure that was shallow enough to fit behind the clock face.”

When the first prototype had been created, the company realised too much noise was being generated by the motor and gearbox – and with all clocks ticking at once this could have scared the horses. “We solved the problem by mounting the stepper motors on rubber dampers, reducing the noise generated by around 90%,” explained Winter.

Once the project had been signed off Winter then visited the Olympic site at Greenwich to help oversee the installation of the Time Line Fence.

The resulting system met the design requirements, with each of the clocks remaining in time – with second hands synchronised – throughout the Olympic Games.

“It was such a fantastic opportunity to be involved in this project,” commented Winter. “Our team at Winter and Smith watched the coverage of the equestrian section of the Olympics with great pride – and we were very pleased to witness Team GB member Zara Phillips jumping over the Time Line fence and into second place!”

Winter and Smith Electronics, which celebrated both its 40th anniversary and a ‘Best small business award’ last year, is a specialist in the design and manufacture of electronic equipment, and has worked on many interesting and unusual applications over the years. The company – which has electronics, mechanical and software design engineers, a comprehensive mechanical workshop and full manufacturing facilities – offers a complete and professional design service with fast turnaround. It has also recently been awarded Platinum design partner status from Microchip technology, in recognition of its work with PIC microprocessors.

Winter and Smith Electronics     

T: 01634 291166



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