swash plate engine
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31-12-2010, 03:28 PM

.doc   Swashplate Engines.DOC (Size: 1.1 MB / Downloads: 154)


The swashplate engine (also sometimes called axial engine or barrel engine) is a type of reciprocating engine that replaces the common crankshaft with a circular plate (the swashplate). Pistons press down on the plate in sequence, forcing it to nutate around its center. This motion can be simulated by placing a CD on a ball bearing at its centre and pressing down at progressive places around its circumference. The plate, also known as a wobble plate, is typically geared to produce rotary motion. An alternate design replaces the plate with a sine-shaped cam, and is thus known as a cam engine.
The key advantage of the design is that the cylinders are arranged in parallel around the edge of the plate, and possibly on either side of it as well, and are aligned with the output shaft rather than at 90 degrees as in crankshaft engines. This results in a very compact, cylindrical engine, for which reason the design is also known as a barrel engine.
The arrangement also allows the compression ratio of the engine to be changed whilst running by adjusting the distance of the plate from the cylinders.

The first known swashplate engine design was introduced by Statax-Motor of Zurich, Switzerland in 1913. Only a single prototype was produced, which is currently held in the Kensington Museum in London. In 1914 the company moved to London to become the Statax Engine Company and planned on introducting a series of rotary engines; a 3 cylinder of 10 hp, a 5 cyl of 40 hp, a 7 cyl of 80 hp, and a 10 cyl of 100 hp. It appears only the 40 hp design was ever produced, and installed in a Caudron G.II for the British 1914 Aerial Derby but was withdrawn before the flight. Hansen introduced an all-aluminum version of this design in 1922, but it is not clear if it was produced in any quantity. Much improved versions were introduced by Statax's German division in 1929, producing 42 hp in a new sleeve valve version known as the 29B. Greenwood and Raymond of San Francisco acquired the patent rights for the US, Canada, and Japan, and planned a 5 cylinder of 100 hp and a 9 cylinder of 350 hp.

Experimental barrel engines for aircraft use were built and tested by Mr J.O. Almen of Seattle, WA in the early 1920s, and by the mid-1920s the water-cooled Almen A-4 (18 cylinders, two groups of nine each horizontally opposed) had passed its United States Air Corps acceptance tests. It however never entered production, reportedly due to limited funds and the Air Corps' growing emphasis on air-cooled radial engines. The A-4 had much smaller frontal area than water-cooled engines of comparable power output, and thereby offered better streamlining possibilities. It was rated at 425 horsepower (317 kW), and weighed only 749 pounds (340 kg), thus giving a power/weight ratio of better than 1:2, a considerable design achievement at the time.

Indian motorcycle also introduced a swashplate engine, the Alfaro, in 1938. The Alfaro is a perfect example of the "put in everything" design, as it included a sleeve valve system based on a rotating cylinder head, a design that never entered production on any engine.

Stephen DuPont in 2006 wrote a small book, A 1911 Spanish Pilot and MIT Aeroengineer and his 1938 Aeroengine Upgraded for Today, ISBN 0-9777134-0-7, which details the development of a barrel engine for aircraft and contains a brief biography of its inventor, Heraclio Alfaro. DuPont was the son of the founder of the Indian motorcycle company; Alfaro was one of his professors at MIT. DuPont later worked further on developing the barrel engine, particlarly for a helicopter, the Doman.

Some small barrel engines were produced by the H.L.F. Trebert Engine Works of Rochester, New York for marine usage.

Perhaps the most refined of the designs was the British Wooler motorcycle engine of 1937. This design used two pistons per cylinder, moving in opposite directions (see the Junkers Jumo 205 for details). The connecting rods attached to a tilting plate through ball joints, and the plate in turn drove a swashplate for power.

More recently, Axial Vector Engine Company has been attempting to re-introduce the concept, although with limited success to date. Their engine, like many of the others on this list, also suffers from the "put in everything" problem, including piezoelectric valves and ignition, ceramic cylinder liners with no piston rings, and a variety of other advanced features.

In 1911 the Macomber Rotary Engine Company of Los Angeles marketed one of the first axial internal-combustion engines, manufactured by the Avis Engine Company of Allston, Massachusetts. A four-stroke, air-cooled unit, it had seven cylinders and a variable compression ratio, altered by changing the wobble-plate angle and hence the length of piston stroke. It was called a "rotary engine" because the entire engine rotated apart from the end casings.


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