Features

Hundreds of Gearmotors Drive Times Square Scrolling Sign

With a zoning ordinance requiring businesses to throw up big, bright, eye-catching signs, Times Square in New York City has an illuminated-sign density rivaling Las Vegas. When Toys “R” Us moved into the neighborhood, it contacted Revolution Display Systems, (Toronto, Canada) to create a motor-controlled, synchronous, contiguous moving image that would constitute the location’s storefront. The resulting 165-module “Building Board” is the first large-format scroller matrix in the world.

altThe scroller uses Revolution Display Systems’ RevMatrix technology. Hundreds of proprietary DC brushless gear motors, jointly developed by Revolution and PennEngineering® Motion Technologies (Harleysville, PA), turn each of the two artwork storage rollers in the 165 scroller modules, measuring 6' × 5'. Each roll of artwork contains up to eight images, and the entire matrix is controlled and choreographed from a central computer. As the rollers turn, proper tension is maintained as the images, printed on Mylar film, scroll up and down to pre-programmed positions. When all 165 modules move at the same time, a huge, contiguous image (or images) materializes across the 165 faces at speeds of one frame in less than two seconds. The Toys “R” Us display is Revolution’s largest RevMatrix project, standing 30' high by 165' wide.

Custom-made and custom-wound with 13-1/2V windings, 330 NEMA23 spur brushless gearmotors drive the installation and are specifically designed to interface with Revolution’s electronics and motor controls. Motors had to fit into restrictive design envelopes and accommodate offset output shafts. Achieving optimal torque curves and top speeds was paramount. Built-in backup batteries in Revolution products dictated that motors run at 12VDC. The NEMA23 spur gearmotor incorporates a 3-phase brushless armature and Hall-effect sensors to detect armature position. The Hall sensors are used both for commutation timing (typical of brushless DC motor controls) and overall positioning feedback for the servo functions. The foundation of the display lies in the motor assemblies — based on PITTMAN® brand motor technology — that integrate brushless drive, spur gearing, braking, and positional sensing into symmetrical and balanced units.

Separate Revolution RSC6 sign controllers, providing precision programmability and reliability, govern the 165 scroller modules, according to Rikk Villa, production manager at Revolution Display Systems. Each RSC6 contains four microprocessors controlling power and real-time clock management, one for each brushless DC motor, and a central processor to handle networking, sequencing, sequence memory, and real-time cues, and to coordinate the two motor controllers for the servo functions. Operating in real time allows Toys “R” Us to time-target a particular display according to the hour of the day when a particular demographic would most likely be seeing the display. Additionally, the RSC6 controllers feature redundant position detection to minimize the chance of mispositioning in an application where synchronicity is vital.

More Information

For more information, contact Rikk Villa of Revolution Display Systems at 416-259-4690.