Encoders and motor feedback systems from SICK give Billy Elliot wings

When the production company Stage Entertainment brings “Billy Elliot – the Musical” to the stage, it is magnificent. They have even earned three musical prizes. “Hempy...” plays a role too. This is the machine that allows Billy Elliot to fly while dancing. Also in the ensemble: encoders and motor feedback systems from SICK. They control all backdrops and lifting and lowering devices, as well as ensuring that Hempy does not run out of steam.

Venue: the Circustheater in Scheveningen. Silicon Theatre Scenery (STS) provided all the machine technology with a focus on automation for the Dutch version of Billy Elliot. Switching quickly is their motto. Driving force: motors. These are used primarily when objects such as scenery items need to be put into motion. “To control these motors, we have developed prefabricated modules that can easily be integrated into the grid. Finally, these modules can be connected via plug and play motors and SICK encoders,” says Senior Engineer Andries uit de Bulten.

And now we're back on the topic of Hempy, the STS showpiece. Its task: modern tug of war. It operates the tug that pulls Billy Elliot up into the air during the central dance scene. There is no rush of hard manual labor anymore – although the stage technician starts very traditionally with the first wire rope hoist. “The rope movement is transmitted to the motor via an encoder. This motor then lifts and lowers Billy. Hempy is adjusted such that the actor cannot fly too high, too low or too fast, ensuring that he/she remains safe.”

While the SICK encoders manage the required lift, the motor feedback systems control Hempy's movement – and that of the other motors in the STS solution. They always recognize the exact position of the relevant scenery part, even during power outages. STS also bring the SICK incremental encoders into play. These monitor, for example, the function of the motor feedback system on the axis.


Security and speed: In an industry where both are essential to a company, STS values the cooperation with SICK as a “global brand” and as a “reliable partner with reliable products.”

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