Free as a bird

Without them, the curtain would literally remain closed on the stages of the world. The DTS2 stage technicians from Groningen are specialised in the automation of theatres and bring movement onto the stage – as in the Theater aan het Spui in The Hague. NORD DRIVESYSTEMS was the partner for the modernisation of the drive technology. The result: complete freedom of movement for the entire system.

The Theater aan het Spui, a part of Het Nationale Theater, is located in the centre of The Hague at the Spuiplein, the cultural heart of the city. It was founded in 1993 and has two auditoriums: a large auditorium with 346 seats and a small auditorium with 162 seats. As in most Dutch theatres, the little theatre at the Spuiplein was equipped with automatically controlled electro-mechanical stage and drive technology. However, over the years this had become outdated and the company DTS2 from Groningen was commissioned with the refurbishment. DTS2 are specialists in the development, planning, installation and maintenance of highly complex, automated theatre installations and control systems, and have many years' experience. However, the overall conditions they were facing in The Hague were far from usual, even for the experienced experts. “There was extremely little space available below the ceiling for us to install the entire overhead machinery with all the traverses, lighting bridges and pulling equipment”, says Eeuwe Vos, CEO at DTS2. This was a great challenge, which the theatre automation specialists mastered brilliantly.

The new installation allows any required movement

The entire equipment was replaced with a new construction; the drive system was modernised and the electronics were brought up-to-date. The previous inflexible and rigid installation has become an extremely variable system. Three moving gantries, twelve scenery hoists as well as several chain hoists ensure maximum flexibility and enable scenery, curtains, decorations, stage elements, lighting, sound equipment, etc. to be moved to any point in the auditorium. The gantries are radio-controlled and have a free span of 16 metres. The scenery hoists are mounted at a distance of 20 cm each and can be moved at a speed of 2 m/min along the entire length of the auditorium (25 metres). They lift loads of 300 kg (max. 500 kg) at a speed of 0.8 m/s (max. 1.2 m/s). A geared motor is installed at each side. The chain hoists are also extremely flexible: They can be moved both along the entire length of the auditorium and also sideways. SIL3 fulfils the highest safety standards for theatres. All winches are equipped with exit controllers, inverters and brakes in duplicate.

NORD drives for a great performance

About 40 drives from NORD DRIVESYSTEMS, one of the world’s leading full-range suppliers of electrical, mechanical and electronic drive technology, ensure that everything can be moved. The drive specialist from Bargteheide has over 20 years' experience in the field of stage technology and is completely familiar with the requirements of this sector. NORD drive solutions are compact, robust, dynamic and quiet, and provide a high level of safety. They are easy to use, install and maintain. NORD has supplied three different geared motor types for the Theater aan het Spui: two-stage NORDBLOC.1® helical in-line gear units with powers of 0.75 kW and two-stage parallel shaft gear units with 2.2 kW as well as 4 kW power ratings. Helical in-line gear units are used for all horizontal movements and parallel shaft gear units are used for vertical movements. The drive technology's main advantages are its compact and powerful design. The parallel shaft gear units feature a flat design and are therefore ideal for use in confined spaces. The helical in-line gear units are also very compact. Reliable gear units with one-piece UNICASE housing can also cater for any load. The UNICASE design enables high axial and radial load capacities, excellent reliability, long life and quiet running – ideal characteristics for use in the world of theatre.

Successful together

DTS2 and NORD DRIVESYSTEMS have been working together for many years and have implemented numerous projects together. The stage technicians from Groningen not only value the high quality and reliability of NORD drives, but also the drive experts’ consistent co-engineering. “We need a reliable partner who designs the best possible solutions for us, knows about the special requirements of stage technology and is also familiar with topics such as safety and legal provisions”, says Vos. “During the entire project, NORD assisted us with great commitment and extensive technical knowledge. NORD’s technical support and service is really remarkable.” NORD uses its comprehensive modular system to optimise the required drive solution, which can be simply and easily adapted to customers' individual requirements. In addition, the co-engineering from NORD also includes topics such as energy efficiency, reduction of variants as well as compliance with legal standards and safety regulations. “The latter is particularly important in theatre construction”, Eeuwe Vos emphasises. “In theatres it is dark, extremely heavy loads are moved simultaneously, and actors work completely without safety clothing. Everybody has to be able to trust the technology. This is why it has to operate particularly safely and reliably.”

NORD drive technology has proven itself for years in numerous theatres around the globe. All drives meet the stringent safety requirements of DIN 56950 and DIN EN ISO 13849-1 /-2 as well as the German accident prevention regulations DGUV 17+18. If further requirements apply in particular countries, NORD plans the drive systems locally according to the applicable guidelines and safety standards. The very highest level of safety and reliability is ensured among other things by a redundant braking system for the geared motors, as well as the motors being sized for double the load placed on the gear units used for the hoists.

Special designs make room

Because of the limited space available, every centimetre was used in The Hague. The walkways alone normally require a height of at least 2.20 metres. In the Theater aan het Spui, however, only 2.50 metres was available in total, leaving only 30 cm – for the entire system. “It has cost us quite a bit of design and engineering skill to fit all this into such a confined space,” Vos recalls. In order to save space, the movable lateral gantries were placed a little lower and the control cabinets, which are usually located on the winches, were tilted whilst the chain hoists were installed on the traverse instead of their usual position below. The traverses were also developed especially for this project. On the inside, they are completely pre-wired with power and data cables for lights, so that the spotlights only need to be connected. The result is a small masterpiece. Eeuwe Vos: “For us, this is a completely new way of building theatres – especially for smaller ones. The new flexible design offers a lot more possibilities for using the stage. There is also no need to rent additional equipment since everything is already on site.”