Aluminium Gate Automation

Aluminium Gate Automation

aluminium gate, wooden gate, electric gate, gate automation

Aluminium Gate Automation is big business in the UK. The number of home-owners who are looking at the benefits of adding automated electric gates to control access to their property is increasing. But, as with all things where you call in an expert to specify and install the equipment, how do you know what’s right for your situation and preferences?

To answer a lot of questions regularly asked by home-owners concerning aluminium gate automation, here’s a run-down of the different systems available and why one is better than another in certain circumstances.

Sliding automatic gates vs automatic swing gates

Most people think of gates that swing open and closed on hinges mounted on gate pillars when they consider gates for their driveways. But a pair of automatic gates that swing open and closed require a lot of empty space to clear their full range of travel. Electric gates with a span of 3 metres each still need 3 metres of space behind the gate pillar to swing into when they open. And, unless they have a large space under them when closed, they can’t swing onto a rising driveway or they will hit the ground at the bottom as they open.

Another issue with swing gates is the potential installation on driveways where cars are parked just inside the gates. If the home-owners can’t get their cars into and back out of the available space with gates open, or the gates can’t close once cars are parked, swing gates are not possible.

aluminium gates, gate automation, electric gates

The solution could be a sliding gate or (less common) pair of gates. These slide along a track installed in the driveway across the entrance width which extends for the length of the gate beyond the opening. The gate slides along this track revealing the open gate-way. In many cases, this will slide alongside an existing fence, hedge or wall next to the gateway as along as this does not curve towards the property within the length of space the gate would travel into as it opened.

Other factors that might determine the type of gate chosen could include weight as a very large, heavy gate is more likely to be a sliding gate than a swing gate. This is simply because of the equipment and forces required to support and open and close a swing gate compared to those required to push or pull a sliding gate along a track.

Aluminium gates, sliding gates, automatic gates

Motors used for aluminium gate automation

sliding gate, gate automation, gate motor

Sliding Gate Motors

Most sliding gates are automated by a gate motor of the same type. This is essentially a motor housed in a box that rotates a cog that protrudes from the side of the box. Alternatives include belt or chain drive or wheeled systems (see below). The motor housing is mounted against the gate so that the cog meshes with a toothed rack that runs the length of the gate near its base. As the cog turns, it pulls and pushes the gate open or closed along it track.

Aluminium swing gate with automation

Swing Gate Motors

Most swing gate motors have a difficult job as they are mounted on the gate posts or pillars and force gates open and closed from a point on the gates quite close to the pivot point. Imagine pushing a door closed from close to the handle as far as possible from the hinges and force required is low. Now move closer to the hinges and try pushing the door shut and you’ll need much more force to do so. This is the effect produced by leverage and simply means that you can move a lever (gate in this instance) much more easily further from the pivot (hinges in this case).

Gate motors used for automating swing gates come in a variety of styles as follows:

  • Articulated arm gate motors
  • Ram gate motors
  • Underground gate motors
  • Wheel system gate motors

Gate motor designers and engineers have come up with a variety of ways of dealing with this problem as can be seen by the number of different types of gate motors available compared to just the one type for automating sliding gates.

All gate motors are essentially electric motors or pneumatic actuators rotating an output shaft.

Articulated arm gate motor

Articulated arm gate motors

In the case of articulated arm gate motors, the output shaft emerges vertically from the base of the gate motor housing and is fitted to a jointed metal arm mounted perpendicularly to the shaft. The other end of the arm is mounted on the gate and as the motor turns, it pulls the arm away from the gate which follows it and consequently opens. The reverse happens to close the gate.

Articulated arm gate motors need room for the arm to move into so are not suitable for gate that open onto walls or where there are restrictions behind the post. However, they are great for installing on wider pillars and where the geometry would be difficult to get spot on.

aluminium gate

Underground gate motors

Underground gate motors work in a similar way but are mounted below the surface of the drive at the base of the gate piers, pillars or posts and the output shaft emerges vertically from the top of the housing in the same vertical plane as the gate hinges. An arm on the output shaft is bolted to the bottom edge of the gate and the gate opens as closed as the output shaft turns.

This type of motor requires a lot of force to open and close gates as it is a close as it can be to the gate hinges. However, this type of gate motor is favoured in the UK as its unobtrusive, near invisible design is very popular.

Ram gate automation

Ram gate motors

Ram gate motors operate automatic gates by pushing and pulling a ram mounted to the gate. The body of the gate motor is mounted to the relevant gate post and as the ram is pulled into the motor housing, the gate opens and as it is pushed back out, it closes the gate.

A similar gate motor to the ram has the gate mounting on a worm screw which rotates and screws the gate mounting away from or towards the motor mounted on the gate post. This again, either pulls the gate open or pushes it closed.

Ram gate motors are slim and unobtrusive. They are suited to slimmer pillars but require care when aligning the motor and the gate.

Worm screw gate motors are often slim and don’t show any moving parts unless looked at from above or below. They are suited to slimmer pillars but require care when aligning the motor and the gate.

aluminium gates

 Other types of gate motor

Variations of the underground motor system have been developed to be housed entirely in the gate post while wheeled systems are the only gate motors that operate from the edge of the gate furthest from the hinge. These gate motors use an electric motor to drive a wheel in constant contact with the ground which simply pulls or pushes the gate open or closed as it turns.

These gate motors work particularly well on uneven or sloping drives as they can include spring loaded wheels that follow contours as they turn. They also operate as far from the hinge as possible so are used on large swing gates.

24Vdc or 230Vac?

Historically, mains Voltage motors ran hot when the duty cycle was high. They were used to power hydraulic systems where the hydraulic oil could be used as a coolant. As the market grew, competitors with no hydraulic equipment started to use low Voltage systems that did not experience the same overheating issues. Today, most systems use either mains (230Vac) or low Voltage (24Vdc) electromechanical systems although some still use hydraulic gate motors.

Low Voltage systems come with obstacle detection as standard. This either stops the gates, or stops and reverses the gates when they encounter an obstacle during operation. Mains gate motors traditionally did not have this feature but it is being incorporated more.

Low Voltage systems also offer the advantage of battery back-up as they can be operated by rechargeable batteries in the event of a power failure. The downside to Low Voltage gate automation systems is a slightly higher price.

Lightweight aluminium gates

Gate automation safety issues

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Aluminium gates that look like wooden gates

Aluminium Gate Automation creates a new piece of machinery from a number of components.

This means that any gate automation professional has to CE mark their machinery once the gate motors, gate automation safety devices, control system, and any additional items such as access control code entry, voice or video intercoms, are installed and operational.

There is the potential for harm to anyone from a badly conceived or an incorrectly installed gate automation system so it’s imperative that any installer carries out a full hazard assessment when designing a gate automation system to meet a client’s requirements.

Equipment for automating gates is often sourced from mainland Europe as many leaders in this industry come from countries such as Italy and Germany. Traditionally, Italians and residents of many other European countries see guarding the perimeter of their property equally as important as locking their house doors and windows. Consequently, gates have to be shut when not in use and open automatically as required.

In the UK, we’re a few years behind in terms of the popularity of automatic electric gates. To some, they are seen as a bit snobbish and elite. However, the principle is very sound. If you have gates, you have to open and close them by hand or leave them open unless you add a system that will open and close your gates automatically.