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Stage Winch Design Techniques. Motor Winch Physics. Dan Eslinger Assistant Technical Director Seattle Repertory Theatre. Sample Winch Design Application:. Wagon: 3000# Max velocity: 3.5 ft/sec Acceleration: 2 ft/sec 2. Rules of thumb: Velocity: 3 ft/sec standard top speed

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motor winch physics

Motor Winch Physics

Dan Eslinger

Assistant Technical Director

Seattle Repertory Theatre


Sample Winch Design Application:

Wagon: 3000#

Max velocity: 3.5 ft/sec

Acceleration: 2 ft/sec2

Rules of thumb:

Velocity: 3 ft/sec standard top speed

4 ft/sec for fast applications

Acceleration: 1 ft/sec2 – 4 ft/sec2

Decide how long for it to reach

top speed.

Casters: 6” diameter soft rubber running on a flat wood deck.


N: normal force, perpendicular to motion, here: the load

µr: caster’s coefficient of rolling friction

hard rubber on wood: 0.003”

soft rubber on wood: 0.008”

rc: radius of caster

Double the friction to be safe.

Wagon: 3000# v: 3.5 ft/sec a: 2 ft/sec2 6” diameter soft rubber casters

First, find the Force required to move the wagon:

Forcetotal = Faccel + Ffriction + Flift


Size the Motor (hp):

Wagon: 3000# v: 3.5 ft/sec a: 2 ft/sec2 6” diameter soft rubber casters

Force to move wagon: 346.3#

Round up to 3 hp motor.

sample: 1750 rpm

Size the Drum: at least 30 times the cable diameter.

Choose 8” diameter drum.


reduction needed in sprockets

Wagon: 3000# v: 3.5 ft/sec a: 2 ft/sec2 6” diameter soft rubber casters

Force to move wagon: 346.3# 3 hp motor 1750 rpm 2.09’ per drum rev.

Size the Reducer & Sprockets: match desired top speed (3.5 ft/sec)

Choose 15:1 reducer.

Drum sprocket teeth = 1.161 x reducer sprocket teeth.

e.g. 12 teeth on reducer & 14 teeth on drum.


T: torque in ft lbs

Force is great enough to move wagon!

Wagon: 3000# v: 3.5 ft/sec a: 2 ft/sec2 6” diameter soft rubber casters

Force to move wagon: 346.3# 3 hp motor 1750 rpm 2.09’ per drum rev.

15:1 Reducer 12 teeth – 14 teeth sprockets

Verify Amount of Torque:

jon lagerquist

Jon Lagerquist

Technical Director

South Coast Repertory Theatre

friction drive winch

Friction Drive Winch

Chris Fretts

Technical Director

Indiana Repertory Theatre


Friction Drive Winch

Motorized or manual operation

Does not use a Grooved Drum

Uses a keyed four groove Multi-sheave above and five idler sheaves below Cable is either an endless loop or both ends terminate at wagon


Drive: 2HP Motor with 25:1 Gear Reducer

Motor Output: 1750 RPM

Gear Reducer Output: 70RPM

Top Cable Speed: 3ft./sec.

Shafts: 13/16” Roller Chain: #50


Operation of the winch can be changed from motorized to manual by shifting the roller chain from the sprocket on the Gear Reducer to the idler sprocket on the motor mount. By pulling the lower pins on the mount and pivoting the motor mount on the upper bolts, the roller chain can be shifted to the idler.


A handle for manual operation can be attached to either end of the two shafts on the top of the winch unit.

In its current configuration, we have installed a additional 1.5:1 output reduction with the installation of a 20 tooth and 30 tooth sprocket on the two top shafts. This allows some choice of mechanical advantage if the winch is operated manually. This additional reduction decreases the motorized top cable output to 2ft./sec.


Proper tension on the drive cable is controlled by drawing back the idler sheave assembly on the two threaded rods. This is done by using an impact wrench on the welded nuts on back end of each threaded rod.


A rotary encoder is attached with #25 roller chain and sprockets to the drive sheave to enable positioning control with our PLC system. This can be interchanged with a mechanical counter if needed for manual operation


Major Parts List

Baldor #

2HP Motor #VM3558T

ebay “Buy it now” price $120

25:1 Gear Reducer #GF2532BG

ebay “Buy it now” price $199

Grainger #

Pillow Blocks (4) #5X685

Multi-sheave 11.25”OD #2L371

Sheave 7”OD (5) #3X923

#50 Roller Chain 10’ #2W095

15 Tooth #50 Sprocket (3) Varies with Bore

30 Tooth #50 Sprocket # 6G021

Friction Drive Winch

Indiana Repertory Theatre

peter pan winch

Peter Pan Winch

Developed and designed by Stephen Henson at California State University Fullerton

with special thanks to Bill Meyer, Matthew McKinney and Scott Shiba for various creative influences during the process of development


Prototype winch

-Form followed function purely

-Used with a sprocket instead of three-grooved sheave, for direct chain-drive

-Two plates punched to be bolted to the gear box, welded to a cross member punched for hangers

Version 2.0 winch

-Rotated motor 90 degrees

-Added two vertical angle irons for pushing motor away from batten

-Allowing for three-grooved sheave with a double sheave hung above directly from batten (not shown)

-Crudely mounted mule blocks for directing cables along batten to scenery

-Rotary Limit Switch and Junction box mounted to motor mount plate


-Top plate is designed to facilitate standard Batten hangers, as well as suspend a swivel double sheave

-Slotted flat bars accommodate multiple positions for head blocks as well as twisting into alignment with three-grooved sheave

-Center plates are punched accordingly for mounting gear box with encoder and motor suspended from gearbox

-Bottom of frame has additional steel structure for mounting rotary limit switch and junction box containing RJ45 connectors.

-Head block assembly is punched with extra holes to allow for flexibility with parts

matthew mckinney

Matthew McKinney

Graduate Student

San Diego State University

  • Traveler winch
  • Built from equipment on hand
  • 2HP AC Vector Motor
  • Drive Mounted to winch
  • Massively over powered (Opera Capable)
  • Cost: Priceless

Shipping Crate

Top is removed to attach directly to batten and lift out of box

bill meyer

Bill Meyer

Technical Director

Cal State Fullerton


Basic 1 ½ HP DC Winch with dolly and strap

  • Frame design version 8ish
  • Setup to be used in either direction

Top Easily removable for adjustment and inspections

  • Gaps at both end for cable in / cable out

New version without hand crank option but holes punched if necessary

(And they weren’t necessary)


Cable clamp

½” x 1 ½” bolt with 7/32” hole


Cable tensioning device

½” All-thread

and removable guides


Complete pillow block, drum, sprocket and shaft assembly for ease in changing between endless cable and drum setups


A list of winch prices for a 1 1/2 HP DC winch

180 v DC 1 1/2 HP motor Grainger 4Z379 $480.00

Gear reducer w/ base Grainger 1L426 $360.00

Dynaper Series R45 Encoder # R4500602222 $285.00

Furnas Rotary limit switch 72:1 54EB23FC $360.00

Chain & Sprockets Grainger $125.00

1 1/4” shafts, pillow blocks, $125.00

10” d grooved drum x 11” long Est. $550.00

6” sheaves for Tension assembly @ $50.00 each

3 Groove Sheave w/ hub for Turntable drive


Misc Hardware, bolts, all thread etc $75.00

Misc Electrical $48.00

Steel for frame $30.00

TOTAL $2464.00

variations on a theme
Variations on a Theme
  • San Diego State University Stock Winch
  • 5HP AC Vector Drive
  • Drive Mounted on Winch
    • Shorter Encoder Cables
    • Shorter Limit Cables
  • Creative Conner’s Control System
  • MCued Servo System
  • Line Reactors
  • Brake Resistor
  • E-Stop Relay
  • Amp Enable Relay
  • Disconnect
  • Embedded Controller
dan eslinger

Dan Eslinger

Seattle Rep Standard 5HP Winch


Seattle Rep’s 5HP Winch

Slick Features:

  • Cable Tensioning
  • Drive Chain Tensioning
  • Overtravel Limits & Encoder Built-in
stirling shelton

Stirling Shelton

Technical Director

Cincinnati playhouse in the park

spiderman 2

Spiderman® 2


Joseph Champelli

Professor of Entertainment Technology

University of Tennessee


  • Typical FTSI flying winchrated for 500 lbs @ 15 fps (4.5 meters per second - 900 feet/minute)

© 2006 Fisher Technical Services, Inc.


  • FTSI flying winch for the film Spiderman® 2 300 lbs @ 43 fps (2580 fpm, ~30mph)

© 2006 Fisher Technical Services, Inc.



© 2006 Fisher Technical Services, Inc.


  • Parts List:
    • SEW Servo Gearmotor
    • 16” Diameter Drum
    • Dual coil holding brake
    • Custom Control Enclosure

© 2006 Fisher Technical Services, Inc.

assembled drive train

Assembled Drive Train

© 2006 Fisher Technical Services, Inc.



© 2006 Fisher Technical Services, Inc.

on location in nyc

On location in NYC

© 2006 Fisher Technical Services, Inc.


On location in NYC

© 2006 Fisher Technical Services, Inc.


On location in NYC

© 2006 Fisher Technical Services, Inc.

winches on truss

Winches on Truss

© 2006 Fisher Technical Services, Inc.


Standards for Winch Design and Fabrication

ESTA: E1.6-1 watch for public review in 2006



BS 7905-1:2001




Phone 401.862.2980

Mail Creative Conners, Inc.

48 Wabun Ave.

Providence, RI 02908