A variator is a device that can change its parameters, or can change parameters of other devices.
Often a variator is a mechanical power transmission device that can change its gear ratio continuously (rather than in steps).
Variable valve timing (VVT) is a system for varying the valve opening of an internal combustion engine. This allows the engine to deliver high power, but also to work tractably and efficiently at low power. There are many systems for VVT, which involve changing either the relative timing, duration or opening of the engine's inlet and exhaust valves.
One of the first practical VVT systems used a variator to change the phase of the camshaft and valves. This simple system cannot change the duration of the valve opening, or their lift. Later VVT systems, such as the helical camshaft or the movable fulcrum systems, could change these factors too. Despite this limitation, the variator is a relatively simple device to add to an existing engine and so they remain in service today.
As the benefit of the variator relies on changing the relative timing between inlet and exhaust, variator systems are only applied to double overhead camshaft engines. A variator system that moved a single camshaft for both inlet and exhaust would be possible, but would have no performance benefit.
Usage examples of "variator".
Secondly Candlemas was a Variator, but the barbarian hadn't grasped that word's meaning.