In late June, Texas Instruments gave me, and other editors and writers, a tour of its Kilby Labs Motor Lab. During an introduction, Timothy Adcock, director of the Motor Lab, explained that automotive companies, appliance manufacturers, and even toy suppliers have switched from brushed DC motors to brushless DC motors.
The longer life and greater energy efficiency of brushless DC (BLDC) motors means they are a wise choice for many mechatronics designs. And many so-called "low-end" BLDC motors do not require rare-earth magnets, which helps reduce costs.
Equipment at Motor Lab stations during our visit included a washing machine, motor-driven bicycle, and many power sources, power measuring instruments, and dynamometers. The latter devices let the TI engineers duplicate real-world operating environments so they can test circuits and motor control algorithms. The long-term research at the Motor Lab aims to help engineers create better products, and, of course, use TI integrated circuits and drive electronics.
As noted in an earlier blog, TI recently announced new DRV8x devices that control stepper, brushed DC, and BLDC motors. According to Adcock, about 90 percent of all products that use a motor require power of 3/4 horsepower or less, so the development boards for the new devices provide an easy and inexpensive way to investigate digital motor controls for many applications. The DRV8312-C2-KIT motor-control evaluation kit, for example, will operate a three-phase BLDC or a brushless AC (BLAC) motor, often called a permanent magnet synchronous motor (PMSM).
TI has many resources, such as design tools, hardware, software, development kits, as well as MCU boards, documentation, and videos, to help get engineers revved up (pun intended) about motor controls.
TI's employees use Kilby Labs to research and develop new ideas that may turn into products. Projects can run for as long as 18 months, after which project teams disband, and the small number of promising ideas gets transferred to the most closely-aligned product group. Many ideas never make it out of the lab, but at least their proponents get an opportunity to try new things. Kilby's Motor and Solar labs operate continually, and with permanent staff members.