DESIGN NEWS: What technology trends do you see in motion control?
|Mr. Akihiro Teramachi
President & CEO THK Co., Ltd. Tokyo, Japan
Mr. Akihiro Teramachi has been with THK Co., Ltd. since 1975, and President/CEO since 1997, during a time of exceptional and rapid growth. His vision into the 21st century will continue to lead THK as an industry innovator and develop linear motion technology into the future. Mr. Teramachi is also currently President/CEO of Daito Seiki Co., Ltd. and Chairman/CEO of Beldex Corp.
Many industries—including machine tools, semiconductor, medical, packaging, and automotive—are demanding higher speeds, faster acceleration, and very accurate positioning. In fact, some of these industries require micron accuracy. Linear motion guides are providing the answer to all these demands.
Also, maintenance is more of an issue, with companies demanding less downtime for their machines and more economical lubrication methods. Many companies are addressing these maintenance issues not only as it relates to their bottom line, but now also for their environmental concerns.
Another trend is the growing use of linear motors, which provide speed, acceleration, and accuracy and allow for multiple independent movements along the same set of guides. Now economically priced, Linear Servo Actuators are proven to perform with greater accuracy, repeatability, and speed.
Q: How does THK use technological innovations to better position itself in the global marketplace?
A : THK has always been committed to engineering excellence and reinvestment into R & D of our re-circulating ball, linear motion guide technology. Globally, we recognize the ecological concerns and demonstrate our commitment with our ISO 14000 certification program. Furthermore, THK is committed to SSE 3 (smooth, silent, economical, ecological, endless) technology found in THK's Caged Ball™LM guides. Specific benefits include increased speed and accuracy of motion, and decreased noise levels, and long-term, maintenance-free operation.
Q:What differences exist between European, North American, & Asian markets?
A: We approach these markets by concentrating on our customers' requirements and applications. For example, in Europe the machine tool industry is very strong right now. Our Type SRG with Caged Roller™was designed to accommodate the need for extra rigidity with smoother, quieter motion in linear guide applications. The Asian markets, in addition to their vast range of strong machine applications such as semiconductor, machine tools, factory automation, and robotics, are looking for new and unique ways of using linear motion in non-traditional areas. Some examples are anti-sway systems in high-speed trains, arcade games, and as integral parts in shock absorbing systems installed in buildings to reduce damage from earthquakes. Lastly, in North America, the use of linear motion systems is on the rise in many more diverse, cutting-edge industries such as medical imaging machines, semiconductor manufacturing, and bio-technical industries.
Q: Increasing accuracy, repeatability, and speed has been a major focus of linear motion manufacturers. What strategies are engineers employing to achieve these goals?
A: We are designing caged ball technology into more of our products. This technology offers a smoother and more consistent gliding motion due to the retainer that separates and aligns the re-circulating ball bearings. Caged ball technology also eliminates the heat associated with ball-to-ball friction, allowing for increased speed and a longer product life.
Q: Can you give us a sneak preview of some of the new technological developments we can expect to see?
A: We plan on expanding the scope of our caged ball technology by incorporating it into new products. Our new SBN Ball Screw, featuring cage technology, uses an elastomeric spacer to separate balls and a newly designed ball return tube. Ideal for use with machine tools and semiconductor equipment, all the same cage ball technology benefits mentioned earlier are now incorporated into the new ball screw with cage technology.