Mark Petty was appointed president of Kollmorgen Motion Technologies Group in 1994 and currently oversees its industrial and commercial business. Petty joined Kollmorgen Corporation in 1992 as director of business development. Prior to joining Kollmorgen, Petty served as president of General Eastern Instruments, a division of High Voltage Engineering Corporation. Petty earned a BA in Economics from Tufts University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. He is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Virginia Power Electronics Center at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Striving to make products more user-friendly, the high-performance segment of the motion control industry plans to capture an even greater share of the market.
Design News: How do you define the high-performance segment of the motion control industry?
Petty: Typically what we're referring to is the servo part of the market--all of the motors, drives, and controllers that incorporate some type of feedback. In other words, these are closed-loop systems.
Q: What percent of the total market does it constitute?
A: The high-performance segment is about 30% of the motion control market today, but estimates are that it's growing annually at a rate of about 7 to 10%. The technology isn't mature yet, but it is definitely beyond its infancy.
Q: What major innovations are happening in the high-performance segment of the motion control industry today that are helping to contribute to its growth?
A: It's becoming easier to apply! Fifteen years ago, when servo technology first came out, it was very difficult for people to make it work effectively. Today, we're seeing two very distinct phenomena: On one hand, people today seem to know a lot more. But on the other hand, as companies become leaner and leaner, they may no longer have engineers who specialize in motion control. As a consequence, many suppliers have had to take the lead. Our approach, for example, is to be a motion control consultant. We have teams of applications and sales engineers who are experts in the technology.
The industry has also come a long way in making the technology more user-friendly: We have plug-and-play type solutions now, systems that can do self-evaluation and diagnostics, and many more application engineering tools available.
Q: You have talked about something called the modified-standard product. What exactly does this mean?
A: Historically, the motion control industry has provided two categories of motors. At one end of the spectrum is the custom motor, which meets a specific customer's unique specifications. On the other end of the spectrum is the standard motor, which is basically an off-the-shelf product that typically requires the engineer to modify his design in order to accommodate it.
A modified-standard product incorporates the best of both: Essentially what we do is take a standard motor configuration and make some minor engineering modifications, such as a special inertia or voltage, or depending on what the customer is looking for, adding a special resolver or tachometer. A custom motor, on the other hand, would involve changes in the electromagnetics or major modifications to the software. What differentiates the modified-standard from totally custom is the level of engineering required.
Q: How exactly does this benefit the customer?
A: One obvious benefit is simply the variety of options available. For example, we sell 829,000 different combinations of our Kollmorgen GOLDLINE(TM) motor, which is a standard product. Now you might think that a modified-standard product is more expensive. Quite the contrary. It actually costs the same or less than our standard products.
Q: How is that possible?
A: Basically what we're talking about is mass customization. While it is a concept that's familiar to many other industries, it's new to motion control. We're able to keep those costs down by setting very flexible assembly processes, agile manufacturing, that allow us to customize standard products on-the-fly.
Q: How can a designer ensure that he or she has selected the ideal motion control solution for a particular application?
A: They need to know as much as possible! We've run into situations occasionally where we have met an existing specification to a tee and the customer that is putting together the machine simply can't make it work because they don't understand the application. In one case, we had to go in and get at the fundamentals of the software controlling their system to solve the problem. To apply servo technology appropriately, a designer needs to know as much as possible about the specific application and choices available.