The overriding trend for motors is more power density in the same or smaller packages. But motors are also being swept into the wider motion control trend for more highly integrated solutions. The result is more motors being integrated with mechanical control solutions, and also an ongoing move to combine the motor, drive and/or even the control electronics into a single package.
“Engineers are looking for higher power densities, either more power from the same package or the same amount of power from a smaller package,” says Mike Lefebvre, brush motors engineering manager for Ametek Pittman Technical & Industrial Products. “That's always been a trend for motors and it continues to be a priority.”
Lefebvre says many customers are looking to vendors for complete solutions that may include a motor, gearbox, feedback device and/or brake as well. “The ability to put together an entire package has been an area where we have been successful and focus resources,” he says.
This same requirement for more highly integrated, product-level solutions is also resulting in a trend toward motors being combined with gearheads, rotary and linear actuators and other mechanical motion devices. These off-the-shelf solutions boost performance by increasing the precision of systems and reducing engineering effort.
The integration theme in motion control is creating a wide variety of introductions that combine the motor, drive and/or controller into integrated control products. The marketplace is moving steadily toward smaller, lighter and more efficient motor technology, and less complicated interconnections between system components. Electronic components are being designed into internally integrated motor controllers, and vendors say that the time is not far off when power supply components will be able to move inside small motor packages as well.
For brushless dc motors, Ametek Pittman says advances in electronics and the methods to make motors “smarter” will change. Anticipated developments include:
Smaller control chips will provide more standard, intelligent features.
Sophisticated support chips will promote complex motion-positioning applications.
Chips will be able to communicate with each other to a greater degree for enhanced programmable motion control.
Motor power capabilities will grow, including higher current and voltage and faster switching speeds.
In addition, an increasing use of DSPs to control motors suggests that motor control engineers will broaden their focus beyond hardware to software, and users will clearly have many more motor options.