What innovations impress you in motion control today?
In hardware, brushless linear motors allow us to achieve much higher levels of performance in velocity and acceleration without sacrificing system resolution or accuracy. We're using linear motors in applications ranging from small semiconductor and biomedical applications all the way up to large packaging and automotive designs. In communications protocols for motion control, we find that CANbus greatly diminishes the control and wiring complexity of a system while reducing costs. With CANbus, you are basically taking the controller and amplifier, putting it into one box, and communicating with it via a high-speed communications standard.
What needs are changing motion control?
Customers are demanding more flexibility in their processes. They want more programmability, which is what motion control can offer them, for shorter runs of product and for fast changeover. Another factor is a desire for higher levels of performance, which can be delivered by closed-loop, servo-based motion control.
Which application areas are pushing the performance envelope?
In our market, high-precision applications, such as semiconductor, biomedical, and laser optics, are pushing us not only to come up with a creative motion control solution but also to repeat that solution cost-effectively again and again. Customers want to see the same level of performance in unit 10 as they got in their first unit.
What is making control programming easier?
There's a big change from the situation just a few years ago when it seemed that we needed to ship an engineer with every system we sold. Today, the wizards, tutorials, and block diagrams make programming so much easier. When wired to a motor, many of the amplifiers that we provide automatically recognize the type of motor, what the current requirements are, what the feedback is, and how many counts per revolution. It's the same with today's controllers, which feature wizards that walk you through system setup.
When does using an integrator make sense for motion design?
When we discuss the scope of the project with a customer we answer that. The customer begins to realize whether he has the resources to do the project internally. There's no question that the outsourcing trend is gathering steam in motion control. Outsourcing can free the engineer to focus on the features and performance requirements that the customer wants in his machine, while letting others handle the nitty-gritty of designing a motion system to meet those requirements. Still, it is important for machine designers to educate themselves on major trends in motion control. They remain the overall experts on their machines and processes, and they need to challenge the vendors and engineering service companies they partner with in solving their motion control challenges.