Appointed Interelectric AG's Chief Executive Officer in 1993, Mayer began his 28-year career with the company in its development department where he was involved in the design and launch of maxon motors. Mayer started to build Interelectric's worldwide sales network in 1970, which now covers 25 countries, and until the end of 1992 he headed Sales and Marketing. Mayer, a mechanical engineer, is also a specialist in microdrive technology and is a member of several industry advisory committees and commissions.
Supplying the multitude of product variations in a rapidly expanding marketplace, says Mayer, calls for close attention to quality, cost, and customer demands.
Design News: The high performance of maxon's DC motors depends, in large part, on the company's patented moving coil rotor design. Please explain briefly how this technology works.
Mayer: Our moving coil technology is well known these days. The moving copper coil, which forms the core of a maxon motor along with the magnet, has many advantages, such as high efficiency and acceleration due to the moving coil's low inertia; no magnetic detent; low inductance for longer life; and a linear relationship between voltage/speed, speed, load/speed, and load/ current. The only drawback of this product is the cost compared to conventional drives.
Q: Advances in electronics and magnet quality have outpaced similar improvements in associated mechanical transmission systems, making ball screws and gearing the limiting factors in motion control. How can better motor design bridge this gap?
A: The moment certain "prophets" in the world of drive system technology brand mechanical elements as outdated, there will be a problem. The fact is that for the micromotor business, a substantially higher integration of motor components will increasingly help to bridge this gap in the future. But there is always the question of cost analysis, which ultimately is the key factor for specific customer needs.
Q: Often a drive system's electronics package compensates for mechanical tradeoffs. How important is CAD in promoting concurrent design of both the electronics and mechanical sides of a drive system?
A: From both the mechanical and electronics perspective, the components market today, with all its diverse variations, needs an efficient CAD system if it is to satisfy international requirements. Additionally, as a cost-oriented construction system, CAD is an important element within the framework of our complex operational/ management system, and we view it as a key competitive advantage for maxon.
Q: Since the creation of the maxon motor trademark in 1970, Interelectric AG has become a world-wide supplier of high-performance servomotors, precision gearheads, and electronic motor components. What is the key to creating an international product line?
A: I cannot answer that question in a couple of lines, but in short, looking back over my 28 years at Interelectric, I would say it is probably the determination to be the market leader and to be the best in terms of quality. Also, a certain amount of entrepreneurial luck, good employee relations, and a constant dedicated drive to meet customer demands are of equal significance.
Q: In what ways are ISO criteria important to maintaining a global presence?
A: The process of Total Quality Management is a must for our precision products to be successful in difficult global markets. As early as 1987, Interelectric was one of the first 10 Swiss companies to be awarded the important ISO 9001 Certificate, and to date has twice been successfully reassessed.
Q: What markets currently account for most of your business, and what industries do you see as the biggest growth areas in the future?
A: We currently trade with thousands of customers based in 35 countries in the industrialized world. We focus principally on the manufacturers of medical instruments, computer peripheral equipment, measurement technology, car construction, robots, and handling systems. We see the future growth rates in mechanical engineering and areas of communications technology gradually becoming as high as those in microtechnology. From today's perspective, America, Germany, and the Far East (principally Japan, China, and Korea) will remain or become the largest market areas.
Q: Japan has invested considerable effort into developing ultrasonic wave motors, while three-phase steppers are gaining popularity. What do you see as the general trend in electronically-controlled small motor design?
A: The "ironless motor" will have even greater importance in electronically-controlled small motors because of its enormous advantages, all of which are far from exhausted. For many years, Interelectric has been involved in all kinds of motor technology, and in our view, piezo-ceramic microdrive systems with submicron resolutions and no electromagnetic interference have great prospects for the future. The market will ultimately decide between fact and fiction on this issue.