Single-Chip Motor Controller Enables Quieter, Smaller Precision Automation
The cSPIN, STMicroelectronics’ new single-chip motion controller, allows for the design of equipment such as robotics and industrial machines with quieter, smaller, and lighter precision movement and positioning systems, according to the company. (Source: STMicroelectronics)
Reducing the motor control function to a single chip is a great way to reduce component count. These functions are driven by physics and a broad range of motors, thus giving flexibility, but not requiring a fully generalized solution.
Thanks for the perspective, naperlou. It seems that "less is more" is becoming a theme in motion-control systems, as smaller yet more complex devices require more precision and less bulk. Appreciate your comment.
I didn't like animatic's idea of integrating the controller at the motor. Where intense electromagnetic fields are blasting the local area. Maybe the board is shielded, maybe not. However, I would like to see the motor's power supply at the motor itself and move the drive electronics away.
I have not experienced problems with noise in Animatics motors, but heat can be an issue. Under certain conditions the motors have heat related problems (the heat kills the controller, I think). I used some in an application where there was a lot of regeneration current and a high duty cycle. The motor life was greatly diminished in this application because of the heating.
One nice thing about the motors is the simple wiring. The power to the motor is unregulated DC (2 wires), and 3 wires for communication. No 3 phase motor cable and no encoder and/or hall sensor cables, etc. Additionally, if you have end of travel and/or home switches, they go straight to the motor.
Animatics (http://www.animatics.com/) has been building the controllers inside the end cap of stepper and servo motors for quite a few years now. You connect a power source and a communication cable to the moter, and off you go.
Good find ttemple. Tuning a stepper controller for a particular motor can be real pain, and if you're not a EE, a plug and play solution is the way to go.
Just about every silicon vendor has a "motor controller" part, whether it be for BLDC motors or steppers. What makes the difference is how quickly you can get the part to spin a motor and how much it costs to do it. As mentioned in the article, the biggest problem is the resources required from the micro to spin the motor. Another problem, not often addressed, is debugging. Many of the motor controller parts do not gracefully remove the load when debugging, so that breakpoints and single-stepping can have disastrous results. This part looks to be a very high-end solution that may not fit into smaller motor applications like those used in the gaming industry, but would really work well in medical and robotics.
A useful part perhaps for some applications but what does it do that a dsPIC c/w embedded CAN port cannot? External winding drivers are still required. A processor that does SPI is still required. And unless one mixes P and N channel FETs the high side needs to be 12V above the gates so external support devices and drive FETs are still needed.
What would be really useful would a be device that can microstep a motor to 1/16, have step/dir inputs and have coil drivers with 3.5A and 80V-100V rating. There are a few devices out there that do 2.5A and 24V but exceed that voltage at your peril.
With a better understanding of materials’ response to load and temperature, researchers could potentially use the knowledge to improve design. The research could even help geologists studying plate tectonics.
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