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Lower Costs, Smaller Sizes


Doug Frater, Parker Hannifin

Q&A with Doug Frater, Business Development Manager, Parker Hannifin Electromechanical Automation

What are the trends in high precision motion systems? In precision motion control, there is a drive for lower costs and smaller designs that are more efficient. The goal is to keep the cost down, make products smaller, and provide selectable levels of integration services rather than only supplying components. The key is a package that integrates the tools needed for the specific application, and making it all fit in the envelope. It is a constant striving to make things smaller and still make things fit, while keeping the costs down as you do it. For example, "onboard" control is becoming a more common goal in the industry because it allows the whole motion system to be self-contained in one small package. In such a system, the controller, drive/amplifier, and power supply are all integrated into one small package that is "onboard" with the mechanics and moves with the mechanics of the system. This type of design can eliminate cumbersome cabling that can also be susceptible to noise problems and premature wear.

What are key factors as systems move toward even higher levels of precision? Customizations and flexibility are critical to providing engineering solutions since most applications require some kind of special requirements. There is a push to provide a wide range of affordable options including network communications, fieldbus protocols, drive size requirements to reduce the size of the control package, custom cable harnesses and custom connectors. For OEMs, it's important to provide selectable levels of integration, so engineers can buy components, subassemblies and/or testing services to meet specific requirements. The OEM requirements can vary greatly based upon their core level of competencies. They can purchase components if they have a high level of competence in the high precision arena and want to handle the integration themselves. Alternatively, the power of Parker Hannifin can be utilized and the OEM can choose to have Parker handle the integration of components and subassemblies so that they can concentrate on other areas of their machine. Parker is uniquely positioned to work with the OEM and also the end user in a factory setting that may only be interested in a turn-key precision automation system. No matter what type of customer we are working with, our goal stays the same, we strive to maximize the profit of our customers by working with them in a manner that blends our strengths with their strengths.

What key technologies are driving high precision systems? Overall, we're seeing a technology migration with linear motors, air bearings, and high resolution systems providing key advantages and higher performance. Integrating the rotary motor into the positioning table itself, so it becomes an unwound servo motor, is a definite trend. Air bearing technology is becoming more common as a way to eliminate cantilevered loads, friction and the drag of bearings. Very high resolution feedback is also increasingly an important technology whether it is encoder or laser feedback. Glass scale and magnetic tape encoders with subnanometer resolution are becoming more common. Plus, there is a general trend from hydraulic/pneumatic to electromechanical solutions.

Reach Doug Frater at dfrater@parker.com.

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