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A devotion to motion

A devotion to motion

Mountain View, CA-The tale of Jacob Tal and the company he co-founded is a classic business success story. Identify a need, have an idea for a technology that will meet that need, launch your own startup company called Galil Motion Control, and grow it into a $25-million-dollar company in 15 years.

Believe it or not, Tal does have one big regret.

"I wish I had seen the need for digital motion control a decade earlier," says Tal, who is president of the company. Maybe so, but back in 1983 when he co-founded the company with Vice President of Engineering Wayne Baron, the concept of a closed-loop system (which involves sensing the motor position and feeding back that information to a controller) was still in the embryonic stages. To wit Tal says, Galil was the first to introduce microprocessor-based motion control to the market.

As it turned out, a big challenge was overcoming some initial skepticism on the part of would-be customers. "It was such a novel idea that I think for many engineers the concept of a closed-loop system was not easy to accept. Back in 1984 I was describing digital control at a conference, and an engineer raised his hand and said, 'No way, you're never going to get that to work,'" recalls Tal. "So I opened my briefcase, took out our controller, and showed him and everyone else otherwise. As a matter of fact, we actually got our first order for a machine tool application at that very same event."

Today, more than 200,000 Galil motion controllers more than any other competitor in the field, says Tal are installed in applications ranging from machine tools and medical to aerospace, food processing, and semiconductor applications. But none of this would have happened without Tal at the helm. During the years, he has displayed an extraordinary passion and enthusiasm for educating engineers about motion control. More than 10,000 engineers, for example, have attended Tal's seminars on advanced motion applications. He also regularly publishes technical papers and makes himself personally available to speak at industry events.

"Not only is Jacob inexhaustible in his own efforts, but he has instilled a real sense of commitment to the customer throughout the company ranks," says Lisa Wade, Galil's vice president of sales and marketing and third employee to be hired. One of Wade's primary jobs is developing educational tools and creating an environment within Galil to help engineers find solutions to problems.

"Early on, one of the issues we had to confront was the fact that our customers are not a uniform group. Some of them are very sophisticated when it comes to motion control and know exactly what they want. Others may need help in developing a basic understanding of motion control and in analyzing their requirements," explains Wade. "So rather than approaching the market as if it were a one-size-fits-all environment, we treat every customer as unique. We teach our customers what they need to know for a successful application."

Since its founding in 1983, Galil experienced more than 50 quarters of consecutive growth until the downturn in the semiconductor industry impacted sales in 1998. However, President Jacob Tal stresses that the company expects to fully rebound in 1999, and in fact is on track for record sales in the year 2000. As justification for this prediction, he points out that many Galil controllers have already been specified into new semiconductor designs; revenues for these projects will be recognized in the year 2000. Furthermore, the company has focused its efforts on diversifying its customer base, expanding rapidly into medical and manufacturing applications, and has recently doubled its OEM user base.

Another key way that Galil has grown the market is by concentrating on developing cost-effective, easy-to-use technology. Just how low is low-cost? Galil offers volume discounts, resulting in prices as low as $100 per axes in quantities of 1,000 and a lowest-price guarantee for 100+ controllers. The company also offers several of its stand-alone and bus controllers at half the size and half the price of its multi-axis devices, providing significant savings for single-axis users with no performance penalty.

It is precisely this ability to offer fast, accurate motion control at the right price point that has companies like Loat Assoc. Inc. (LAI) spec'ing Galil products into their designs. LAI recently designed the Galil DMC-1040 motion controller into a new four-axis robotic microscope system. Controlling costs was a major requirement of the design.

"We originally looked at a variety of vendors," says Don Lloyd, LAI's vice president and chief engineer. "Only Galil provided a very sophisticated controller at a cost-effective price. After working with Galil for a few years, we have also come to appreciate the ease of installing and using their controllers and their responsive technical support. We are also pleased with the experience and stability of Galil."

Rather than resting on its record of success, Galil continues to push the envelope in developing new technologies. The company's product line includes ISA Bus, PC/104 Bus, VME bus, and stand-alone RS-232 formats. Products range from advanced, multi-axis, card-level packaged controllers to economical, single-axis controllers. In 1998, the company rolled out its new line of network-based products. Its standalone, DMC-2000 controller, for example, uses Universal Serial Bus (USB) as the backplane. The advantage of a network, explains Tal, is that it is an extension of a PC's backplane and is designed to move more data, faster, with a single cable.

Keeping its commitment to the customer, Galil will modify any of its firmware, and in fact about 20% of its customers take advantage of this service. Products ship four days from order receipt to delivery.

Meanwhile, Tal continues in his efforts to educate the market. "No doubt about it, the motion industry is growing. Not only do I teach seminars to help new engineers coming into the field learn more about the technology, but I learn, too, about some of the difficulties and challenges design engineers have in applying the technology. That helps Galil focus its new product development efforts."

Motion control systems from Galil Motion Control: Product Code 4789

For more information go to www.designnews.com/info. To speak with a company representative, call 1-800-828-6344, 3011 and key in the specific Product Code
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