Ultracompact, High-Performance Servo Motors

You are probably doing a double take. Gary is writing about servo motors? My next post is on the Dunning-Kruger effect where you hit a point of your perceived knowledge far exceeds your actual knowledge and then the collapse to feeling you know nothing followed by a slow ascent to knowing there’s more to know.

Once upon a time, I had some knowledge of servo motors. I have not studied that technology for many years. Then this news release came my way with a request to help the company publicize its new product. I have nothing more to say. It looks interesting, but I no longer have market knowledge. Check it out if you’re building something that requires this form factor.

IQ Motion Control designs and delivers high performance motor modules for robotic and industrial applications. The company’s proprietary technology was born out of the University of Pennsylvania’s robotics lab and combines unique hardware designs with innovative calibration and control software to achieve high end motor performance at an affordable cost.

IQ Motion Control is excited to announce the launch of their newest line of servo motors, the Fortiq BLS42, on May 25, 2021. The Fortiq BLS42 is an ultracompact, high performance servo motor. It consists of a straight stack, straight magnet BLDC motor with an integrated motor controller, and magnetic rotary encoder for position sensing. It is built to maximize torque and speed output, while minimizing motor vibration and footprint. The modules are currently available for pre-order on Crowd Supply.

IQ’s Fortiq module offers the performance benefits of high-end industrial servos at the price of a quality stepper motor and controller. The Fortiq BLS42 motors are rated to 4,000 RPM, have ±2 encoder tick accuracy, experience a 90% reduction in cogging torque ripple with IQ’s calibration software, and have 50% less volume and are 70% less expensive compared to traditional industrial servo motors. There are also 4 size options available for users, each with a different torque rating which is dependent on stack length.

The Fortiq BLS42 is intended for industrial machinery companies, research institutions, and individual makers. It can be used in a wide variety of applications from 3D printers to conveyor belts to robotic joints. The Fortiq product line will replace traditional industrial servo motors by offering superior performance in a significantly smaller package. IQ Motion Control’s launch of the Fortiq BLS42 is the next step in bringing the most advanced motor control technology to the robotics and industrial machinery industry.

Performance Motion Devices Launches Ultra-Compact Motion Controller

You will usually see items related to software or IoT or management here. However my grandson was showing me the construction of his model, remote-control racing car yesterday giving me a soft spot for small motion control. OK, maybe a stretch, but this announcement from PMD caught my eye. Lots of projects could use something like this.

Performance Motion Devices, Inc. (PMD), a leading provider of motion control ICs, modules, and boards, announced today the availability of ION/CME N-Series Digital Drives, new members of the ION Digital Drive family that provide high-performance motion control, network connectivity and amplification. N-Series ION digital drives feature a patented, ultra-rugged PCB-mountable package with three power output levels – 75, 300, and 1,000 watts. All ION/CME N-Series Digital Drives support Brushless DC, DC Brush, and step motors.

ION/CME N-Series Digital Drives provide profile generation, servo compensation, stall detection, field oriented control (FOC), electronic camming, and many other motion control functions. Additional features include support for Ethernet, CAN, serial, and SPI (Serial Peripheral Interface) communications, and support for quadrature, sin/cos, and BiSS-C encoder formats.

Benefits of ION/CME N-Series Digital Drives include:

  • Revolutionary Reduction in Development Time – To create a complete ready-to-go control solution, engineers only have to select their desired motor type and power level and install on a simple interconnect board with their choice of connectors and form factor.
  • Flexible Connection Options – ION N-Series ION Digital Drives are easy to plug in and connect, supporting a range of communication interfaces including CAN, Ethernet, RS232, RS485, and SPI.
  • Small Package, Big Power – Despite their small size, measuring only 1.48”x1.48”x0.66” (38 mm x 38 mm x 17 mm), N-Series ION Drives can drive Brushless DC, DC Brush, and step motors with up to a Kilowatt of continuous power output.
  • Fully Programmable – At the core of every ION/CME N-Series Digital Drive is PMD’s powerful motion control language called C-Motion®. This award-winning language gives engineers the ability to write code and share across all their machine designs.

“Beyond their impressive technical features, the N-Series ION drives have a revolutionary all-in one design approach that allows the creation of fully custom multi-axis motion control boards in weeks, rather than months or even years,” states Chuck Lewin, CEO of Performance Motion Devices, Inc. 

ION/CME N-Series Digital Drives are available immediately and are priced from $209 in quantity depending on motor type controlled and power level. For more information on ION/CME N-Series Digital Drives and Developer Kits.

Automate Forward Keynote Speakers, Agenda Announced

This announcement for Automate Forward, the conference and trade show of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), popped into my inbox this morning. The conference part of pandemic-era events draws many excellent speakers. The technology has greatly improved over the years to at least not getting in the way, if not improving the experience. Networking and trade show visiting still lag, but I’ve seen strides in the booth visitation area. 

A personal observation from an old guy. I remember past lives where each of the areas of this trade show were large events in themselves. Industry and technology consolidation have reduced the size, but the importance to manufacturing remains.

In the spring of 2021, the Robotic Industries Association (RIA),  AIA – Advancing Vision + Imaging, Motion Control & Motor Association (MCMA), and A3 Mexico  will become the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the global advocate for the benefits of automating. A3 promotes automation technologies and ideas that transform the way business is done. Combined, these associations represent over 1,100 automation manufacturers, component suppliers, system integrators, end users, research groups and consulting firms from throughout the world that drive automation forward.

A3 hosts a number of industry-leading events, including the new virtual Automate Forward (March 22-26, 2021) and the Automate Show & Conference (June 6-9, 2022, in Detroit, MI).

More than 80 global experts will speak at Automate Forward, the world’s premier virtual automation trade show and conference set for March 22-26, 2021.  The event also features more than 250 leading companies in an expanded exhibit area, enhanced networking opportunities, and a look at innovative automation startups.

Speakers include senior executives from companies such as 3M, General Motors, Intel, Microsoft, UPS, IBM, GE, FedEx, Siemens, and Proctor & Gamble.

“With the adoption of automation accelerating, and the impossibility of holding large in-person shows in the US at the moment, Automate Forward will play a critical role in educating companies about how robotics, AI, machine vision, motion control, and related automation technologies can immediately help improve product quality, productivity, competitiveness, and worker safety,” said Jeff Burnstein, President of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), the event’s host.

Automate Forward will include a robust virtual exhibit hall and networking center where attendees can connect directly with companies and experts to solve their automation solutions and get immediate answers. The trade show will be open daily from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM ET for attendees to learn about products and systems that can help with unique challenges.

A3 will share a sneak peek of the association’s new brand identity at 9:30 am ET on Monday, March 22 exclusively for Automate Forward attendees. Join live to learn about how its four current brands – RIA, AIA, MCMA, and A3 Mexico – are combing to create the new A3 representing over 1100 global companies and organizations active in automation.

Automate Forward Keynote Sessions

Monday, March 22

10 AM ET PANEL: The New Industries Driving The Growth of Automation and Robotics
Robert Little, CEO, ATI Industrial Automation
Mark Lewandowski, Director – Robotics Innovation, Procter & Gamble
John Dulchinos, Vice President, Jabil
Ted Dengel, Managing Director, Operations Technology and Innovation, FedEx Ground
John Bubnikovich, Chief Regional Officer – North America, KUKA Robotics

11 AM ET: The Competitive Advantage is Here and It’s All About Digital
Raj Batra, President, Digital Industries, Siemens

1:30 PM ET: Moving Automation Forward: What is required?

Greg Brown, Vice President of Strategy and R&D, UPS

Tuesday, March 23

10 AM ET PANEL: The 2021 State of the Automation Industry Executive Roundtable
Mike Cicco, President & CEO, FANUC AMERICA
Patrick McDermott, President North America, B&R Automation
Dr. Thomas Evans, CTO Robotics, Honeywell Intelligrated
Christine Boles, Vice President, Internet of Things Group – General Manager, Industrial Solutions Division, Intel
Sebastien Schmitt, North American Robotics Division Manager, Stäubli

11 AM ET: Human Aware Robot Software and Tools for Delivering it
Rodney Brooks, Co-Founder and CTO, Robust.AI

1:30 PM ET: 3M’s Automation Journey: Driving Growth & Productivity
Debarati Sen, Vice President & General Manager Abrasive Systems Division Safety & Industrial Business Group, 3M

Wednesday, March 24

10 AM ET PANEL: The Rise of Smart Automation
Rashmi Misra, GM AI Platforms, Business Development, Microsoft
Jorge Ramirez, Global Director Automation and Chief Mfg. Cybersecurity Officer, General Motors
Rishi Vaish, CTO and VP, IBM AI Applications, IBM
John Lizzi, Executive Leader – Robotics, GE

Tom Panzarella, Senior Director of Perception, Seegrid

11 AM ET: Using Deep Learning and Simulation to Teach Robots Manipulation in Complex Environments
Dieter Fox, Senior Director of Robotics Research, NVIDIA

1:30 PM ET: Automation and the Future of Manufacturing
Indranil Sircar, CTO, Manufacturing Industry, Microsoft

Thursday, March 25

10 AM ET PANEL: How Collaborative Automation is Driving Productivity
Co-sponsored by the International Federation of Robotics
Milton Guerry, President, Schunk USA
Joe Gemma, Global Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Calvary Robotics
Greg Smith, President of the Industrial Automation Group at Teredyne
David Robers, Robotics Sales Manager – Americas, Denso Robotics

11 AM ET: Value Chain Integration and Optimization Through Robotics in Consumer segments and Retail
Marc Segura, Executive Global Business Line Leader – Consumer Segment Service Robotics, ABB Robotics and Machine Automation

Friday, March 26

10 AM ET PANEL: Autonomous Mobile Robots: How to Get Started
Karen Leavitt, Chief Marketing Officer, Locus Robotics

Søren E. Nielsen, President, Mobile Industrial Robots
Matt Rendall, CEO and Co-Founder, OTTO Motors
Rob Sullivan, President, AutoGuide Mobile Robots
Melonee Wise, CEO and Founder, Fetch Robotics

11 AM ET: Using an End-to-End Workflow to Build, Iterate, and Operationalize Deep Learning-Powered Visual Inspection Projects

Andrew Ng, CEO & Founder, Landing AI

Rockwell Automation Announcements From Automation Fair at Home

I posted overall thoughts from the opening day of Automation Fair at Home yesterday. It’s not that all is rosy in Milwaukee, but the company keeps making strides forward and yet goes its own way not bothering to emulate any competitors.

Several announcements have accumulated that I thought would fit along with Automation Fair thoughts. We have an acquisition, a partnership, and a new product series.

First, the acquisition. 

Rockwell Automation Acquires Fiix Cloud Software for Maintenance Solutions

Rockwell Automation announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Fiix, a privately held, AI-enabled computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) company. Fiix, founded in 2008, is headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Fiix’s cloud-native CMMS creates workflows for the scheduling, organizing, and tracking of equipment maintenance. It connects to business systems and drives data-driven decisions. The company’s revenue grew 70% in 2019 with more than 85% recurring revenue. Fiix has more than 2 million assets under management and creates more than 6 million work orders a year.

“We believe that the future of industrial asset management is performance-based,” said Tessa Myers, vice president, product management, Software & Control, for Rockwell Automation. “With the addition of the Fiix platform and expertise, our customers will benefit from a 360-degree view of integrated data across automation, production, and maintenance, helping them to monitor and improve the performance of their assets and optimize how maintenance work is done.”

James Novak, Fiix CEO, said, “From the beginning, Fiix has been on a mission to connect maintenance and operations teams to the tools, resources, and technology they need to modernize and join the future of maintenance. Joining Rockwell Automation will allow us to help even more companies modernize maintenance and increase asset performance by connecting to industry-leading data, automation, and production systems.”

Fiix will be reported as part of Rockwell Automation’s Software & Control operating segment. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the 2020 calendar year, subject to customary approvals and conditions.

Second, the partnership.

PlantPAx 5.0 Running on ztC Edge by Stratus

Stratus Technologies announced a “Solution in a Box” process control architecture for fast, easy deployment at edge locations that require 2,000 I/O’s or less. The solution runs Rockwell Automation PlantPAx 5.0 software on Stratus ztC Edge. The solution is performance tested, characterized, and validated by Stratus and Rockwell Automation to ensure reliable, rapid deployment by operations teams and systems integrators using a single industrial-grade, panel mounted Edge Computing device.

“Whether it’s control in Water and Wastewater management, Machine Builders innovating for their customers, or managing remote assets in Oil & Gas, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving operational excellence. Enterprises require plant-wide data and control solutions with high availability that can both scale up and scale down based on the use case and location, while being cost effective and easy to implement,” said Dave Rapini, Business Manager for PlantPAx at Rockwell Automation.

The ability to bring mission-critical applications to where they’re needed most via Edge Computing delivers the scale and real-time data acquisition for operational excellence. Stratus’ simple, protected, and automated platform with fault tolerance and zero-touch operation is powering the disaggregation of large process architectures, traditionally deployed at level 3 and 4 of the Purdue model. The combined Stratus and Rockwell Automation “Solution in a Box” architecture provides a flexible approach to scale Industry 4.0 capabilities across a range of environments that was not previously possible.

PlantPAx is a plant wide distributed control system (DCS) that utilizes a common automation platform to integrate both process and discrete control as well as plant-wide information. ztC Edge is an industrial-grade Edge Computing platform that offers built-in redundancy and meets Class 1 Division 2 requirements to operate in hazardous environments. 

Architecture Details

The tested Solution-in-a-Box architecture includes:

  • Rockwell Automation PASS-Consolidated Image 
  • PASS (Process Automation System Server) – FactoryTalk View
  • FactoryTalk AssetCentre
  • FactoryTalk Historian
  • FactoryTalk VantagePoint
  • Rockwell Automation Application Server -OWS – ThinManager remote desktop server (RDS) for remote, mobile, and tablet access 
  • Stratus ztC Edge 110i (single system with a redundant option) – tested in fault tolerant and high availability modes

And thirdly, a new product series.

High-Performance, Scalable Kinetix Integrated Motion Drives

Rockwell Automation’s motion business has expanded its Kinetix line of servo drives with intelligent and scalable solutions.

The new Allen-Bradley Kinetix 5300 servo drive is a fully integrated, CIP Motion solution for global machine builders looking to increase performance and leverage a single-design environment for control and motion. When paired with the new TLP motors, customers get a coordinated platform as they extend the power of the connected enterprise into simple machines, an approach that positions Rockwell Automation to accelerate growth in emerging markets throughout Asia and mature markets in Europe. The new product line, combined with the rest of the Kinetix family, provides a complete range of servo drive offerings from Rockwell Automation for everything from small, standalone machines to large, complex systems. 

The Kinetix 5300 servo drives are designed for diverse machine applications such as electronics assembly, packaging and converting, printing and web (CPW). The new drives also feature capabilities that can help simplify machine design and optimize performance throughout the machine lifecycle. Like other Kinetix integrated motion drives, Kinetix 5300 leverages Studio 5000 as a single design environment. Using a single family of servo drives allows machine builders to program all their drives in this one design environment and reuse code across drives, streamlining the design and commissioning process. Kinetix 5300 native integration with Logix control enables smart tuning capabilities that adjust for changes in inertia and resonances automatically, helping to optimize machine performance and simplify machine maintenance over time. 

“Our expanded portfolio provides machines builders a complete family of scalable servo drives for diverse applications,” said Bill Kegley, director, product management – motion control at Rockwell Automation. “Now with the addition of the Kinetix 5300 to our family of servo drives, we are in a position to deliver truly scalable and intelligent motion solutions that help our customers achieve productivity and sustainability for a wider range of applications.”

[Note: I have been asking for a few years for a working application of CIP Motion at a customer site. If anyone reading this has one, please contact me. If you don’t want mentioned, just say so. In 20 years, I have yet to violate a confidence. But enquiring minds want to know…. Thanks.]

Low Voltage Drives Market Expected to Recover Slowly From the Covid 19 Slowdown

Blake Griffin, an analyst with Interact Analysis which is one market research firm whose methodology I like, has published a blog post reporting on his latest research into the low voltage drives market. Following a sales slow down this year, different regions of the world will see recovery at differing paces.

He also includes an analysis of the role of LV drives in applications such as predictive maintenance. I’ve been long impressed by the amount of motor, and even machine, performance data that may be gleaned from the sensors built into the typical drive. 

Coronavirus

As a company, Interact Analysis is positioned to model the impact of COVID 19. This is because of the MIO Tracker, which tracks and forecasts manufacturing output levels by country at the industry level. We also have a historical dataset to fall back on which reaches back to the 2009 financial crisis – an event that is comparable to Coronavirus in some key ways, and which has helped us to draw some conclusions about the short, medium and long-term effects of COVID 19 on the drives market.

For 2020, the report shows that a combination of COVID-related factors – such as stay at home orders causing a reduction in manufacturing output and demand, as well as factory closures and furloughed workers – will come together to cause a drop in the drives market of over 10%. However, the drop is not as severe as it was in 2009, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are strong prospects for a return to growth in 2021 and drives manufacturers and vendors should make their plans with this in mind.

Growth in the LV drives market sits just above that for the output of the manufacturing industry as a whole. This is a long-term trend and it helps lead to some key future conclusions about the drives market in the post-Corona world. Between 2007 and 2019, the underlying growth rate for LV drives was 3.8%; for the period 2020-2024, the forecast CAGR is significantly higher – at 5.3%. The implication is that the market will recover in a similar manner to how it did during the 2010-2014 period.

In terms of recovery to actual 2019 market levels, this is highly variable according to region. The earliest regions to recover to 2019 levels will be China, South Korea, and India – all of which will do so by 2021, and indeed China has already returned largely to normality. Meanwhile, France, Germany and Italy will not recover until 2024. In the case of Germany, this seems counterintuitive given how widely reported it has been that the country has managed the virus itself very well. The problem for Germany is that it is crippled by its heavy reliance on exports, many of which are to far more badly impacted countries. Of the top ten drives regions covered in the report, the UK stands alone as being the single worst impacted region and, even by 2024, will not have recovered to 2019 levels of drives sales.

The Trend for Low Cost Drives

The research shows that the trend for low cost, reduced functionality drives is becoming an ever more important segment of the market. Such drives tended to be cabinet mounted, to be rated at IP20 or lower, and to offer power ratings of 0.1-3.7 kW. Price points can be exceptionally low, with the most keenly priced products – generally 0.4 kW in Asia – coming in at around the $100 mark. The presence of higher regulations and, increasingly, tariffs, in the EMEA and the Americas is not stopping the growth in the low cost drives segment in these regions.

Hitting such a low price point requires advanced functionality such as encoder support, to be stripped out, although some still have additional plug-in options (e.g. for digital communications). ABB and Yaskawa have had low cost products since the mid-2000s, but the trend is being turbocharged by the rapid emergence of Chinese drives vendors onto the global stage, such as INVT and Inovance. While the high-end OEMs may have little use for low cost LV drives, many others report that they are very keen on such products because they can be bulk bought and easily stored to replace faltering drives as needed – helping to minimize production or machine downtime. Observing the behaviour of established vendors is key to determining just how marked the low cost drives trend will be, and seeing leading companies enter the low cost market such as Siemens (with the V20) or Yaskawa (with the GA500) is instructive.

Other Important Trends – Product Substitution and Predictive Maintenance

Other important trends include an increasing move for product substitutes actually displacing LV drives in certain areas. One of these is electronically commutated motors – or ECMs. ECMs are IP55+ rated brushless DC permanent magnet motors – similar to stepper motors. They are increasingly helping companies achieve energy efficiency objectives in high energy usage applications that do not require the computation capabilities an AC drive offers. Some can now achieve IE5 levels of efficiency, leading to dramatic cost savings. Uptake will be most notable in Europe where energy efficiency regulation is the most stringent.

Finally, a word on predictive maintenance… Drive manufacturers should move away from seeing predictive maintenance as a means of extending the life of only the drive itself. Though this is important, a larger consideration is about how to use the drive as a sensor to harvest useful data on motor health, preventing motor breakdowns on fast-moving production lines. A drive can produce data on motor behavior which cannot be produced by the majority of smart sensors. Namely, drives can produce a profile of the electrical behavior of the motor it is controlling. For example, if a motor is under undue stress, its electrical demands will increase.  If this data is used in conjunction with smart sensors, it allows an additional source of data for triangulation which can improve the accuracy of machine learning algorithms. Predictive maintenance is one of the most important up-and-coming industrial trends. Forward-thinking LV drives manufacturers should act now to ensure they capitalise on this.

Virtual Trade Show and Conference

This week I am attending the Festo Virtual Trade Show and Conference . The website provider is the same one as the Danish company I “toured” last week. It is similar to a concept I saw 20 years ago, but modern technology and design have made the experience very good.

I sat in a couple of conference sessions deepening my understanding of the latest in pneumatics and digitization. The discussion of digitizing and motion was good showing examples from OEE and energy savings. I am not a fan of OEE, but many companies seem fixated on it. It is a number–but I learned how the sausage was made 30 years ago and I remain unconvinced of its real utility. However, if you can digitize to calculate OEE, then you have data you could use in better ways for decision making.

I also learned about applications in process and water treatment.

The metaphor is a trade show lobby with doors for the auditorium for conference sessions, the show floor, information booth. Entering the show floor, there are a number of icons representing booths. Click on a booth and you can choose from short video demonstrations, downloadable papers, and product overviews.

You can attend yet today. It’s worth a look to see what perhaps may be a chunk of the future. I miss the energy and serendipity of live events. But this is an efficient way to collect information saving both the exhibitor and me great expense.