The sixth annual LEAP Awards — celebrating leading engineering achievements in product design — was the largest yet. 2023 LEAP categories were divided across four the WTWH Media brands of Design World, Fluid Power World, Fastener Engineering, and EE World. These 12 categories include Additive Manufacturing • Connectivity • Embedded Computing • Hydraulics • Industrial Automation • Mechanical • Motion Control • Pneumatics • Power Electronics • Software • Switches & Sensors • and Test & Measurement.
Critical to LEAP’s success is the involvement of the engineering community. No one at WTWH Media selected the winners. Instead, the editorial team assembled an independent judging panel comprised of a cross-section of OEM design engineers and academics. In the category of motion control, there were three winners.
Micro-sized FlexPro servo drives from ADVANCED Motion Controls
2023 LEAP Motion Control Winner — Bronze
Since the beginning, the FlexPro servo drives have prompted end users to ask: “How — from this this tiny thing? Okay, but what are the real specs? Are they all maniacs over at ADVANCED Motion Controls?”
AMC’s new high-voltage FlexPro servo drives boast a voltage range of 20 to 90 Vdc — a 64% increase from the maximum 55-Vdc previously available … with a 25-A continuous (50-A peak) current rating and a 1.5 x 1 in. footprint. AMC developed and produced the FlexPro to satisfy industry’s need compact, high-power solutions.
Design engineers looking for ways to cut size and weight while maintaining performance, so a few years back, the engineers at AMC set to work designing a new series of digital servo drives with a high power output in the smallest possible footprint. The result was FlexPro.
Achieving such high power-density is only possible through meticulous selection of the materials and layouts for the baseplate, boards, pins, connectors, and the electronic components themselves. The power devices and switching technology are carefully designed to optimize power, efficiency, and reliability with minimal thermal losses.
AMC debuted this technology with the first wave of FlexPro servo drives in 2019, featuring a maximum continuous output current of true 25 amps rms at full operational duty and a voltage range of 10 to 55 Vdc for maximum continuous power output to 1.36 kW.
In 2022, AMC delivered a servo drive with the exact same size and current rating but a voltage range of 20 to 90 Vdc — raising output to 2.23 kW. Not only is this a 64% increase in overall power, but the increased voltage means the drive can meet higher motor speed requirements without sacrificing torque capabilities.
FlexPro drives are small and powerful and earn the “Flex” in their name by providing engineers with flexibility in their designs via compatibility with various system configurations, including:
|CANopen||Brushed||BiSS-C absolute encoder|
|EtherNet/IP||Stepper||EnDat 2.2 absolute encoder|
FlexPro servo drives are suited for mobile robots, fixed robots, cobots, aerospace, portable devices, and any application where space or weight are limiting factors. Thanks to their small size, these drives can be installed in a distributed manner where they can be positioned next to the motor (or even within the motor housing) to reduce the noise issues and costs that come with long cable runs.
In battery-powered applications such as mobile robots, lighter components mean saving time and money with more efficient operation and less recharging time. The high voltage rating also ensures applications can perform at high speeds, quite literally keeping up in a fast-paced work environment.
ECS640A three-phase brushless DC motor controller from onsemi
2023 LEAP Motion Control Winner — Silver
onsemi’s ECS640A is a three-phase brushless DC (BLDC) motor controller designed for reliable high-voltage operation up to 600 V. The highly integrated, small-form-factor ECS640A system-in-package (SiP) IC enables scalable BLDC motor solutions by integrating cutting-edge Arm Cortex−M0+ core capable of supporting traditional motor control techniques such as trapezoidal and vector control such as FOC.
Most notably, the ECS640A can drive a more complex DTFC algorithm supporting high voltage and power via a scalable three-phase half−bridge topology.
It supports communication interfaces (SPI, UART, I2C, and GPIOs) and can receive a wide variety of complex proprietary protocols down to general−purpose motor speed profile commands. The 2−way communication interface nature also enables feeding back motor performance-related information. Sensorless and sensored operations are both supported.
In January 2023, the USA Department of Energy (DOE) increased the minimum allowed efficiency of HVAC equipment — the second efficiency level increase in the last five years. Commercial and residential HVAC systems are being affected, with an expected 7% increase for the residential units. The increase in energy efficiency trend is not new and has been pushing all offline powered systems to comply with specific market targets globally.
New technologies are becoming available to tackle this goal, and the adoption of a brushless DC (BLDC) motor topology has been successfully applied. BLDC topology has replaced the well-known split phase induction motor topology and can deliver an average of 30% consumed energy reduction depending on the power application level. A BLDC motor topology requires less raw material for the same power application level, leading to higher output power-to-motor frame size ratio than the split−phase induction motor.
onsemi’s ECS640A is a highly integrated solution that reduces time to market by eliminating the need for design cycles on applications, simplifying solution reuse when scaling BLDC motor power level requirements. Reliability is also improved by replacing many of the larger, more complex devices, while at the same time shrinking the PCB routing area by approximately 20% compared to a discrete implementation, to deliver an overall compact solution.
The integration in a single IC package (10 x 13mm) redefines BLDC motor control performance by optimizing power stage placement and reducing noise. This allows rapid reuse in alternative platforms by simply changing the discrete power devices and updating the software. The reduction in BOM simplifies sourcing challenges stemming from having many different discrete devices.
SHA-IDT-series hollow-shaft actuators from Harmonic Drive
2023 LEAP Motion Control Winner — Gold
SHA-IDT-series compact actuators deliver high torque with exceptional accuracy and repeatability. These hollow-shaft servo actuators feature Harmonic Drive® precision strain-wave gears combined with a brushless servomotor, brake, two magnetic absolute encoders, and integrated servo drive with CANopen communication. This revolutionary product eliminates the need for an external servo drive and greatly simplifies cabling — yet delivers high-positional accuracy and torsional stiffness in a compact housing. Key features include:
- 48-Vdc supply voltage
- Single cable with only four conductors needed: CANH, CANL, +48 Vdc, 0 Vdc
- Zero-backlash Harmonic Drive gearing for accuracy to 30 arc-sec typical; repeatability to 5 arc-sec typical
- Panel-mount connectors with radial and axial options.
In addition, the actuator features dual absolute encoders.
- The output sensing encoder has 16-bit resolution (65,536 cpr).
- The input sensing encoder has 17-bit resolution (131,072 cpr).
Control modes include torque, velocity, position, CSP, CSV, and CST modes; programming is via Harmonic Drive®HDL software. Other options include:
- Four I/O; two NPN or two PNP opto-isolated digital inputs
- Two programmable analog/digital inputs or open drain outputs
- Flex-rated cables with sealed connectors available
- Plug and play functionality with enhanced cable serviceability
- Easily scalable for decreased total system size and mass; customizable design
The motor torque off (MTO) function works to that if either or both of the MTO inputs are low, PWM outputs to the motor are inactivated and current to the motor is prevented. (Control power remains active.)
Slim Robot Arm where cable management and time to market is critical or an autonomous battery powered application where system size and weight is critical. This revolutionary product eliminates the need for an external servo drive and greatly simplifies cabling yet delivers high-positional accuracy and torsional stiffness in a compact housing.
How the product was developed: An extremely compact servo drive was developed to not compromise the overall length and hollow bore of our similar product that does not include a servo drive. All performance testing that is typical for our similar product was completed and confirmed to be equivalent. An additional extensive firmware testing process was also developed to confirm all modes of operation, switching between modes also with various variable settings such as velocity and acceleration.
CAD software was used for the mechanical development and PCB design software for the servo drive hardware development. This was an iterative process with opportunities for improvement revealed in testing or in prototype production and implemented. Performance was tested using the developed commissioning software HDL-IDE as well as Python and a CANopen Master PLC.
Ways to optimize an engineering design with this product: As an example, a typical six-axis robot has 12 cables (six for the motor and six for the encoder) to route through the robot and exit to connect to the servo drives mounted in a control box and may require more than 100 connections. Integrated actuators connect to a bus within the arm with only a single cable with four conductors required for power and communication to all six actuators in the robot.
Integrated actuators simplify cable management, installation and commissioning and minimizes the size of the control box decreasing overall system weight. They are a plug and play solution since the servo drive is factory configured for the actuator avoiding motor parameter and gear ratio configuration … so the actuator is recognized upon connection. The SHA-series actuator includes dual absolute encoders for fault recognition and position recognition at initial power up. The onboard input and output (I/O) connections allow for external devices to be connected locally to the bus rather than running separate cables through the arm back to the control box. Brake control and the motor torque off safety feature is available within the servo drive. The integrated actuators allow for streamlined slender system designs sans concerns about cable damage from abrasion, torsion, or bending … and the actuators include panel-mount connectors for simple cable replacement if necessary. Integrated actuators simplify robot development expediting market introductions.