One of the top gearmotor trends is design simplicity. This consists of many things including easier integration into mechanical designs as well as newer software programs to speed up the selection process.
These trends are driving gearmotor manufacturers to offer their customers more simplicity. “We have seen an increase in demand for design simplicity,” says Jason Oakley, Electronics Product/Application Engineer, at SEW EuroDrive. “Specifically in regards to the software and programming of motion control applications. To handle this demand we’ve focused on perfecting our software application modules which allow customers to easily configure and develop working motion control programs without having to be a programming expert.”
Along these lines, suppliers are offering their customers more in-house engineering resources to help them with their designs. For SEW EuroDrive, this means having an in-house engineering group called Maxolution. This group, consisting of several system engineers, works with customers to create custom solutions for their applications. “From plant layouts and drawings to software interfaces, our Maxolution team provides solutions for motion control applications along with developing custom interfaces at the request of the customer,” adds Oakley. “When developing solutions such as AGVs, and monorail systems, our Maxolution team provides simulations and emulations of the complete system to the end-user or OEM allowing them to see system performance prior to installing any hardware.”
In particular, the automotive industry is helping to change the design of motion components, using more custom components than in the past. That industry “is constantly evolving, therefore requiring new and/or custom motion component design,” continues Oakley. “With an increase on demand, and the desire to increase production without sacrificing quality, automotive customers have asked for new and custom designs to achieve applications that are integral in their production lines.”
As for wider, more general trends such as the industrial IoT (or IIoT), some gearmotor manufacturers don’t see it significantly impacting their business. At least at the component level. “While an OEM’s machine might be designed to communicate via the internet, those same requirements do not necessarily translate down to the component level like gearmotors, encoders, brakes, etc.” notes Mike Gschwind, VP of Sales/Marketing at Bodine Electric.
“Our view is that an internet-connected gearmotor by itself will have limited value to a machine builder,” adds Gschwind. “While it might be able to respond to inquiries for data (i.e. speed, torque, temperature, vibration, etc.), it cannot do anything in response to that data (like change speed, limit current, turn itself off, etc.). The ability (or lack thereof) to change the gearmotor’s operating point illustrates the need for some sort of motor control – and that is likely where the ‘connection’ would need to reside.”
In Bodine’s experience, they’ve worked with a few customers that wanted smart gearmotors but with no networking needed. That is handled at the machine-control level. “While that is generally the case (for now), the industry trends could change overnight and we’re continually re-evaluating and researching new options to meet those new customer requirements when they come our way,” adds Gschwind.