We talked with a select group of motion control technology providers to learn what is in store for system integrators and designers in 2014. Users of motion control technologies can be assured of one thing: energy efficiency and integrated systems will continue to be a focus. And single cable solutions will be one way in which they accomplish these two things.
Read what our panel has to say to prepare for what lies ahead.
Meet our panel
Mary Burgoon is Market Development Manager for Sustainable Production at Rockwell Automation and is responsible for leading the development and implementation of strategies and programs to address customer challenges with innovative energy management solutions.
Matt Hanson is the Vice President of Strategic Technology at Bison Gear & Engineering. He has been with Bison since 1993, and his twenty-five year career in the gear motor industry includes positions in Sales, Marketing and his current role in Research and Development.
Melissa Junge is the Marketing Coordinator for Moog Animatics and has been with the company three years. She has an MBA from Santa Clara University and experience in the automation, digital storage, construction, food manufacturing and nanotechnology industries.
Ken Kerns is the Marketing Manager for the Motion Control and Low Voltage Drives Business Unit with Siemens Industry Inc. He has been with Siemens for over twenty-two years and has held positions in Applications Engineering, Marketing, and Project Management.
Steve Hermman is Motors Engineering Manager for Rockwell Automation’s Kinetix Motion Control Business
Matt Lecheler is a Motion Specialist for Beckhoff Automation. He has more than 11 years of experience developing advanced motion applications using high performance servo technology. Lecheler has a BSEE degree from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Craig Nelson is product marketing manager for SINAMICS high performance servo and vector drives in the Motion Control Business of Siemens Industry Inc. He has been with Siemens for more than twenty years and, in previous roles, has held engineering positions in the field and in system design.
Q: What do you see as the biggest trend users of motion control components will experience in the next year?
A: Steve Hermman, Rockwell: We believe we will see two major trends grow: One, a push for energy efficiency; and two, single cable solutions.
This is primarily because we see customers being very sensitive to costs both in quoting and maintaining systems. Energy prices are not going to decrease, and with productivity often maximized, the next consideration by the manufacturer’s customers is ongoing cost, of which energy is a major expenditure.
Single cable solutions can possibly decrease initial capital outlay by reducing cable inventory; reducing cable spend by buying only one cable instead of two; and depending on the chosen system, optimize servo motor-drive matching for performance by possibly downsizing the servo drive.
Matt Lecheler, Beckhoff: I believe the most significant motion control trends are actually in the convergence of previously separate technologies into integrated solutions. This is affecting all aspects of motion control systems, including control hardware, software and network. PC-based control platforms further leverags multi-core CPUs and increases capabilities in motion control processing as a result. Each core in a multi-core processor can be assigned major motion control tasks rather than relying on separate, dedicated hardware devices.
These leading edge concepts can be expanded to encompass many more motion functions than a robot and a linear transport system. In fact, the control of an entire machine including motion control, PLC, HMI, advanced processing (measurement, condition monitoring), etc. can feasibly be controlled by a single IPC today.
Matt Hanson, Bison Gear: From a trend perspective we think the industry will continue to adopt new products with higher efficiency. Higher efficiency can benefit motor and gearmotor design in several areas, and it starts with more torque in less space. Improved power density is often high on our customers’ lists of requirements.
Melissa Junge, Moog Animatics: Mobility is a growing trend still in its infancy for users of motion control components. Mobile machines that can either move themselves or be easily transported from one spot on the factory floor to another increase workflow efficiencies but do not limit the machines to a small work area. Especially in distribution centers, mobile robotics are becoming increasingly popular and all use motion control components.
I agree that energy efficiency is a trend, but it seems the profitability of becoming energy efficient (strictly for motion control components) versus workflow efficiency is highly lopsided, and highly dependent on the size of the application
Ken Kerns and Craig Nelson, Siemens: Higher usability and more flexibility are the overall trends we will be experiencing. The usability aspect includes more intuitive graphical commissioning software and integration into a single programming platform for the entire machine. The usability also includes automatic identification and configuration of motion systems along with built-in web pages for ease of service and remote diagnostics. Usability is also being driven down to servomotors with field replaceable encoders alleviating the need to send them out to a motor shop for encoder replacement.
Regarding flexibility, drives and motion controllers are increasing their connectivity to Industrial Ethernet networks. Motion systems are also becoming more flexible in their formats to give an exact fit to the application at hand. An example of this is the centralized and decentralized offerings of servomotors and drives. Finally, sustainability, such as theeability to increase output, maintain or improve quality with increased uptime and minimal maintenance time will be critical.
Q: Are integrated systems going to continue to grow?
A: Matt Lecheler, Beckhoff: Absolutely. Beckhoff is one of the motion control technology vendors leading the charge toward more integrated systems. The advance of more mechatronic solutions embodies this. The integration of kinematics into the standard machine controller is yet another example of even more pervasive integration in automation.
This discussion has focused on the “macro level” of motion control technology, but there are innovations closer to the motor and drive level that are helping things along too. A wide range of new solutions for motor control have been developed in recent years, such as I/O terminals that can act as an amplifier for small servos, steppers or dc motors. This is significant because it completely redefines the relationship between I/O technology and the motion system. There are, of course, more tangible benefits to using I/O terminals as drives can greatly reduce required electrical cabinet space, reduce the cost of cabling and make it easier to implement far more axes of motion in compact spaces. These advantages will only encourage faster acceptance of highly integrated motion control systems.
Matt Hanson, Bison Gear: Integrated systems are important, as they save design engineers time and reduce risk in choosing components. At Bison we assemble motors and gear reducers into one compact package and match up with the specified drives. These systems are then tested with power analyzers and dyno’s to create a complete set of data for our customers to use in their design simulations.
Steve Hermman, Rockwell: We believe integrated systems are going to grow. The days of legions of design engineers lined up in rows have passed. Each company is trying to do more with less, and as such, ease of system integration becomes more important to the customer. Any time that can be saved by having the integrated system be intuitive, modular, and familiar will benefit the leaned-out engineering team by spending time on their machine design rather than motion design.
Melissa Junge, Moog Animatics: Yes, integrated systems are going to continue to grow not only because of the trends of mobility and single cable solutions, but because as integrated motion control systems become more advanced, customers realize that an entire control cabinet system can be replaced with a network of integration motion systems that communicate with each other and ultimately reduce cable volume, machine footprint on the factory floor and machine replication tim–—all of which reduce total build and operating costs.
Q:What markets do you see as having the biggest potential?
A: Ken Kerns and Craig Nelson, Siemens: For the U.S. market, all aspects of automating manufacturing will offer a big potential for motion control. Increased automation along with attractive energy prices are the catalysts driving the renaissance in U.SS manufacturing. With the focus being on this manufacturing renaissance in the U.SS, companies are looking to automate in most every market.
Melissa Junge, Moog Animatics: Biotech and biomed are largely growing industries that, with a history of innovation, are not as prudent as other industries when designing motion control systems. In the U.S. with consideration to an aging baby boomer population, biotech and biomed cooperation with pharmaceutical companies are set to grow largely over the next 10 years.
Matt Lecheler, Beckhoff: Essentially any industrial market stands to benefit from more integrated motion control. These include, but aren’t limited to: robotics, assembly, packaging, material handling as well as metalworking and woodworking.
Matt Hanson, Bison Gear: Industries with machines that are used every day are all candidates for motion control and automation. We see customers adopting motion control in traditional industries including packaging, machine tool and factory automation. Some interesting applications are occurring in agricultural equipment and outdoor machinery as well. Higher efficiency products coupled with improved feedback devices help engineers make better products.
Q: Will energy efficiency continue to be on everyone’s minds and how will manufacturers continue to increase and manage efficiency?
A: Mary Burgoon, Rockwell: In short —Yes. Energy represents an increasingly high percentage of operating costs for industrial companies, and it continues to offer significant opportunities for cost savings. However, in today’s complex production environments, it’s one of the most difficult costs to manage. It’s become challenging to gain accurate visibility into the amount of energy that specific production assets consume—a necessity to implement meaningful, long-term improvements. As a result, manufacturers traditionally have focused on energy efficiency projects, like lighting upgrades and replacing inefficient equipment, that are easy to control, provide a short payback period, and focus on addressing a single issue.
Fortunately the status quo is changing. Advances in the plant-floor control systems are making it much easier for manufacturers to monitor, measure and visualize energy consumption data. By simply connecting energy-enabled devices to systems that already exist on the plant floor, manufacturers can effectively link energy consumption to specific process operations that can be improved.
Manufacturers already rely on their control systems to reduce variability in production, and now it’s possible to use these same systems to make adjustments based on energy consumption—processes can be refined, schedules shifted, and machines and lines put into lower-power states based on specific requirements.
Matt Lecheler, Beckhoff: Of course, energy use must be on everyone’s mind. Fortunately, such as in the area of motion control, there are a number of new technologies engineers can use to better monitor energy use for optimizations and for increasing efficiency.
Steve Hermman, Rockwell: We’ve discussed energy efficiency earlier as a cornerstone for manufacturers and their customers. Solutions sexist to help mitigate energy costs by right sizing the servomotor with optimized winding speed—already with the same windings matched to the peak power points of the servo drive—and thus perhaps being able to downsize your drive and use a smaller cable as well. This would reduce the current required to use the motors, and thus the energy required long term at the end customer site.
Q:Is network security an issue and how do you plan to combat that?
A: Matt Lecheler, Beckhoff: Threats to network security are not quite so immediate to most industrial applications when compared to office and home networks, but they are a reality and we, as engineers, must plan for suitable network security. Most potential headaches can be avoided simply by selecting an industrial network with network architecture options that ensure more “built-in security” and better isolation of data that shouldn’t be on the machine/plant network. EtherCAT is an example of a leading industrial Ethernet system that promotes secure network architectures, doesn’t require switches and serves as the one bus your machine needs for I/O, motion and peripherals.
That said, there are variants of industrial Ethernet for I/O, motion and plant communication architectures that can require exhaustive security countermeasures in the form of expensive managed switches, dedicated software and elite service contracts. To accept this kind of complex and costly arrangement to ensure network security when it could be far simpler is incredibly shortsighted to put it mildly. In addition to smarter network selection, automation professionals can follow simple steps such as physical isolation of control networks from plant/back-office communication networks. Additionally, open standards such as OPC-UA will support secure data exchange using SSL (secure socket layer).
Q: What other big ideas will come out of the motion control market in 2014 and beyond?
A: Steve Hermman, Rockwell: 2014 is the year of energy efficiency, ease of integration, inventory reduction, and reduction of overall system cost. Each manufacturer is concentrating on costs in today’s business environment as competition is fierce and capital is harder to come by.
Matt Lecheler, Beckhoff: We’ll see continued leaps in motion control performance with solutions that enable full utilization of high-power, multi-core processor technology. With this kind of tool, programmers can implement even more complex motion control such as the integration of previously autonomous robotics and CNC controllers into the general machine control. For example, now you can highly synchronize auxiliary axes using, say, electronic cam plates to a robot’s end-effector by using standard function blocks for programming.
Continued mechatronic developments will revolutionize some motion control applications such as those in the packaging, material handling and assembly industries.
I also expect the continued miniaturization and integration of motion into small electronic devices. Further innovations in this area will reduce cabling and expand the range of compatibility with higher power/performance servo, stepper and dc motors.
Ken Kerns and Craig Nelson, Siemens: New to the market is the single cable approach for motor power and encoder. This hybrid cable technology is starting to catch on in the low servo power range but will probably take five years or more before we see this in the majority of applications. One area where the single cable approach looks to be very promising is the decentralized motor/drive concept. If a single hybrid cable can be run from the central control cabinet to the machine and daisy-chained between axes supplying both motor power and encoder feedback, this would be a game-changing aspect for this concept.