Motor drives hunt for success

Machine builders seeking new and advanced drives and motion control systems that conform to some—any!—sort of standard may be frustrated by the lack of new products available.

By Rich Merritt, Senior Technical Editor


lectronic motor drives have the same problems as almost all the product categories we&rsquove written about lately: A declining market over the past several years, a move of major markets to Asia, and a dearth of new products and technology hitting the street all at once. When a market is down, manufacturers tend to cut back on research, development, and new products, and the same appears to be true with motor drives. 

The North American AC and DC drives market declined 2.3% over the past two years, says , mostly because of the Iraq war. It expects a slight pickup in the North American drives market in 2004, but a fall off in 2005 and 2006.

The Asia-Pacific market for AC and DC drives is booming, however. No surprise there. predicts sales of high-power AC drives will grow 11.1% in China over the next five years, while IMS says overall drive sales will grow in India by 13.3%.
 ARC says the motion control market in North America is stepping up, and predicts a annual growth rate of 6.2% over the next five years, with machine builders on the front line of development. ARC says manufacturers are faced with the need to handle greater product variations, run at faster production speeds and achieve higher quality. To achieve this, ARC analysts say, machine builders will put advanced motion control techniques into new production equipment. 

Trouble is, according to ARC, the motion control industry is engaged in standardization battles involving networks, programming languages and architectures and machine builders are in the thick of it.

Therefore, as machine builders seek new and advanced drives and motion control systems that conform to some—any!—sort of standard, they may be frustrated by the lack of new products available. Several of the products covered in this year&rsquos roundup are largely warmed-over versions of older products, with a few &ldquoenhancements&rdquo thrown in. Similarly, few manufacturers are taking the lead in setting standards. However, as always, there are a few new technical advances hidden amongst the products we&rsquore listing here so read carefully.

This might not be troubling to you, but we&rsquove also noticed that when it comes to motor drives, there seems to be a distinct decrease in the quality of certain vendors&rsquo marketing communications. For example, several of the product descriptions we received were virtually indecipherable. Just when machine builders need to be able to fully understand the complexities of the technology, suppliers appear to be unable to articulate just what makes the re products so special. I guess that&rsquos where we come in.

Perhaps drive and motion control vendors are waiting for something clearly positive to happen so they can unleash all their pent-up new product designs and pay professionals to communicate all the major advances in motor drive technology. We&rsquore ready, and we expect you are too.

Variable-speed AC Drives
Allen-Bradley PowerFlex 700H and 700S AC drives are available in power ratings 0.5-450 hp at 400 and 480 V. Machine builders can integrate drives into a manufacturing process using NetLinx, DeviceNet, ControlNet or EtherNet/IP networks. Software includes DriveExecutive and DriveTools SP for programming, configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting. Options include 24 V or 115 V digital I/O plus analog I/O. All drives are CSA/cUL-certified, UL-listed, and carry the CE mark.
Rockwell Automation: 800/223-5354,x1686;

Motion Controller Uses Fire Wire
Automation 3200 NMotion SMC controller offers 32 axes of synchronized motion control through one interface, expandable to 62 axes. It uses a distributed control architecture that enables it to maintain performance independent of the number of axes being controlled. This avoids the processing bottleneck caused by its previous single-processor control architectures. Trajectory generation is done on the PC, which sends incremental position commands to a drive via the IEEE-1394 (FireWire) serial bus.
Aerotech: 412/963-7470;

Seven-axis Motion Controller
The NextMove ESB provides seven axes of motion control, including up to three axes of servo and four axes of steppers, or seven precision servos. It supports servo loop closure times of 100 µsec and will provide pulse and direction for steppers up to 500 kHz. On-board I/O includes 20 digital inputs, 11 digital outputs, two 12-bit differential analog inputs and a precision 12-bit output.
Baldor Electric: 800/828-4920;

Amplifier Attached to Motion Controller
The AMP-20540 servo amplifier board attaches directly to the 96-pin DIN connector of the company&rsquos DMC-2143 controller without the need for cable or wiring. The board drives brush and brushless motors up to 500 W. The 6.92x4.85 in. board contains four transconductance PWM amplifiers, each capable of producing up to 500 W. It accepts 18-60 VDC, produces 7 A of continuous current and has a PWM switching frequency of 60 kHz.
Galil Motion Control: 800/377-6329;

Smart Servo Drive Goes Camming
Compact Compax3 provides position, speed or torque control, label registration, and advanced gearing. Multiple units can be synchronized for multiaxis applications. Units incorporate motor drive, full-feature controller, and power supply in a single module. Setup is done with an intuitive interface, wizards, online help and an oscilloscope function. Motion controls include advanced camming, curve linkage virtual master, feed-forward, observer, and over-sampling functions.
Parker: 707/584-2449;

Smart Servo Installs Quickly
Smartstep servo motor and drive can be set up and running quickly and easily by simply plugging it in and setting the rotary and DIP switches on the front panel. If it has a technical problem, the drive will display an alarm number that indicates the fault cause. Its autotune function makes motor tuning nearly effortless and, for quick installation, prefabricated cables connect drive to company&rsquos position control modules.
Omron: 800/55omron;

Microstepping Motion Controllers
Additions to MDrive line include models with NEMA motor sizes 14, 17, 23 and 34, in a choice of stack lengths. All have microstepping, speed control with oscillator and motion control with indexer. Options include an encoder, linear actuator, planetary gearbox and rear knob for manual control. Applications include instrumentation, packaging, semiconductor, robotics, test and measurement, labeling, inspection, engraving and material handling.
Intelligent Motion Systems: 860/295-6102;

Drive Enhancements Get Open
Enhancements to ACOPOS drives include PLCopen motion control function blocks and sensorless operation of synchronous and asynchronous motors. Software runs motors in servo mode with feedback, or in frequency-inverter mode without feedback. Applications that use synchronous or asynchronous motors without encoders can be integrated with servo motors in the network. Programming languages include ladder diagram. structured text, Automation Basic or ANSI-C.
B&R Industrial Automation: 770/410-3206;

CNC Controller Talks to Drives
IndraMotion MTX CNC uses SERCOS for real-time communication with intelligent electrical or hydraulic drives. The CNC provides a maximum interpolation time of 1 ms when controlling eight axes. One controller can operate 64 axes using 12 independent CNC channels. The controller is suitable for 3-D machining of complex workpieces on five and six-axis machines in tool and mold making applications.
Bosch Rexroth: 847/645-3774;

Inverter Drives Three-Phase Motors
The Sinamics G110 low-power AC drive frequency inverter operates variable-speed, three-phase motors on single-phase line power supplies. It is rated for 200-240 V input with a power range of 1/6-4 hp, and is available in three frame sizes.
Siemens Energy & Automation: 800/964-4114;

Modules Extend Drive Products
Enhancements to the ACS800 industrial drives include rectifier and DC-supplied inverter modules, which enable users to access input power via a single three-phase AC source, with each inverter unit sharing the bus. Compared to the company&rsquos other products, these drives free up more floor, wall and panel space to install other electrical components, or use for other operations.
ABB: 262/780-3873;

Servo Drives Connect to Fieldbus
S300 Series servo drives connect to DeviceNet, Profibus, SERCOS and CANopen. Drives are available as drive-only or with a single-axis control card for complex motion tasks. The compact drives offer 1.5-70 A, 115-480 VAC operation, and are suitable for smaller power, space-restricted applications such as packaging, material handling, converting and plastic molding.
Danaher Motion: 866/993-2624;

Adjustable-Frequency Drives
VLT 4152 and 4352 Series drives for variable-torque applications are 35% smaller than their predecessors. The NEMA 12/IP54 drives have RFI immunity to EN 55011 class B, integral disconnect with fuse option, 98% operating efficiency, and single box lug or dual-cable-leg power termination. Drives work in ambient temperature ratings 40-45° C. Logic routing includes tie-down provisions to simplify installation and protect against noise disturbance.
Danfoss Drives: 800/432-6367;

Servo Amplifiers Get Smart
MMC Smart Drive servo amplifiers provide 0.5-24 kW continuous output power for 230 and 460 VAC systems. Configuration, tuning and maintenance are accomplished via PiCpro software. The software also allows programming in ladder logic, function block, and structured text languages, and allows development of multiaxis motion control solutions. The amps have phase-to-phase and phase-to-ground short-circuit protection.
G&L Motion Control: 920/921-7100;

Bix Beiderbecke Loves This One
The Cornet drive has Composer software for set up, configuration, tuning, plus a scope and displays. The drive provides up to 3 kW continuous power and 6 kW of peak power in a 7x5x3 in. package weighing 2.4 lbs. It has 32 KB of user programmable memory for controlling complex motion profiles, event triggering, and capturing data. Bix was a famous jazz cornet player in the 1940s.
Elmo Motion Controls: 805/496-2621;

Sure-Footed Drive
The SureStep family of open-loop stepping systems includes four motors with holding torques 83-434 oz/in, and NEMA size 17, 23 or 34 frames. Models are available with 200-2,000 steps per revolution. A nine-position DIP switch is used to set up the drive for self-test, step angle selection, current level selection, and idle current reduction. No software or add-on resistors are required for configuration.
AutomationDirect: 770/889-2858;

Motion Control System Goes Modbus
Enhancements to V 2.5 of the Axiom Plus motion control system include an analog input, Modbus RTU connectivity, and improvements to the software, such as a debugging mode, watch window for monitoring changing values of registers and flags, and sequential programming functions. The analog input can also be used for digital inputs.
Tol-O-Matic: 800/328-2174;

Brushless DC Motor Gets Integrated
The NEMA Size 23 motor has an integrated drive for controlling speed and direction with pulse-width modulation. The motor can be configured for unidirectional on/off operation for controlling speed, direction and tachometer output. An optional resistor and capacitor will supply DC voltage proportional to motor speed. Drives are available 24-48 VDC with continuous current ranges 1-5 A, 10 A peak.
EAD Motors: 603/742-3330

Brushless DC Motor Expands and Controls
Enhancements to the BX Series brushless DC motor include models with outputs of 200 and 400 W, quiet gearheads or round shafts, electromagnetic brakes with stationary position hold, and controllers. The standard speed controller provides a ratio of 100:1 with no reduction in torque, while the OPX-1A control module provides speed control with position and torque control.
Oriental Motor: 800/406-7484;

AC Drive Takes on Servos
The G7 adjustable-frequency AC drive gets servo performance from induction motors. It has a three-level power architecture at 480 V to eliminate problems with IGBT switching, protect from motor insulation failure, and lower motor noise. The drive is suitable for speed, torque or position control applications. It supports DeviceNet, Profibus-DP, Modbus Plus, and Ethernet Modbus TCP/IP networks. Programming is via DriveWorksEZ software on a PC.
Yaskawa: 800/927-5292;