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Smarter drives mean more useful motors

Jan. 6, 2022
Ease of use directs development at Oriental Motor

Johann Tang is product specialist at Oriental Motor.

What have been the biggest improvements to motor and drives in the past five years?

Johann Tang, product specialist, Oriental Motor: The biggest improvements we've seen have been on ease of use, network protocols and product breadth. Manufacturers have been making products easier to use, so they can be adopted by more customers. Easier PLC integration is part of that ease of use that manufacturers have been working on. A big part of that is to offer various industrial network protocols in order to easily connect to different PLCs. Product breadth also extends the range of applications for the product. We've also seen more stepper motors with a variety of built-in encoders and a renewed focus on motor and drive efficiency as a whole (Figure 1).

What’s the most innovative or efficient motor/drive application you’ve ever seen or been involved with?

Johann Tang, product specialist, Oriental Motor: My most innovative applications were helping customers reduce the burden on the PLC or eliminate it in some cases. With the increase in edge intelligence, drives can do much more than accepting pulses and follow. Drives can be programmed to perform complex linked motion sequences with just a push button connected to an input. However, the logic could be tricky with closed-loop systems.

Johann Tang

How have motors and drives benefitted from remote monitoring and connectivity?

Johann Tang, product specialist, Oriental Motor: Motors and drives have increased their functionality and usability with the addition of remote monitoring. New functions, such as remote troubleshooting and predictive maintenance, as well as remote program updates, can now be offered. Easier connectivity with PLCs facilitates faster setup with motors and drives, especially for factory automation where multiple axes need to be connected.

Can you explain how software development has changed motor and drive design and production?

Johann Tang, product specialist, Oriental Motor: There's only so much intelligence we can add to motors. Software development has allowed traditional centralized control to be decentralized to the edge. As more intelligence has been added to the driving electronics, the burden on the traditional PLC is reduced. With the help of software development, we have the ability to make drives smarter, more powerful and easier to use, which in turn makes the motors more useful to more customers.

When will motors and drives become IT-friendly enough that engineers are no longer required for installation and operation? 

Johann Tang, product specialist, Oriental Motor: Ease of use has always been the focus of our product design. Most of our products do not require a lot of engineering knowledge or programming experience to install or operate. For example, one of our drives will automatically recognize the same series motor once connected, and the driver will output the proper voltage and current to the motor. Motion sequences can also be programmed with graphical-user-interface (GUI) software. Once we remove the coding requirement from network installation and operation, then that's when I think motors and drives will be IT-friendly enough. Add-on instructions (AOIs) are a big help.

What future innovations will impact the use of motors and drives in discrete-manufacturing operations?

Johann Tang, product specialist, Oriental Motor: Manufacturers will be focused on innovations that make products easier to use for more customers and more environments. Examples are GUI software and industrial connectors at affordable prices. Products that can help machine designers save space or simplify design will become more valuable. On a bigger scale, the development of sensors in motors, data collection in drives, cloud data management and artificial intelligence (AI) will also help drive production efficiency in discrete manufacturing operations.

Also read: Ease of use dominates motor and drive trends

Tell us about your company’s state-of-the-art motor or drive?

Johann Tang, product specialist, Oriental Motor: Oriental Motor offers a whole family of plug-and-play type motors, actuators and drives that work seamlessly together and offer reliable positioning control for a wide range of applications. The AlphaStep AZ Series family of closed-loop stepper motors, linear/rotary actuators and drives feature three patented technologies for applications that require servo-like performance at a lower cost. Our Hybrid Control algorithm can automatically switch between open-loop operation and closed-loop operation when necessary. Its high-efficiency lamination technology decreases motor loss and allows for high-duty cycles. In the past few years, we have added a mechanical absolute encoder that can operate within 1,800 motor revolutions without power, added product breadth and improved our drive capabilities, including smarter programming and more network protocols, such as EtherNetIP, EtherCAT and Profinet.

About the author: Mike Bacidore
About the Author

Mike Bacidore | Editor in Chief

Mike Bacidore is chief editor of Control Design and has been an integral part of the Endeavor Business Media editorial team since 2007. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning multiple regional and national awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at [email protected] 

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