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Motion and energy drive performance characteristics

April 14, 2021
3 takes on driving industry forward

Nathan Eisel is national product development manager at SMC of America.

Sol Jacobs, is vice president and general manager at Tadiran Batteries.

Art Holzknecht is the engineering manager at Hiwin, a global manufacturer of mechatronic components and systems. He has more than 25 years of experience in precision engineering and motion control system development. Over the course of his career, has held roles in engineering design and management, program and product management and business development. Art has designed and implemented mechatronic solutions for a wide range of industries, including semiconductor and electronics manufacturing, genomics and life sciences, factory automation and robotics. He holds a BSME from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

What are three key things that a machine builder, system integrator or manufacturer should know about your organization?

Nathan Eisel, national product development manager, SMC of America: Energy efficiency and total ownership cost are what drive SMC product designs. These lead to unconventional, nonstandard product. We are not constrained by old footprint standards or known designs. This approach enables us to be more efficient and use new materials and manufacturing methods to solve these challenges while adhering to global safety and other business requirements. Our products take into consideration that the machines need to occupy a smaller footprint yet do more; use less compressed and electricity; and last longer. These products are smarter and able to convey data from which decisions can be made so a machine or device can answer questions such as:
  • where am I?
  • what am I?
  • am I well?

All of this is backed by a true global presence with manufacturing throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia, making SMC the obvious choice for today’s new machine designers.

We have series of more than 12,000 products to choose from so that design engineers from all industries can find products to suit their specific requirements.

Art Holzknecht, engineering manager, Hiwin: Hiwin is a vertically integrated engineering and manufacturing company specializing in precision automation components, mechatronic systems and robotics (Figure 1). We are one of the world’s leading manufacturers of ball screws and linear guideway bearings.

We manufacture a diverse portfolio of automation components, and we use these in our own mechatronic motion system products. This includes linear servo motors, direct-drive torque motors, linear and rotary stages, servo drives and multi-axis motion controls. We integrate these components into complete multi-axis motion systems for OEM and applications in a range of industries, including life science/drug discovery, electronics manufacturing, factory automation, precision assembly systems and packaging, to name just a few markets we serve. With millions of dollars of inventory centrally located in Chicagoland, we can ship quickly.

From components to complete mechatronic systems, we offer our customers one of the broadest ranges of solutions for their automation applications. We can provide product solutions at the level that is most economical and efficient for the customer.

Sol Jacobs, VP and general manager, Tadiran Batteries: Nearly 40 years ago, Tadiran pioneered ultra-long-life lithium thionyl chloride (LiSOCl₂) batteries that are now commonly utilized in low-power wireless devices found in remote sites and harsh environments. Bobbin-type LiSOCL₂ batteries were first popularized for use in AMR/AMI utility smart metering applications. In addition, their unique performance characteristics have made them extremely popular throughout the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). These valuable performance characteristics are numerous, including higher energy density; higher capacity; a wider temperature range; and the lowest annual self-discharge of any commercially available battery chemistry.

Through innovative R&D and many decades of manufacturing expertise, Tadiran has established and refined proprietary processes and protocols that enable bobbin-type LiSOCl₂ cells to achieve an incredibly low self-discharge rate of just 0.7% per year to enable up to 40-year battery life. By contrast, lower quality bobbin-type LiSOCl₂ batteries experience a high self-discharge rate of up to 3% per year, which makes 40-year battery life impossible. In addition, Tadiran manufactures a family of industrial-grade Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries that can operate for up to 20 years and 5,000 recharge cycles, whereas consumer grade Li-ion batteries can only operate for roughly five years and 500 recharge cycles.

Tadiran primary LiSOCL₂ batteries and rechargeable Li-ion cells are capable of delivering the high pulses required for two-way wireless communications, ensuring reliable connectivity to the IIoT.

What new technologies are driving product development and why?

Art Holzknecht, engineering manager, Hiwin: Direct-drive linear motors and torque motors are at the forefront of new applications in high-performance motion control. They provide the capability to achieve higher levels of accuracy and throughput. They are non-contact drives, so they are maintenance-free and have very long life. The total cost of ownership is often lower than competing approaches, such as belt drives or rack and pinion, while providing higher performance. Advanced servo algorithms and faster processors have made it easier than ever to develop robust control systems using direct drives, making them appropriate for more applications and enabling wider adoption.
Nathan Eisel, national product development manager, SMC of America: SMC takes on social responsibility through offering products and technologies that support carbon reduction, as well as seriously promoting and supporting sustainability in order to minimize negative impacts to the environment. One of the key components of our comprehensive approach is our products’ compact and lightweight designs. Smaller and lighter products require fewer raw materials to make and less time to process. In addition, the products themselves use less energy.

How does the Industrial Internet of Things figure into business strategy?

Sol Jacobs, VP and general manager, Tadiran Batteries: Remote wireless applications are undergoing explosive growth in response to the burgeoning IIoT. Industrial-grade lithium batteries improve product performance and long-term reliability for most low-power battery-powered wireless devices utilized in hard-to-access locations and extreme environments (Figure 2).
Hard-to-access, extreme environment

Figure 2: Oceantronic's GPS/ice buoy is being used in the Arctic for use in experiments measuring wind, temperature sunlight and ice thickness near the North Pole. (Source: Sigrid Salo NOAA/PMEL)

Nathan Eisel, national product development manager, SMC of America: We recognize customer interest in the Industrial Internet of Things and look for opportunities to support and develop product when needed. Some products already have the information-sharing capability, too. For example, the information that the SMC flow sensor is producing on the shop floor could be integrated into a system to be used as a trigger to send through email or be displayed on a screen on the top floor. SMC has recognized the opportunities to make our products smarter and is shifting development to accommodate that.
Art Holzknecht, engineering manager, Hiwin: In today’s highly competitive markets, increasing machine throughput and reducing downtime is critical to profitability. Being able to log into a machine remotely to check status and perform troubleshooting is essential. At Hiwin, our mechatronic engineers can connect to our customer’s equipment to support our products in the field without needing to travel on-site. This saves crucial time and keeps cost under control. We can read fault codes and error logs to diagnose problems before the system fails and stops production. Our customers can also do this with their customer’s machines in the field.

How will machine automation and controls alter the way companies staff their operations in the future?

Art Holzknecht, engineering manager, Hiwin: As automation systems continue to increase in sophistication and complexity, the need for highly skilled technicians to commission and support these systems will also increase. Automated systems will continue to replace manual labor in dangerous jobs with risk of injury and in highly repetitive tasks. High-precision tasks, a growing requirement following the trend towards miniaturization, which are very difficult or even not possible by human operators, will be increasingly automated. Generally, the required education and skill level of staff will increase, while unskilled staffing will decrease.
Nathan Eisel, national product development manager, SMC of America: As we all know, production is king, and unscheduled downtime is one of the costliest expenditures manufacturing facilities need to endure as an unforeseen expenditure. We must have experienced staff ready at a moment’s notice when unscheduled downtime occurs. SMC is focused on how we can provide a proactive approach such as condition-based maintenance with regard to the compressed air system—pneumatic system. This means that you can identify potential unscheduled downtime on the horizon and take planned corrective action before the potential outcome becomes real. This means the facilities can keep the existing experienced staff but utilize their time in a much more efficient way, all the while mitigating the risk of unscheduled downtime. This will increase the customer’s overall efficiency and reduce costs related to downtime, thus increasing their profits.

How is the development of software solutions impacting requirements for hardware?

Nathan Eisel, national product development manager, SMC of America: This is a very tricky question that many manufacturers have had long discussions about. In the name of simple integration and ease of use, the question of how to unify both hardware component interfaces with different software platforms is a high priority. If not, you are not listening to the customer. For example, the information that the SMC flow sensor is producing on the shop floor is being used as a trigger to send an email or being displayed on a screen on the top floor. SMC has recognized this key fact and is shifting development to accommodate. Some technologies that bridge the gap are OPC-UA and MQTT. By embracing these types of interfaces, SMC can remain focused on producing hardware to improve overall OEE and maintain confidence that the sensor will be able to communicate upstream with ease.
Art Holzknecht, engineering manager, Hiwin: Improvements in control software functionality and usability are making sophisticated, high-performance motion systems easier to integrate and support. This is leading to increasing applications for direct-drive motion control, which enable higher accuracy and throughput. Linear motors were once an expensive technology that required substantial expertise to deploy successfully. That has changed with better software tools, enabling them to become a mainstream choice for automation engineers looking to increase performance.

As engineering and IT continue their convergence, which one is and/or will be leading the direction of future automation and technology?

Art Holzknecht, engineering manager, Hiwin: Both disciplines have a role to play, and they are complementary. Advances in IT are enabling Hiwin to bring more software tools to engineers via web-based applications. They can calculate system performance and configure products online with intelligent tools that are developed by our engineers. Our engineers are available for support, and they can work with customers on the more challenging applications. But now customers can also easily configure products themselves and download CAD models, enabling rapid decisions and deployment.

IIoT and Industry 4.0 are still in their early stages of adoption. As the benefits of these technologies are realized, engineers will develop more products to take advantage of the benefits for their customers. This will lead to more demand for IT solutions to support them, leading to more product development in a virtuous cycle.

Nathan Eisel, national product development manager, SMC of America: This question is misleading and compromised. I do not say this to be derogative. I say this as it is a very misinformed question. The convergence of the IT world and the operations technology (OT)/engineering world has been happening slowly for the past 20 years in production manufacturing. One does not lead the other. They are both integral in the ability to share data from the shop floor to the top floor. They must work together very closely to accomplish this. For example, flow data at the sensor level needs to be provided to a web page that is based in the cloud and is formulating a calculation on current energy consumption/machine efficiency. Both teams need to work closely together to make this data function and available (Figure 3).
Cloud formation

Figure 3: The integration of both IT and OT is integral. This chart is a generic representation of a production machine and the location of different technologies.

Looking into the future, how will technology change your organization or other organizations over the next five years?

Sol Jacobs, VP and general manager, Tadiran Batteries: We live in an increasingly wireless world, where AI, machine learning, M2M, automation control, smart infrastructure and similar technologies are converging and expanding into remote locations and extreme environments, As the lightest of all non-gaseous metals, lithium will remain a popular alternative wherever access to the electrical grid is impossible or impractical. Of all competing lithium-based battery chemistries, bobbin-type LiSOCL₂ will continue to stand apart, especially for low-power applications that require extended battery life to reduce the total cost of ownership. Lithium-battery performance has continually improved with enhanced materials and evolving manufacturing techniques that lead to incremental improvements in battery performance.
Art Holzknecht, engineering manager, Hiwin: We are leveraging technology to automate many of our processes that are currently done manually. Workflows are changing to adapt to the benefits of automation. This is yielding benefits in terms of increased productivity and higher quality, while also reducing product lead times and controlling costs (Figure 4). This trend is accelerating both in manufacturing and in engineering. In engineering, we are developing software to enable our customers to do more online, including specifying and configuring products, creating standard or customized drawings, receiving a quotation and making a purchase. Automating these tasks and bringing them closer to the customer is more efficient. Over the next several years, as artificial intelligence, expert systems and augmented reality move from cutting-edge to mainstream applications, we will add this functionality to our automated tools, to make them even better.
Adapt to automation

Figure 4: Workflows are changing to adapt to the benefits of automation, yielding benefits in terms of increased productivity and higher quality, while also reducing product lead times and controlling costs.

In manufacturing, advances in robotics and automation will continue to increase their deployment. Demand for more sophisticated motion control to automate complex processes will grow. High automation content in manufacturing reduces the need for unskilled labor, which helps to control costs, improve quality and enable advanced economies to compete with developing countries with a large pool of low-cost labor. Advances in automation technologies are a key enabling element for this.

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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