Entering the Final Quarter with Motors and Optimism

Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD



As you read this, we’ve surpassed the spooky part of the year, and we’re rapidly approaching the grandaddy of all gluttonous feasts and a holiday where a jolly fat man squeezes down your chimney to deliver gifts.

And despite COVID stubbornly sticking around, like that freeloading uncle over the holidays, we’re slowly returning to normal. By now, trade shows like Automation Technology South 2021 and Design & Manufacturing Midwest 2021 may or may not have transpired in-person, while larger events, like CES 2022 in January, may return to a live setup for the first time in three years.

We’re all hoping for a far more personable 2022, and who knows – maybe 2021’s Mall Santas won’t sit behind a giant wall of plexiglass, and we might be able to shake hands with trusted colleagues based around the country.

Before all of that (hopefully) transpires, we’ve got a very idiosyncratic November topic with “Motor Drives, Robotics, and Controls.” And like any healthy topic, this one drew a broad variety of responses across several different vertically-oriented companies.

The first piece I wanted to highlight, from EPC, combines the November topic with wide-bandgap semiconductors, another white-hot subject that we find ourselves covering no matter what the issue focus is.

In “GaN Devices for Smaller, Lighter, Smoother Motor Drives,” EPC’s Marco Palma notes how silicon-based power devices are nearing their theoretical limits and why gallium nitride (GaN) transistors and ICs are driving innovation in motor drives.

“GaN allows the design of motor drives that operate smoother while reducing size and weight. These advantages are critical for the motor drives used in applications such as warehousing and logistical robots, servo drives, e-bikes and e-scooters, collaborative robots and medical robotics…”, Marco says.

Sean Long and Konrad Scheuer, over at Maxim Integrated, describe what they deem “the holy grail of the process automation engineer” – the factory calibrated, remotely configurable universal IO module.

It’s this highly sought-after solution that could eliminate costly, inefficient visits to the wiring cabinet by a technician.

After all, “Industry 4.0 requires industrial equipment with maximum adaptability and flexibility. The requirement to manually rewire and calibrate IO interfaces has so far been a limiting factor in this regard,” claim the authors.

The last article I wanted to call out comes at the topic from yet another unique perspective. Analog Devices’ Jonathan Colao explains why, because “Motor rotation information such as position, speed, and direction must be accurate in order to produce precise drivers and controllers across a wide variety of emerging applications,” designers yearn for a “Fast Reacting, Optical Encoder Feedback System.”

“The challenge for designers,” says Jonathan, “is to meet the high accuracy requirement of the position feedback sensor in a high speed application, while at the same time infusing all components into the limited PCB space.”

Best Regards,

Jason Lomberg

North American Editor, PSD