The Future of Motor Drives, Robotics, + Controls

Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America



Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America

­The global robotics technology market size was valued at $62.75 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $189.36 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 13.5% from 2020 to 2027, according to Allied market research. Robotics, motor drives and controls were once separate application areas and markets. Now they are increasingly being interwoven into the same systems.

Not all that long ago, a motor was an electromechanical/electromagnetic device with mechanical commutation. The only electronic component used in conjunction with the motor was a capacitor and, as the technology evolved, only high end-motor applications could afford electronic controls. Today robotics cannot exist without motors and controls and now motors use electronic controls more than ever before. Brushless DC (BLDC) motors are an example of a motor type that uses electronic commutation. Since the BLDC motor eliminates brushes and the only thing to wear out are the bearings, they offer better performance, lower electrical noise and higher reliability.

Robotics, once seen as only useful in manufacturing operations, have also expanded into a wide range of applications, from warehouses to home vacuums. Consider how medical electronics meld robotics, motor and control technologies. In order for a surgical robot to be viable, for instance, it requires advanced precision motion/motor drives along with sophisticated controls for proper operation. Advanced medical computing systems are another example. We can easily envision a future where artificial intelligence, or AI, can be used by world-class surgeons to remotely operate on patients in rural areas where skilled medical practitioners aren’t available.

Moreover, the future of the electrification of transportation is enabled by electric motors. The largest consumption of electrical energy has been, for many years, by automotive applications and the motors used for pumps, fans, compressors and motion systems. As society becomes ever more concerned with alternative energy, we will see power plants being decommissioned. Making things more efficient is what we engineers do best, so any increase we make to the efficiency of motors has an immediate and significant impact. This means that we must find new ways to decrease power consumption in the applications with the available energy.

The systems using motor controls, motor drives and robotics and control are all intertwined across many applications. They span many markets, from industrial to consumer to medical, and even self-driving vehicles (since this too is a robotics application). We will continue to see opportunities for new applications of robotics and motor control across new areas of innovation.