Motion-control companies must develop global feature sets to stay competitive in a changing world market.
Today's global marketplace is creating unique engineering and design issues for both machine designers and component suppliers that were not considered particularly important when products were designed, built, and used in only one country or continent. Designing the next-generation packaging machine, semiconductor process tool, or electronic assembly system for China, Brazil, France, or the United States requires that machine designers and component suppliers address a variety of issues including cultural, logistical, component availability, tooling, technical standards, and service. Some of these issues are more easily addressed, but others require better up-front planning, more time, and expense. One thing is certain; it is changing the way system and component suppliers are engineering and manufacturing their next-generation products.
As internal engineering resources continue to be eliminated or outsourced, designers are being asked to do more and in less time. Machines must now meet varying design specifications and requirements for use in the global marketplace. As profit margins become thinner, a machine must be less complicated, more economical to manufacture, and be supported anywhere in the world.
Simplicity of design makes the process easier in terms of high performing and highly reliable components that meet any number of different global specifications, as well as off-the-shelf component availability to shorten lead times. And component and subsystem suppliers are adapting to this new market reality. Gone are the days when a machine characteristic has to be designed around the limitation of a single component. Today, products designed into next-generation machines must be flexible enough for global acceptance. In other words, machines need to work as effectively in the United States at 60 Hz as they do in Italy at 50 Hz.
At a systems level, motion-control components must address all of the machine's mechanical requirements including linear travel distance, speed, mass, number of axes, and motor requirements such as torque, inertia, acceleration, power, and shaft size. Other global issues pertain to the specifications for the control electronics, environmental concerns, acceptance criteria, ISO standards, and others. Many of these issues can be summarized in the following list:
Fewer engineering resources and time-to-market pressures complicate the design process. The question for suppliers is how can their components simplify the overall design by reducing the number of components, maintaining high reliability, shortening the regulatory approval process while meeting performance and cost targets and global design specifications.
Consider a hypothetical machine with four axes of motion. It may require 480-Vac motors meeting CE requirements with a wide range of torques and speeds. Some motors may need particular mounting standards to match up to gearboxes, have dimensional constraints because of other factors in the machine design, or specific feedback-device requirements regarding accuracy or resolution. Leading motion-control companies are taking a new and innovative approach to their next-generation servomotor products to address this issue. Plus, finding a motor or system that exactly fits the machine specification is getting easier thanks to dynamic-simulation software and online product selection programs offered by many motion-control suppliers.
Innovations are taking place in servodrives as well. Three key attributes characterize breakthroughs in new servodrive product development: ease of use, reliability, and compatibility across a wide range of motor types and global communications protocols. Ease of use incorporates features such as intelligent feedback devices that eliminate drive tuning. Other features include autoconfiguration capabilities, simpler cabling options (such as one cable per drive for each motion axis), and a common graphical user interface across multiple drive platforms to reduce the learning curve. These features make it easier to set up and configure the machine in the field and require fewer engineering resources. Reliability is another important factor in selecting electronic components. The trend is toward machines with fewer components, which leads to fewer points of failure in the overall design. This increases system reliability and uptime, leading to greater productivity.
Compatibility with a wide variety of brushless servomotors is essential, letting a common drive platform power conventional servomotors, direct-drive rotary (DDR) and direct-drive linear (DDL) servomotors. Finally, because customers have standardized on a number of communications protocols, servodrives that can support all the common platforms -- from common standard analog commands to CANopen, Sercos, Profibus, DeviceNet, and Ethernet -- means one drive or drive family can meet any communications requirement.
Getting a machine through the safety certification process is changing as manufacturing expands to new geographic regions. It used to be that getting the UL, CE, or CUL stamp of approval was all that was required. Now new standards like CCC in China are becoming necessary steps in the machine-certification process. Component suppliers can ease the process by ensuring their components are certified to meet all the new global standards.
After completing the import/export, certification, transportation, and paperwork logistics and the machine is installed far from where it was originally designed and manufactured, what happens when it needs servicing? As markets expand for sophisticated manufacturing equipment, the ability of component suppliers and machine builders alike to service their equipment becomes a key factor in building strong customer loyalty. Supplying a component that will be designed into a machine is only half the story. The manufacturer needs to know that component suppliers can provide the support needed to keep their equipment running wherever it may be deployed.
As capital-equipment manufacturers move portions of their manufacturing operations to low-cost regions in Asia or South America, supply chain logistics become more complex. Component suppliers are themselves moving manufacturing to these same low-cost regions and investing in their support infrastructure. The companies making these investments will be well positioned to support their globally expanding customer base.
Danaher Motion, www.danahermotion.com
| BENEFITS OF GLOBAL FEATURE SETS|
| Global features || Benefit |
|Components meet international compliance standards: CE, UL/CUL, CCC (China)||Faster and easier machine certification and allows machine builders to sell into a broad range of markets.|
|Input voltage: 120 Vac, 240 Vac (single and 3-phase), 400 Vac, 480 Vac (3-phase)||Provides machine builders the flexibility to match the voltage requirements for a wide range of international standards.|
|Communication protocols: DeviceNet, Profibus, CANopen, Sercos, TCP/IP, etc.||Interface to a variety of controllers and devices commonly used in diverse motion-control industries.|
|Mountings: North America, European, Japanese standards||Flexibility to match motors to a wide range of components or transmission types.|
|Wide range of frame sizes and stack lengths||A wide range of torque and speed capabilities in varying package sizes to accommodate various performance requirements, physical envelopes, and load inertia situations.|
|IP65||Provides resistance to dust and water jets.|
|Viton seals||Provide resistance to many corrosive liquids.|