8 OCTOBER 2017
smaller, more powerful, and more efficient, while expectations
about the quality of motion control functions are rising.
Today, the processing tasks for motorized applications
have become heavier and more complex than before, for
Complex algorithms already existed for motor and motion
control, but they could only be used in high-end expensive
applications due to the lack of small, powerful microcontrollers.
Now these algorithms are going mainstream, and it’s become
feasible to use them in small embedded systems. At the
same time, due to increasing integration motion control is
becoming a secondary processing task. Today, engineers
must be focused primarily on their application, so their primary
processing tasks are on the application level, for example
image recognition, visual computing, encryption/decryption,
and artificial intelligence.
More processing complexity also comes from the fact
that communication now includes control and feedback
channels, as well as low-latency, high-bandwidth, bus-level communications interfaces. Also, the realization of
synchronicity, real-time behavior, and fast response times is
already mandatory for synchronizing multiple axes.
Another result of these changes is that in many designs
motion control has become a building block. The engineer
must now consider not just a motor and how fast it spins, but
also how it connects to and interacts with all the other building
blocks in a real hardware design, as well as from the software
point of view: for example, sensors, another motorized axis in
the same machine or on the same board, or other automated
machines connected via different kinds of networks.
Today, design engineers developing motion control
systems must not only deal with technology-related
questions, but also with a long list of commercial challenges
and project-related questions that affect their implementation
To find out if some ranked higher than others, we asked
our field application engineers what are the top five motion
control design questions, problems, or issues they hear again
and again from customers. These are:
• Time-to-market - Requirements are getting tighter every
day for the whole development cycle, including prototyping
and the other development stages, all the way through
testing and production. So, products used for the motion
control part of a mechatronic system must be easy to use,
easy to understand, and easy to parameterize. Engineers
want building block products that can be used right out of
the box and provide the necessary tooling, without having
to read a 200-page data sheet first. Fast design-in means
they can start focusing on their own application faster.
• Miniaturization/Highest Integration - Especially in
embedded motion control motors are getting smaller, and
so is the available space for some kind of driver stage or
embedded electronics. At the same time, what could be
done before only in a large microcontroller (MCU) can now
be done in small and smart pieces of silicon. Engineers
are looking for the most amount of integration, both
functionally and physically, and in the smallest possible
space. This is true of both silicon and product packaging,
as more engineers make use of systems-on-chip (SoCs),
and system-in-package (SiP) configurations paired with a
small-outline printed-circuit board (PCB).
• Cost Reduction - The pressure on OEMs and their
engineers to cut costs is ongoing. This includes part cost
in volume manufacturing and total cost of ownership for
software, module hardware, and silicon.
• Motion Control Quality - The performance requirements
of motor control and motion control applications are
increasing, so the overall quality of these designs needs
to increase, too. The concept of motion control quality
encompasses multiple dimensions that all affect end-product quality, including but not limited to: noise,
accuracy, efficiency, dynamic behavior, and precision.
• Interfaces, Not Motors - More and more engineers are
unfamiliar with the physics of motion control and motors, or
an understanding of mechanical and materials challenges.
In startups and small companies, as well as larger ones,
there is a whole new generation of software-centric
engineers unfamiliar with motors, mechanics, or materials.
They want to work with interfaces, not motors. This trend is
driving up the required abstraction level in products used
for development, which in turn necessitates the building
block approach to motion control.
MOTORS DRIVE DIGITAL MANUFACTURING
Increasing numbers of industrial machines are being
miniaturized into desktop devices. Examples range from
equipment for making dental inlays and implants that dentists
operate in their own practices, to 3D printers on many
engineers’ desktops that are now printing end-use parts that
can be replicated exactly, as well as prototypes.
As modern desktop manufacturing applications like 3D
printing, computer numerical control (CNC) milling, and laser
cutting have become more mature and accessible, real-world
end-products can now be manufactured directly from design
software. CNC milling already enables high quality in small-batch production.
Motion control is an increasingly important contributor
to the success of CNC and 3D printing, if these industrial
technologies are to successfully cross over from technical
enthusiasts to mainstream users. Producing high-quality
multi-dimensional shapes requires precise coordination on
two, three, or more axes combined with greater speed and
precision of manufactured parts It also requires lower noise
and vibration. At the same time, these machines must deliver
all this for much lower cost.
MOTION CONTROL QUALITY