As factory automation continues its rapid adoption of precision motion control in industrial machines, the number of servo motors and servo drives used in these applications is skyrocketing.
Some analysts have characterized the servo drive market as “unbounded” as the applications expand. This is not surprising as previous manual processes become automated: the mechanical power capability of today’s servo motors can be a practical replacement for pneumatic and hydraulic-based actuation.
Motion control and servo drive advancements – enabled by servo drive and servo motor hardware enhancements such as the transition of inverter switches away from insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) toward higher-speed gallium nitride (GaN) and higher-power silicon carbide (SiC) technology – remain essential for competing in the global economy. The market dynamics also remain extremely competitive. Suppliers seek advantages for their servo drive lineups in system-level criteria including control performance, connectivity, ease of use and cost.
Higher performance and higher precision control will always be sought after for some machine functions. However, given the strides already made in digital drive control performance, the greater challenge today is the cost of “standard” motion performance for a machine’s application, rather than the maximum attainable control bandwidth for speed and position loops. And since most industrial automation machines have multiple motor axes of control, a better metric to consider is the costper-axis for such performance. Since some drive electronics functions (and therefore their costs) can be shared across axes, in some cases it makes sense to consider servo drives that can support two axes instead of the more traditional single motor.