The manufacturing and automation industries have used servo motor control for many years, but the rise of Industry 4.0 and smart factories has accelerated the adoption of automated systems, which in turn has led to increased demand for smarter servo drives with more functionality and the ability to control more axes.
Historically, high-end microcontrollers and large field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) performed the low-level control algorithms and provided peripherals to connect to the drive output and motor feedback. The requirements for what a servo drive must support are rapidly changing, however, as equipment gets smarter and higher in performance. Features like network communications, functional safety, predictive maintenance and programmable logic controllers (PLCs) are being brought into the servo control board to optimize cost and space by removing external boards. This increased level of integration and need for higher performance are leading designers to look to heterogeneous processors, such as Sitara™ processors from Texas Instruments, to handle the majority—or all—of the processing needs for Industry 4.0 applications.