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Roboticists saved from integration workload

Author : Edited by Renee Robbins, senior editor, Control Engineering News Desk

12 March 2010

To highlight and enhance their mutual areas of interest, Maxon Precision Motors (Fall River, MA) and National Instruments (Austin, TX) have announced a strategic partnership. Both Maxon, maker of electric motor technology and motion control products, and National Instruments look to provide designers with state-of-the-art hardware and software solutions for developing new robotic products and applications.

An informal relationship between the two companies was initiated as early as 2006, with the inclusion of NI LabVIEW VIs in Maxon's EPOS family of digital position and speed controllers. Most recently, the two companies collaborated on the design and development of ViNI , an all inclusive robotics platform created by engineers at National Instruments. ViNI is driven exclusively by Maxon motors, gearheads and encoders, and NI CompactRIO embedded controls.

"NI and Maxon have worked together to integrate the high productivity of NI LabVIEW graphical software and the high-precision drive systems of Maxon Motors, so roboticists don't have to assume the integration workload," said Shelley Gretlein, senior group manager of LabVIEW Real-Time & Embedded at National Instruments. "Also, with the release of LabVIEW Robotics software, design engineers now can access native Maxon Motor interfaces ready-to-run on their next autonomous system."

Maxon will continue to focus its R&D efforts on electric motors, sensors and motion controllers while National Instruments will leverage its LabVIEW platform, NI LabVIEW NI SoftMotion Module, and CompactRIO. Several joint marketing efforts are slated for 2010.

"It is an exciting time to be involved in the robotics industry," says Kirk Barker, electronics product manager for Maxon. "Over the years, Maxon has directed a significant portion of our engineering efforts toward the development of specialised products for robotic applications, and we are just beginning to realise the benefits of our investment. We are pleased to be working with NI and their talented group of engineers."

National Instruments has made a great effort to become the "Home Depot" for robot designers and builders. Emilie Kopp, robotics business developer for National Instruments, says that NI has greatly expanded its line of hardware and software solutions with the intention of being the one-stop-shopping source for all things robotic.

Notable robotic applications driven by Maxon motion control products include the Mars "Rover" by Jet Propulsion Laboratory, "Da Vinci" surgical robot by Intuitive Surgical and "DARwin" the humanoid robot developed at RoMeLa, the Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory at Virginia Tech University.


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