The trends driving electric drives

14 August 2013

Currently there are three trends dictating the development of electric drives in the industrial automation sector – speed and ease of specification, simplified control and maintenance, and machinery safety. Nigel Dawson, Festo GB’s Product Manager for Electric Drives, looks at these trends.

Design engineers and machine builders expect to be offered products that are easy to specify, for the control technology to be simple, for the maintenance to be straightforward and for the products to adhere to the latest safety legislation.

Festo has responded to these demands with the introduction of its ‘Optimised Motion Series’ range of electric drives. The addition of an intuitive online configuration tool assists in the specification and selection process and for easier sizing a range of pre-defined and tested combinations with all of the necessary data is available. For easier ordering, a complete drive solution – comprising mechanical system, motor and motor controller – is available with just a single part number. And, for easier assembly, the motor and mechanical system is integrated.
Another trend is for simplified control and maintenance and web browser technology is at work here; it allows users to source electric drives that are easy to commission, programme and maintain. The demand from the end user is that electric drives have to be intuitive and they don’t want to have to buy specialist programming cables and software.

A standard Ethernet CAT5 cable will connect straight into the controller from the laptop and, using a web browser, type in the IP address of the controller, which has its own web page on-board, to commission it. This web-based configuration makes control simple too as it is based on the basic principles of solenoid valve technology. The diagnostic function, accessed via a standard web browser, supports simplified maintenance.

The final trend influencing the sector is machinery safety. But, the issue here is that the machinery safety industry is focused on electrically and electronically monitored systems that end at the motor. The question is who is monitoring the mechanics? Festo has developed a unique overall safety concept integrating clamping modules and linear feedback systems onto its popular EGC axis. These mechanical measures, combined with safety functions in the drives and motors and specific electric drive safety controllers allow customers to create fully certified systems for category 4 / PLe safety from a single supplier with full documentation and circuit diagrams.

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