Motion Forum Opinions


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Tom Bullock

Motion Forum Opinions

“Opinions cannot survive if one has no chance to fight for them” said Thomas Mann. The 1997 Motion Control Forum held at the Anaheim Marriott on October 8 certainly provided the opportunity for expression for the 11 motion control marketing experts who “fought” to air their opinions.

The Forum started with each participant describing his company’s strategies for growth and success and explaining why users will buy their products. Over half of the forum members cited their ability to offer open architecture as a key ingredient. Several mentioned the OMAC (open modular architecture controller) document as evidence that the user community is serious about this issue and will reward those who properly address it.

The second most mentioned reason for future success was the very close relationship that they, as vendors, have established with their customers or with certain niches. They feel that they have incorporated special features to accommodate those niches and have also tailored their MMI (man machine interface) for ease-of-use. Many also consider themselves solution providers that their customers rely on and consult with.

Being able to supply a broad range of products to encourage one-stop shopping was considered a critical strategy by almost half of the forum members. They reason that by fulfilling all the motion control needs of their customer, there is no need for the customer to deal with a competitor.

Other important strategic items that were mentioned by two or more forum members were: attractive pricing, better performance, flexibility, superior support, and a good distribution network.

Personal computers and software have ignited a SoftLogic market to displace PLCs. The forum did not feel that a SoftMotion market would follow to displace motion controllers. There are too many players who specialize their products in this smaller and more diversified market. Even if a personal computer and software are used, there still must be a motion control card with most of the functions that present day motion controllers have. The processor is a small part of the cost of a motion controller. The cost is much more dependent on the many interface features that must be provided. SoftMotion is kind of a myth. It won’t save much money.

The growth in the motion control market globally was pegged at 9 to 10%. This may seem low, but it was pointed out that the selling price per axis has been cut in half in the last 10 years, thus the growth in units is substantially higher. It was also noted that software, service and other value added elements are accounting for an increasing share of the costs.

Electric servos have replaced a lot of hydraulic and pneumatic applications over the last 20 years. While some of this may continue to happen in the near future, the forum members feel that there is now a balance that will be sustained. Pneumatics are being used in low cost on/off type applications while hydraulics are being used primarily in high power applications. It will be difficult to justify servos in either case. It was also noted that servos are becoming more competitive with steppers in the smaller applications, especially when high performance is important.

SERCOS (Serial Real-time Communication System) was again brought up and endorsed by the majority of the forum members due to its wide acceptance and adequate performance. Motion Engineering announced that they will be introducing a high speed version called SERCOS-10 (10 Mbps) in the near future to silence those who claim it is slow. SERCOS-10 has been endorsed by more than 20 vendors and will become part of IEC 1491 (the SERCOS standard) by the end of the year. Delta Tau defended its MACRO by pointing out that it is much faster then SERCOS. If a user is employing power blocks and transferring the firing angle of the IGBT from the main controller to the power block, MACRO could do this and SERCOS could not. Defenders stated that SERCOS was intended for more intelligent drives, not power blocks.

Forum members were: Bob Burke from Pacific Scientific, Jeff Faris of Allen Bradley, Rich Siegel of Motion Engineering, Peter Zafiro of Yaskawa, John Walewander of Parker Compumotor, Rich Huss of Rexroth Indramat, Jay Greyson of Cleveland Motion Controls, Dimitri Dimitri of Delta Tau, Ross Miller of Vickers, Larry Kingsley of Kollmorgen, and Bill Hicks of Schneider Automation. Each was given his chance to fight for his opinions…and he did just that, Thomas Mann!

Tom Bullock can be reached at Industrial Controls Consulting, a division of Bull’s Eye Marketing, Inc. ( Contact Tom at (920) 929-6544 or email [email protected].