Cut Energy Costs Using Motion Control


 Cut Energy Costs Using Motion Control

by Kristin Lewotsky, Contributing Editor

Motion Control & Motor Association

POSTED 07/15/2015

There was a time cutting energy usage meant swapping out incandescent bulbs for LEDs on the production floor. Today, the motion control industry provides an array of options that enable end-users to realize substantial savings over the operating lifetime of a machine, which can be a decade or more. By combining smart components and integrated hardware with monitoring and analysis software, OEMs and end-users can gain significant advantages and fast return on investment. “The total cost of energy is about 25% of your operating cost for servo motor systems,” says Ariane Roberson, senior product marketing engineer at Mitsubishi Electric Automation, Inc. (Vernon Hills, Illinois). “Your peak and demand charges represent 30% to 60% so there is a lot of money to be saved.”

Roberson points to four ways to save: consumption monitoring, advanced energy visualization, efficiency optimization, and information collection. Motion control technology provides methods for monitoring consumption and optimizing efficiency. Combined with usage and performance analysis, the information can be used to maximize not just throughput but overall production performance.

Bottling LineVisualization

The first step in managing energy is to understand the performance of your overall system. That starts with an external audit to reveal opportunities for improvement. Energy analysis can uncover the sources of peak energy usage to reveal problems. Instead of running a line at 10,000 parts an hour, around the clock, for example, it may be more cost-effective to cut the rate to 5000 parts during the high-rate morning and early evening periods and run faster after midnight. Alternatively, a manufacturer that normally runs a line at 10,000 parts per hour for an eight-hour shift might lower overall operating costs by running for 10 hours at 8000 parts per hour. Until you know what your line is doing, you can’t make an informed decision.

To be useful, this kind of energy monitoring can’t just take place once. It needs to occur on an ongoing basis. That means the system has to be equipped with sensors and hardware that can harvest consumption data and software that can analyze and present it. A decade ago, that would have involved external systems that entailed additional cost, integration and programming, as well as a fairly steep learning curve. Now, OEMs can leverage purpose-built energy monitoring systems designed to work with the equipment to not only gather information in real time but also deliver the results in a highly consumable form.

“The faster you can react, the quicker you can catch [consumption] peaks and reduce them, which leads to a large amount of savings,” says Roberson. “The interface is really important because you need people on the floor to be able to see what is happening and you need the decision-makers on the business side of things to be able to understand what’s going on with each individual machine and the combination of all the machines on the floor, then make decisions on the basis of it.”

The interface needs to not just provide information to the operators but deliver it from shop floor to the top floor.

Efficiency optimization

Shared power

Developing an energy management strategy is not enough. The system needs to be designed for optimal operation. This is where servo technology really shines.

One of the key approaches to cutting energy consumption is to share this among axes. A decelerating motor basically acts as a generator, transferring energy from the load to the motor and back into the electrical system, where it can be disposed of. The conventional approach has been to dissipate it as heat using a braking resistor. Unfortunately, that dissipated energy represents dissipated money. Worse, heat compromises electronics. Particularly if the drives are located in the cabinet, they will require active cooling, which consumes further power. The solution? Regenerative braking that allows it to be harvested for reuse.

Adding a capacitor to a single-axis drive, for example, lets the axis store energy during decelerations that it can apply to the next acceleration. The larger the capacitor, the greater the amount of energy that the drive can store. The approach has a practical limit, of course – capacitors add size and space is always at a premium in machines and on the production floor. Like everything else in engineering, it’s a matter of trade-offs.

Figure 1: Smart drives can minimize spikes in power consumption, reducing energy costs. (Courtesy of Bosch Rexroth)A more nuanced version of the technique involves linking multiple drives on a common DC bus. Now, accelerating drives can harvest power from decelerating drives. The net result is a significant drop in peak demand (see figure 1). This can be effective for even a handful of drives. “If you have over three axes, that’s a good point to consider a common DC bus type of system,” says Craig Nelson, senior project manager with the motion control business unit of Siemens (Norcross, Georgia).

The approach provides big savings, even for a handful of drives. “We have a demo where we ran triple-axis amplifiers against single-axis amplifiers on four different real-life applications and we were able to save about 35% of the energy,” says Roberson.

In addition to power savings, the approach reduces the number of components involved. “Instead of each drive having its own contactor and reactor, they now share one larger contactor and reactor, “ Nelson says. “But it’s not sized to the addition of all of the individual loads, it’s sized to what the system requires.” Rather than six axes with six different drives, the system now has a single set of line components. Fewer components means potentially lower cost, fewer points of failure and a smaller footprint. It can also reduce the spares inventory. Instead of having several 1 HP, 2 HP, and 5 HP drives, for example, an end-user might only need to have a single larger drive on hand.

The biggest savings, however, show up on the electric bills. Utility companies base their charges on total energy consumption scaled by peak power demand in the previous quarter. Using fewer kilowatt hours of energy is good, but to be billed for those units at a lower price is even better.

Connecting multiple drives on a shared DC bus is not a trivial task. There was a time that the task fell to the OEM. Today, machine builders have a choice of drives designed to be wired together with ease, including multi-axis drives that feature multiple amplifiers enclosed in a shared housing, and ready drives that can act in a snap.

Faster settling drives

Today’s state-of-the-art drives provide other power saving benefits. Any time an axis moves, it is converting power into work, with the associated losses. When an axis tries to move a load and overshoots, it consumes power the entire time it is oscillating around the commanded position. Drives with real-time autotuning capabilities can minimize oscillations, delivering the load to the commanded position more quickly.

Perhaps easiest approach to saving energy is the most obvious –properly size the motors. Smaller motors need smaller drives, which require less energy to run, not to mention smaller enclosures with reduced cooling costs. For decades, the most common approach to motor sizing involved starting with the motor of the previous platform and scaling it by a safety factor. It wasn’t optimal but it was faster and less arduous than running through the calculations. These days, most vendors have motor sizing software that can do the calculations for you in a snap. Rather than presenting them with the parameters of your previous motor, talk to your vendor about the requirements of your application and get the right motor to accrue savings right off the bat.

In the aftermath of the recession, lean operations are on everyone’s mind. Significant savings – and a competitive advantage – await organizations willing to put in a certain amount of effort to harvest savings. “Customers who work on selecting an energy-efficient servo solution typically save 20% to 30% percent of their energy for that particular machine, so it can have a significant effect,” Robeson says. Getting those benefits takes some effort but the benefits are worthwhile. “There is money on the table waiting for you but you’re going to have to put in two or three hours to understand your consumption,” she comments. “We’re way beyond changing a light bulb now. There are a lot of initiatives right now to operate more lean and optimize our equipment. The more we do that, the more we will have to dig for improvements.”

Parallel VFD Cables Enhance Motor Performance



Parallel VFD Cables Enhance the Performance of High-Power Motors

Posted by: Heather MacKenzie on February 25, 2015

Editor’s Note: This article was created with expertise from Peter Cox, the director of industrial projects for our industrial cable group.

IVFDs, or Variable Frequency Drives, are used by manufacturers to control motors at variable speeds, thus matching the speed of the motor-driven equipment to the load requirement. For example, to operate a long conveyor system, of let’s say beer production, a motor is used to turn the drive pulley and move the conveyor belt forward. 

Nowadays, such a motor would typically be connected to a VFD so that if the motor does not need to run at full speed, it can be operated at a lower speed. This provides multiple benefits, including longer motor life, energy savings, improved process control and higher reliability. 

VFDs sound great, and they are, but there is one drawback to them. They generate electrical noise that radiates out and can disrupt electronic equipment, network systems and even instrumentation. In some cases this can disrupt manufacturing, leading to downtime and quality control issues.

There is a simple way, however, to maximize the benefits of VFDs without decreasing the performance of nearby devices and systems. That way is to make sure that the cables connecting the VFDs to motors are high-performance ones. Furthermore, if the motor is high power (200 horsepower or greater), then parallel VFD cables offer a significant performance benefit.

Let’s take a look at how parallel VFD cables improve the safety and performance of high-power motors.

 Beer Conveyor Image

The motor that turns the pulleys for this conveyor belt system is connected to a VFD for improved control and energy savings.

1. Select High-Performance VFD Cable Rather than Construction-Grade Cable

A challenge in purchasing VFD cables is that there are no standards for them. Thus, it can be difficult to differentiate between minimum construction-grade cable sold as VFD cable and high-performing VFD cable that protects motors and ensures the maximum benefits from using a VFD system.

Below is a quick guide to help you differentiate between the two.

 Table Compairson of VFD Cable Image

Table 1: Comparison of the characteristics of construction-grade
 and high-performance VFD cable.

In summary, the benefits of high-performance VFD cables are:

  • Better shielding and larger grounds for less electrical noise (common mode current)
  • Flexible, tinned stranding for easier installation/termination and tighter bending radius

2. Use Parallel VFD Cables for High-Power Motors

When the application involves motors of 200 horsepower (149 KW) or more, the conductors must grow out in proportion to the power, in order to ensure the required ampacity. Ampacity is the maximum amount of electrical current a device can carry before overheating, or as limited by statutory requirements.

When multiple smaller cables are paralleled, as permitted under the National Electrical Code, more efficient conduction is achieved. In fact, high-performance parallel VFD cables with full-sized grounds provide more effective conduction and significantly larger grounds, not only in total, but in each cable, as compared to construction-grade VFD cable.

Thus, a high-performance solution with multiple parallel VFD cables has the following advantages:

  • Overall copper use is reduced
  • More ground copper is installed, leading to reduced noise emissions
  • Cables are more flexible and easier to terminate
  • Lower pulling force is required during installation

 VFD Parallel Cables in Use Image

A 600 HP (447 KW) motor is serviced with multiple high-performance parallel VFD cables.
(Quadruple 4/0 AWG Belden 100% ground VFD cable)

VFD Cable Specification Assistance

To help you select or specify the right industrial VFD cable, available below is an application note on parallel VFD cabling that

  • Looks at NEC code provisions and explains how they apply
  • Works through specifying the right VFD cable for a particular usage
Provides a handy table showing buildups for motors of different power

Have you experienced VFD noise issues or had trouble installing thick VFD cables? Let me know your challenges and how you are dealing with them.

New Motion Options Boost Productivity and Savings


 Safety and onboard memory and intelligence bring end users rapid return on investment.

By: Kristin Lewotsky, Contributing Editor
(posted 08/14/2014)

With the rising cost of resources and energy, end-users are under pressure to do more with less. Gone are the days of building a machine to churn out a single product for a decade. They need the flexibility need to be able to change production on a daily or even hourly basis. They need to minimize power consumption, downtime, and staff. Above all, they need to minimize cost. Today’s motion control offerings provide a way to do all of the above.

“The technology has changed in the motors, the control technology, the drive technology, and also in the network technology, says Chris Brogli, Global Business Development Manager for Safety, at Rockwell Automation (Lexington, Kentucky). He brings the perspective of almost three decades as an automation owner, then integrator, then supplier. “Motion control systems are becoming more and more integrated and smarter and smarter, with features that allow us to enhance things like efficiency, throughput, and overall equipment effectiveness,” he says, “and all of this is happening because of the changes in the technology.”

The classic value proposition of electromechanical shafting has always been the ability to make changeovers by selecting a new recipe in the HMI in minutes instead of spending hours or days changing out gears and tooling. Today’s components have taken that to a new level. It’s not a question of just faster changeovers; sometimes, the changeovers are done on the fly. In automobile manufacturing, for example, automatic vehicle identification systems allow the line to determine the vehicle being manufactured and identify immediately what needs to be done.

This level of responsiveness is also useful in packaging applications requiring greater flexibility. Instead of filling a pallet with identically sized boxes, one pallet might involve 10 different carton sizes in a complicated packing layout. The system needs to be smart enough to adjust to that and build the pallet layer appropriately.

Adding intelligence can increase productivity in other ways. Consider a machine that requires 30 minutes to come up to speed. Turning it off when the workers leave for their one hour lunch break means losing 30 minutes of production time when they return. The alternative is to squander power running the machine in idle mode when it is not generating product. With intelligence, the machine can shut down at the start of lunch and then restart 30 minutes later so that by the time staff returns, equipment is ready for operation, maximizing throughput.

Today’s machines also benefit from increased speed, both from faster processors in the drives and controllers and from the benefits of ethernet-based network protocols. “Internal processing speed is a key component of a motion drive and system that the customers use because people want more output for less cost,” says Michael Mikolajczak, Product Line Manager at ABB (New Berlin, Wisconsin). “In the millisecond response world, protocols like EtherCAT and the corresponding devices can provide the extra output.”

Network-based communications also enables more sophisticated safety applications applied zone wise in order to minimize worker in capital equipment arm while maximizing output.

Power-saving drives
Energy harvesting over a shared power bus is an increasingly common technique. After all, anybody driving a hybrid vehicle knows about regenerative braking. The technique provides more than just power savings, however. Traditionally, in a conventional machine with multiple motors, you would need to size the drive front-end to accommodate the “worst case” motor loading scenario when, in reality, that worst case may never occur. More often than not, this means wasted energy.  Applying regenerative technology using a common DC bus configuration, however, allows machine builders to significantly downsize the drive front-end and reduce the overall energy consumption of the machine. “We’ve had a converting application where we use a common DC bus configuration,” says Ken Kerns, Marketing Manager for the Motion Control and Low Voltage Drives Business with Siemens Industry (Norcross, Georgia). “The total output was around 500 A and it used conventional dynamic braking methods to control motor speed. With a common DC bus configuration, we were able  to down-size the front end to 170 A and completely eliminate the braking module and resistors. We also used a smaller cabinet with less cooling, so it was even more efficient.”

The new generation of drives leverages onboard intelligence and memory to modify performance in real-time. Rather than simply trying to harvest energy during decelerations, these components are designed to dynamically adjust power consumption under a changing load, courtesy of sophisticated algorithms. This goes beyond harvesting a fraction of the energy spent – it involves spending less energy to begin with and can significantly reduce cost of ownership over time.

It also increases motor lifetime. Technologies such as flux monitoring allow the drive to evaluate the effect of load and reduce motor flux to minimize motor temperature. This increases motor lifetime and decreases unplanned downtime, enhancing overall productivity.

Running a motor at full speed either unloaded or partially loaded also wastes energy. “If you have a system with any kind of duty cycle on it, then variable speed drives can help,” says Kerns. “You don’t want to just run it at 100% speed and use mechanical means to control the output. You need to be able to provide the control to that motor that the output requires.”
Drives can also be adjusted to minimize peak power consumption (see figure 1). In conventional systems, drives initialize at top speed, generating a power spike every time they’re turned on. This can be a problem because in many cases, power companies set pricing for the quarter based on peak consumption. State-of-the-art drives can be set to ramp up slowly. The ability to minimize peak consumption or more effectively normalize it can provide big savings over time.

“While it’s nice to have regenerative braking, if we can somehow control peak demand, that’s where the big savings are,” says Arnie Mueller, Director of Operations at Bosch Rexroth (Hoffman Estates, Illinois). Consider a three-axis punch press. At a given point in time, two axes may be accelerating while another is decelerating. If the drive system can store that burst of energy from the decelerating axis access without putting it back on to the AC mains shared bus, it can be available for use by another drive. The system can exceed the standard bus voltage a certain amount before absorbing the regenerated energy back into the AC mains.

Figure 1: Smart drives can minimize spikes in power consumption, reducing energy costs. (Courtesy of Bosch Rexroth)“What’s critical about that is if you have enough machines that can limit the peak power draw, then you don’t have to end up paying a higher energy rate,” he says. “The important thing to note is that this has to be designed in from the beginning, when you’re laying out the machine, though. It’s not something where you can come back after the fact and turn on.”

Today’s drives and design tools can also assist with power factor correction. Power  factor can be thought of as the ratio of the actual Many utility companies will penalize industrial customers who do not operate at a certain power factor.

Part of the productivity trend involves maximizing uptime – after all, if your system is undergoing maintenance, it’s not manufacturing product. At the same time, to minimize the equipment failure, machines require regular care like lubrication and tuning. Other tasks like cleaning may not be simply advisable but mandated by law, for example in the food processing and pharmaceutical industries. Too often, the question becomes not whether but how much production time will be lost to the greater goal. Even proactive companies who schedule downtime quarterly or monthly may not have sufficient hours or staff to address all the activities that need to take place.

That situation is changing, however, thanks to enhanced safety functionality in machine design. "10 years ago, you designed the system to operate and then you figured out how to work around it,” says Brogli. “Now, handling activities like cleaning and servicing and minor adjustments can be addressed while you’re designing the system.”

Some of the newer safety capabilities play an important role. An operator cleaning intake rollers on a printing machine, for example, would normally have to clean the accessible surface, step out of the enclosure to jog the machine, stop the machine, reenter the enclosure, clean, and repeat. With Safe Direction and Safe Speed, as applied by safety controllers or safety-enabled drives, a machine builder can include a cleaning mode that moves the rollers the opposite direction at a safe speed. This would allow the operators clean the rollers continuously.

Brogli cites a food and beverage company that spent hours each shift cleaning a machine using the old-style clean-and-jog process. By applying Safe Speed and Safe Direction, along with a Safe-Position protocol that allowed limited safe operations when the enclosure was breached, the company was able to cut cleaning time from six hours to less than two hours. “They were able to gain an extra half shift of production,” says Brogli. “Instead of manufacturing product 16 hours a day, they were doing 20 hours a day.”

Gary Thrall, Senior Product Support Engineer at Bosch Rexroth, points to a manufacturer of electronic fuel injectors that reduced cycle time by 10% using Safe Direction. Under the previous process, the operator had to reach through a light curtain to adjust a part before the machine slowly pulled away, governed by Safe Limited Speed. All risks that would result from higher speed involved motion of the machine toward the operator. Adding Safe Direction ensured that the machine under no circumstances could move the operator's hands into moving parts. As a result, the manufacturer was able to move the parts away at top speed immediately after the operator performed his or her task, increasing throughput while keeping the worker safe.

The reduction in cycle time opens up multiple productivity options for an end-user. “If they want to increase production, they can do it without capital expense,” says Thrall. “If they want to maintain production, they can reduce the number of operators and save money there. They can also do preventive maintenance on the machine during the 10% of time saved. You have three different ways to save just by cutting cycle time by 10%.”

Cost of ownership--the big picture view
We all know the drill for capital-equipment purchases – put out a request for proposals, evaluate the results, and make a decision. Unfortunately, all too often that decision is driven primarily by the capital outlay. It’s an understandable dynamic, although not particularly helpful. At many end-users, the manager responsible for the output of the manufacturing line may justify getting a new machine but the purchasing department handles the acquisition. Often, that capital equipment budget is decoupled from the operations budget that pays for power, maintenance, etc. The priorities of one are not the priorities of another, especially since the results are so broadly separated in time. Meanwhile, the machine builder knows that to win the job, they need to come in with a low bid. The result is that the key stakeholders have conflicting objectives and end-user companies wind up paying far more than necessary over the lifetime of the machine.

The Wall Street carrot-and-stick routine of quarterly financials notwithstanding, companies compete over the long haul, not on the basis of a single purchase. Manufacturers need to take the big picture view of total cost of ownership (TCO) versus just total cost of acquisition (TCA). The kinds of capabilities we’ve been discussing all contribute to dramatically lower TCO. Given that the average lifetime of the electronics on a machine between retrofits runs about 10 years, those savings can add up. “From a motion control standpoint, the purchase price is 5 to10% of the TCO while the rest of it comes from the energy uses and the lifetime operation of that machine,” says Jim Grosskreuz, Product Manager, Rockwell Automation (Meqon, Wisconsin). ”Your upfront cost may be more, but your total cost of ownership is going to be much less due to tens of thousands of dollars in energy savings over the long life cycle of that motor.”

Expect this to be an ongoing trend in coming years as rising energy costs force organizations to take a holistic view. “That’s something that we’re consistently hearing from the high volume manufacturing companies: smarter, faster, and more power efficient,” says Brogli. “They’re putting things like power consumption, energy consumption, uptime, scrap break, reducing number of injuries, and so on into their machinery specifications. I think taking a holistic approach to machine design and implementation is what’s making the top companies the best. It’s a much different approach than when I was in manufacturing and working for end user 20 years ago. That was not even a thought.”

The shift is underway and factory automation industry needs to prepare for it. “Once the end users understand the benefits, they’re going to push for that technology,” says Mueller. “OEMs need to have these types of options ready to go.”




Attention Control System Integrators: Windows XP is a Big Opportunity

Posted by: Frank Williams on June 11, 2014

System Integrators play an important role in helping manufacturers benefit from industrial automation technologies. They design and implement sophisticated control systems and their expertise, project management skills and manpower help companies achieve advances that cannot be realized with internal resources.

If your company is a System Integrator or Control System Integrator then you have likely been building up your expertise in the area of industrial cyber security as demand for services related to this topic has grown.

In fact today I am participating in a webinar for the Control System Integrators Association. It’s about how to help companies reduce the operational risk created by the end of service (EOS) for the Windows XP operating system. The webinar is at 11am EST today, and you can still register for it. If you miss the webinar, this article provides an overview of what I will be saying.

Windows XP EOS is a BIG Opportunity

Windows XP has been the workhorse operating system for factories, energy facilities and many critical infrastructure systems around the world. The operating system runs important manufacturing, process and production applications on the plant floor, in the field as well as in control rooms and engineering offices. It is also embedded in thousands of devices that control many factory automation and process control operations.

With Microsoft ceasing to provide the security updates and “hot fixes” that were routinely available before April 8, 2014, computers and other devices are more vulnerable to security risks and viruses. The EOS of Windows XP places industrial users in a very uncomfortable position.

The risk of security issues and resultant downtime will steadily increase over time. Yet the cost of upgrading or replacing Windows XP-based systems, and particularly the cost of the associated disruption to operations, is often prohibitive. 


The EOS of Windows XP puts industrial manufacturers in a difficult position. They need to navigate securing industrial applications and also get a a massive operating system upgrade project off the ground.

When you consider the fact that 70% of Microsoft’s security bulletins in 2013 affected Windows XP, this is a troubling development for those running mission critical applications.

To the alert system Integrator, this situation presents a significant opportunity for your company to talk to existing and potential clients about industrial cyber security without a specific project as the driver. You simply need to open a conversation along the lines of:

“We know you have Windows XP; we know migrating away from it is a huge job; we can help you navigate more effectively through this migration, and secure your systems now and into the future.”

The Way Forward Does Not Include Windows XP

The first piece of advice you can give clients is to stop implementing Windows XP systems, either in computer systems (e.g. HMI’s) or embedded into devices. In fact, many of your clients may be surprised to find that Windows XP is extensively deployed as Windows XP Embedded – a componentized version of Windows XP – and utilized in most industrial devices (e.g. controller, PLC’s, DCS, etc).

You can help identify these Windows XP assets and provide your client a comprehensive transition plan. This creates a dialogue about not perpetuating the problem and allows you to demonstrate your value add.

For existing Windows XP installations and unavoidable new ones, your conversation will likely cover using industrial firewalls as a way to “compensate” for Windows XP vulnerabilities. More information on this topic is available in the white paper available for download below.

But the cyber security discussions can be broader than that. For example around doing a risk assessment and complying with security standards such as NERC CIP 5 or IEC 62443.

Reference and Repeat

Once you work with one company on mitigating Windows XP risk, you will hopefully get a reference that will help you get more. As replacing Windows XP is going to be a multi-year project for most organizations, this expertise is a way to grow your business.

It also creates a trusted advisor relationship which helps with client “stickiness” or the ability to gain a deeper relationship with your client on a broader scale than you might on a per project basis.


Assisting clients with industrial cyber security issues and helping them upgrade away from Windows XP creates a “trusted advisor” relationship.

Belden Resources to Help You

Belden can help you in a number of ways. First, we have information about the practical options for securing industrial applications given the EOS of Windows XP in document and video format. Don’t forget to return to this blog on a regular basis for additional ideas and materials.

We also have pre-sales system engineers to help you with specific client projects. To access them, call 1-800-BELDEN1 (1-800-235-3361) or visit theBelden North America or Belden Europe contact webpages.

Next our line-up of industrial firewalls, including the EAGLE One Security Routerand the EAGLE Tofino Industrial Firewall are the best in the business (of course I am biased so check them out for yourself). You can find information about themon this website or use the same contact information as above.

Cyber security is just one part of a good industrial Ethernet infrastructure design. We have a unique program called the Belden Certified Industrial Network Provider Program that trains and certifies partners in the best practices in this area. It allows you to offer networks backed not just by your company, but also by Belden. It also enables you to offer extended warrantees for Belden products. To find out about the program, see the video and brochure about it.

US Industry Scores Big


US industry scores biggest gains for almost four years

03 MARCH, 2014

During February, the US manufacturing sector achieved its biggest improvement in business conditions for 45 months, according to the latest Purchasing Managers’ Index. The February PMI was 57.1 – a significant improvement over the January figure of 53.7 – indicating that business has bounced back following a weather-related slowdown in January.


Output and new business both picked up sharply in February as manufacturers started to overcome the disruptions caused by the unusually severe weather in January. Although the bad weather continued into February, manufacturers managed to build up safety stocks which helped them to overcome some of the supply chain problems.

During February, the volume of new work being handled by US manufacturers increased at its sharpest rate since April 2010. The manufacturers surveyed attribute this mainly to rising domestic demand and to confidence about the economic outlook among their customers.

Production grew at its fastest rate since March 2011, while export orders increased marginally. Job creation was at its strongest since March 2013, but backlogs also grew during February.

The PMI data also shows large manufacturers – those with more than 500 employees – were the best performers during the month.

The manufacturing output figures from Markit (blue graph, left axis) and the US Federal Reserve (orange graph, right axis) are tracking each other closely
Sources: Markit, US Federal Reserve

According to Chris Williamson, chief economist at the survey compiler Markit, the February PMI figure “signalled one of the largest monthly improvements in manufacturing for almost four years.

“The upturn pushes the trend over the last three months to the strongest since May 2012,” he adds, “suggesting that the sector maintained robust underlying growth momentum throughout the winter months.” 

Improve Your Application’s Performance


Follow the below link on how Servo Technology can Improve you're Companies Productivity !!

Obsolescence Mitigation


 There’s a saying that old machines never die, they just get moved to another factory. Okay, maybe there isn’t a saying, but there should be. It’s a testament to the talents of OEM machine builders that for applications ranging from ketchup packaging to lumber processing, machines can last 20, 30, even 50 years. That’s some tough steel and some good design. It does raise a problem that doesn’t perhaps get talked about as much as it should, though—obsolescence mitigation.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a hardware geek from way back. As a technology writer, I’m trained to perpetually look for the latest and greatest. That’s where the excitement is—unless you’re an OEM with dozens of machines in the field under warranty, based on components from the previous generation. That’s when things start to get complicated, especially as the years go by. Remember, we’re talking about machines that operate for decades. Sure, vendors support a product line after it’s been discontinued, but as the parts begin to near end-of-life (EOL), that support begins to wane. Suddenly, the leadtime stretches out from a couple of weeks to multiple months. For an OEM supporting customers for whom an hour of downtime can cost thousands of dollars, that kind of delay is simply not feasible. Sure, an easy solution would be to upgrade to the next-generation, but they may not want to. More to the point, their customer may not want to.

EOL affects everyone in the food chain. After all, it’s not as though motion vendors are immune from the challenge. Try being a controller or drives vendor and having a critical COTS chip go EOL (give me a moment and I’ll figure out a way to stick yet another acronym in that sentence, just see if I don’t).

It’s an unavoidable problem, but one for which the industry can take a cue from the military and aerospace sector. There, obsolescence mitigation has become a big deal, as the industry increasingly incorporates commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products. COTS components provide low-cost, high-availability solutions—but only for a limited time, not nearly long enough to meet military timelines. After all, when it comes to COTS components, the 10-ton gorilla known as the consumer electronics industry drives product lifecycles. Vendors can’t afford to support a product for 30 years to satisfy a minor market when their primary customer needs a new chip every six months. Gradually, though, the market has begun to figure it out. Some IC manufacturers who are preparing to stop production of a chip will call their customers and offer to pattern a certain number of wafers and store them in a controlled environment, undiced and unpackaged, waiting until the customer needs them. Meanwhile, an entire cottage industry has sprung up around manufacturers who will fabricate COTS products that have been discontinued by other vendors.

In the motion control industry, vendors do provide EOL notices and extend opportunities for last-time buys. It’s a delicate balancing act, however. Order too much, and you’re tying up capital and warehouse space unnecessarily. Order too little and you may find yourself scouring spec sheets trying to find a replacement product so you can make good on your customer support.

The point is that even while the motion industry focuses on pushing the technology forward, vendors need to remember to also have an obsolescence mitigation policy for their customers. Just as important, OEMs need to understand the EOL policies of their vendors—assuming they exist.

Does your company have an obsolescence mitigation policy in place? Do your vendors? Some potential questions for your key suppliers include:

  • What previous product lines have they obsoleted?
  • What is their EOL policy?
  • What is the typical life cycle for new products?
  • At what stage is the product that you’re considering for my new design?
  • Is there a replacement product under development that still may meet your design schedule?

Plan for the long term. Make sure that the product you designed today can be supported tomorrow…and for a lot of tomorrows to come.

Motion Industry Growing

Motion Control Market Up 19% in 2011

(Ann Arbor, Michigan)  New orders for motion control products are up 19% through the third quarter of 2011, according to new statistics released by the Motion Control Association (MCA).

In the third quarter, however, year-over-year growth was just 4.2%, compared with 24% year-over-year growth in the second quarter and 29% in the first quarter.

“The results of the third quarter strongly suggest that the motion control market recovery is continuing but at a slower pace,” said Paul Kellett, MCA Director – Market Analysis. Dana Whalls, MCA Vice President added that “despite concerns about the economy, industry experts have reported to us that they expect the motion control market to remain relatively flat for the final quarter of the year.” Whalls added that MCA will provide further updates on the motion control market at the upcoming MCA Business Conference in Orlando, Florida - January 18-20, 2012. A panel of industry leaders including Arun Jain, Siemens; John Payne, Yaskawa Electric America, Inc.; Ken Sweet, Parker Hannifin Corporation; and Andy Vogl, Kollmorgen will participate in a session focused on the outlook for the coming year.

Additionally, the Conference, which is open to MCA members only, will provide a look at the outlook for the global economy from Alan Beaulieu, Senior Analyst, Economist and Principal at the Institute for Trend Research.

MCA tracks results for motion controllers, PLCs, electronic drives, AC drives, motors, AC motors, actuators & mechanical systems, sensors & feedback devices, other ancillary components, and support services. The strongest growth sectors in 2011 include motion controllers, AC drives, AC motors, and other ancillary components.

MCA reports are based on confidential data provided by member companies. The data is aggregated and summarized in quarterly tracking reports and trend analysis reports. These reports examine orders and shipments by major product category quarterly and annually. Growth rates and book-to-bill ratios are provided for each product category. MCA also provides an economic indicator report, which enables report users to interpret quarterly statistics from the standpoint of macro-economic indicators by individual manufacturing industry, as identified by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Additionally, each quarterly report includes a forward-looking report that identifies and summarizes industry predictions for growth in the next two quarters.

Most reports are available free of charge to all MCA members. Members providing data for the reports receive “full” versions of the summary and trend analysis reports, which are highly detailed examinations of order and shipment results and also the economic indicator and industry sentiment reports. Non-participating members receive “abridged” versions of the summary and trend analysis reports, which contain shipment results. Members find the reports valuable as gauges of overall market performance and as benchmarks for assessing relative company performance. To learn more about MCA, visit

The Motion Control Association (MCA) is a global not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting the understanding and use of motion control technologies and developing business opportunities for mechanical and electronic (mechatronics) motion control companies. Founded in 2006, their membership continues to grow. They currently have 70 member companies from around the world. Members include global manufacturers of complete motion control systems, component manufacturers, system integrators, distributors, end users, consulting firms, academic institutions and research groups directly involved with mechanical and electronic (mechatronics) motion control.

MCA is part of the Automation Technologies Council, an umbrella group with over thirty years’ experience serving over 625 global automation companies involved in robotics (Robotic Industries Association,, machine vision and imaging (Automated Imaging Association,, motion control and related technologies.

No Sign of U.S. Manufacturing Slump as Machine Makers Outperform


 Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Machinery stocks may outperform the market through the end of the year as new orders rebound, helping to defy concerns about another U.S. recession.

American manufacturers booked $32.6 billion in new orders for machinery equipment in September, the most since July 2008, according to data from the Census Bureau released Oct. 26. The Standard & Poor’s Supercomposite Machinery Index, which includes Caterpillar Inc. and Deere & Co., has gained 26 percent since Oct. 3, while the S&P 500 has risen 13 percent. The machinery index lagged behind between July 7 and Oct. 3, when it fell 35 percent, compared with a 19 percent decline for the S&P index.

“There’s skepticism about the industrial economy and machinery stocks, but robust activity suggests the risk of a double-dip recession is less likely,” said Stephen Volkmann, a New York-based analyst at Jefferies & Co. The sector may continue to rally through December, as it has tended to outperform from November through year-end during the past decade, he added.

There’s “no evidence” of a collapse in North American manufacturing as shipments still are growing, said Ann Duignan, a New York-based analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. The total for September was $31.1 billion worth of machinery equipment, up 13 percent from a year ago, Census Bureau data show.

“Companies are still reporting modest growth with no wholesale change in demand,” Duignan said.

Rising Outlook

Parker Hannifin Corp., based in Cleveland, increased its fiscal 2012 outlook for industrial North American-segment revenue growth to about 8.3 percent from about 6.2 percent, as orders “re-accelerated” during the period ended Sept. 30, said Duignan, who maintains a “neutral” rating on the stock. The motion- and control-technology maker’s orders from the region grew 16 percent compared with a year ago, following an 11 percent rise the previous quarter, the company said Oct. 18.

“There’s a lot of activity,” and “order trends here in North America are still very positive,” President and Chief Executive Officer Donald Washkewicz said on an Oct. 18 conference call.

Caterpillar, based in Peoria, Illinois, reported third- quarter revenue of $15.7 billion, compared with $11.1 billion a year ago, the company said Oct. 24. The construction and agricultural-equipment maker’s order backlog was $24.4 billion, up 40 percent.

“Although there is a good deal of economic and political uncertainty in the world, we are not seeing it much in our business at this point,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Oberhelman said in a statement. “This was the best quarter for sales in our history, and our order backlog is at an all- time high.”

Strong Demand

The industry is attracting investors because it supplies “key end-markets,” such as agriculture and energy, where demand remains strong, said Zahid Siddique, associate portfolio manager at Rye, New York-based GAMCO Investors, with holdings in machinery-index members Flowserve Corp., Kennametal Inc. and Crane Co.

Machinery companies are a “proxy for global capital expenditures” because almost half their sales come from foreign customers, said Volkmann, who upgraded six of the businesses to “buy” from “hold” last month, including Eaton Corp., Cummins Inc. and Parker Hannifin.

The recovery in capital spending worldwide is “riding on” the U.S., China and emerging markets, said David Hensley, director of global economic coordination at JPMorgan in New York. There’s “strong momentum” in these expenditures, which include machinery equipment, even with the European sovereign- debt crisis and this summer’s protracted negotiations between President Barack Obama and Congress over the budget deficit.

‘Continued Expansion’

JPMorgan lowered its growth estimates for Western Europe, reflecting a mild-to-moderate recession that already may be under way; “still, we think growth will continue outside of Europe, supporting continued expansion in capital spending,” Hensley said.

Illinois Tool Works Inc., which makes fasteners for transportation and construction products, may be a “sign of things to come” in the region, said Duignan, who rates the stock “neutral.” Its European revenue grew 3.8 percent during the quarter ended Sept. 30, and it predicts “modestly lower” revenue there in the fourth quarter, the Glenview, Illinois- based manufacturer said Oct. 25.

Durable-goods production in Germany fell for the second consecutive month, as a Bundesbank index dropped to 98.7 in September from 99.6 in August. This was “a little weaker than expected, and made me wonder if Europe may be headed in a different direction” from the U.S., Volkmann said.

Unfolding Crisis

The unfolding debt crisis in Europe, possible slowing growth in Asia and any prolonged weakness in the U.S. housing market may threaten outperformance in this industry, said Siddique, whose firm oversees $34 billion in net assets. Even so, companies continue to show resilience as “these risks remain potentially manageable,” he said.

Kennametal -- a supplier of cutting tools to Caterpillar and other manufacturers -- remained “very bullish” on its outlook as of the quarter ended Sept. 30, Duignan said.

The Latrobe, Pennsylvania-based company “continued to experience growth in customer demand,” President and Chief Executive Officer Carlos Cardoso said on a Oct. 27 conference call. “This supports our continued expectations of a manufacturing-led recovery, at least in the United States.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Anna-Louise Jackson in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Feld at

Motion Enhances Machine Tool Performance


 Machining highly accurate parts presents extremely tight performance specifications. There was a time the technology was more art than science and users were prepared to be patient for the results. No more. Today, a wide range of commercial applications put job shops under pressure for high-volume production even as performance requirements tighten. Motion control provides the best solution for economically producing sophisticated components from a variety of materials ranging from aluminum, brass, copper, and nickel to optical crystals and other exotics.

Machine tools typically feature a cutting tool on one axis and positioning equipment on the other two. In a lathe, typically used to produce rotationally symmetric parts, a high-speed spindle rotates the work piece while the cutting bit is translated on additional axes. The cutting tool can translate parallel to the spindle to remove material from the outside of the shaft or cut threads into the shaft. It can move perpendicular to the spindle to cut material from the face of the work piece, or in line with the spindle to drill holes. A milling machine can produce non-rotationally symmetric parts by combining a rotating cutting bit on the z axis with a positioning table along the x and y axes.
Figure 1: Platforms designed for multi-tasking machine tools can simplify the integration process. (Courtesy of Siemens)
Computer-numeric controlled (CNC) machine tools leverage motion control to produce far more sophisticated three-dimensional profiles rapidly and repeatedly. A CNC diamond-turning machine, for example, can rapidly and economically fabricate spherical metal lenses for infrared imaging applications. CNC designs can include horizontal and vertical spindles, as well as multiple-spindle versions. The machines can produce parts with tolerances ranging from a few hundred micrometers to a few nanometers RMS. Because of the emphasis on accuracy, they leverage speed rather than torque to remove only small amounts of material at any one time.

With these designs, axes counts can mount up quickly. CNC machine builder Murata Machinery USA, Inc. integrates the basic turning machine with an x, y, z gantry loader, also driven by motion control. A typical twin-spindle machine, for example, will feature x- and z-axis cutting motions on each spindle, plus a gantry loader with x-, y-, and z-axis capabilities for a total of seven axes, all positioned by servo motor. Add a second gantry, and the total number of axes jumps up to 10.

The load/unload capabilities are essential because today machine tools are part of a production environment. “The diamond-turning industry has basically evolved over the last 10 or 20 years from a laboratory environment where time really did not matter to a situation where many of these systems now are used in a production setting," says Pat Hurst, Engineering Manager at CNC diamond-turning machine builder Moore Nanotechnology Systems LLC.

“The customer is not making money if the cutting spindle is not moving," says Jeff Kalmbach, Engineering Manager, machine tools division, at Muratec. Cycle times can range from eight seconds to several minutes, depending on part size, which can run from a fraction of a kilogram to more than 100 kg. “If we have a cutting time of 30 s on a single-gantry machine, the gantry is constantly moving during that cutting cycle. So the focus is to optimize the gantry loading with the cutting spindle.”

Part of the optimization includes safety technology, especially for systems featuring more than one gantry. "There are safety zones that can be set up and customized depending upon what is being done," says Kalmbach. "There is quite a bit of communication done internally with the control system to make sure that there is never any overlap between the two gantries.”

Designing for tight tolerances
Torque ripple or cogging effects in motors can compromise quality of parts produced by CNC machines. Varying spindle speed can help with this, as can high-pole-count motors.

For truly demanding applications, controls and feedback may provide the best solution. Moore produces machines that are used, among other things, to machine optical components of glass, for visible-wavelength applications, and more exotic materials like zinc selenide and germanium, for IR applications. The machines can deliver parts with surface finish requirements as tight as 1 nm rms.  Achieving that level of results requires ultra-smooth motion on all axes, coupled with high-spatial-resolution feedback. For x, y, z motion, the machines use air bearings or hydrostatic bearings driven bylinear motors. The air bearings help smooth out any cogging introduced by the motor and the feedback loop does the rest.

“The linear motors have some cogging but they’re sinusoidally commutated, which means we map out the theoretical force curves in the motor very close to what is provided," says Jeff Lowe, senior controls engineer at Moore. “Beyond that, it’s up to our servo loop to close the loop and linearize a nonlinear system.”

The team uses interpolation to convert a 137-nm signal pitch to a measurement resolution of 34 pm. “In the world of linear motors, it’s very hard to get a good velocity signal for loop stabilization," says Lowe.  “The way we work around that is by interpolation of the feedback encoder to derive a velocity signal. This improves system damping and disturbance rejection, and helps us to get measurements in the 1 nm range.”

The machines typically process parts ranging in size from less than a millimeter to 450 mm.  Fabricating spherical components requires purely rotational motion. Fabricating spheres, which reduce optical aberrations, requires not just rotation but an oscillatory motion. In the case of a large spherical part, fabrication can take as long as 10 hours.

All that oscillation tends to introduce vibration which can create significant problems for jobs with ultra-high smoothness requirements. The starting point to address this is striking a balance between rigidity and compliance in the initial machine design. Here, mechatronic modeling techniques can provide a big assist. Various system elements such as hydrostatic bearings and even the chassis material can act to damp any surviving vibrations, as can the control system. Mounting the machine on vibration-isolation components further improves performance.
Figure 2: In a CNC tool, a cutting bit translates along the Z axiss to contact the workpiece, which turns rapidly so that a thin strip of material gets removed (Courtesy of Moore Nanotechnology Systems LLC)
Machine designs can also be adapted to grinding applications, primarily to produce molds. When it comes to grinding, the amount of material removed is directly proportional to the force applied. Depending on the material and the peak-to-peak surface variations being tackled, a surprisingly low amount of force can be used to adjust surface figure and finish. A skilled optician, for example, can remove a ridge from the edge of an optic just by pressing lightly with a fingertip as the glass turns. In the case of millimeter-scale optics, the sensitivity to applied force jumps dramatically. Mounting the 3 mm to 10 mm grind wheels on air-bearing spindles allows the degree of force to be tightly constrained and adjusted with each pass.

Heat is a perennial concern in motion control applications. Given the tolerances involved in producing these parts, thermal management becomes essential. Motors have to be undersized so that they do not generate heat that might change the physical parameters of the part. “When you're trying to maintain 50- to 100-nm surface profile - ?/10 [or you can say “a 10th of a wavelength” if you can't do Greek symbols] - on parts that are up to a couple hundred of millimeters, thermals are the killer in the whole process,” says Lowe. “If we can avoid heating [by over driving] the motors, we do that. In addition, maintaining a thermal envelope in the machine becomes critical.”

Motion control becomes ever more sophisticated, providing the machine tool community with a variety of sophisticated platforms to easily produce multi-functional machine tools (see figure 2). As CNC fabrication penetrates into more and more application areas, demand for performance and throughput will continue to rise. With the help of motion control, OEMs and end-users will have no problem keeping pace.

Effect of Vibrations on Hard Drives


EMP engineer Cormac O'Sullivan was the main proponent of EMP transitioning to Solid State Disk (SSD) Hard drives in all Industrial Touch Screen applications. Recent studies have shown just how right he is! 

This article from ZDNet's Robin Harris sums it up nicely, but basically you can expect a 50% performance improvement with a SSD over your traditional mechanical hard drive. These tests were done in a server environment, so one can only speculate as to the actual improvement in a high-speed industrial environment. So next time you go to order a system, remember, all EMP Touch Screens come standard with SSD Hard Drives! Does your PanelViewPlus?

EMP Receives 2009 Best of Hauppauge Award



Press Release


Electronic Machine Parts, LLC Receives 2009 Best of Hauppauge Award

U.S. Commerce Association’s Award Plaque Honors the Achievement

WASHINGTON D.C., June 8, 2009 -- Electronic Machine Parts, LLC has been selected for the 2009 Best of Hauppauge Award in the Electric Control Equipment category by the U.S. Commerce Association (USCA).

The USCA "Best of Local Business" Award Program recognizes outstanding local businesses throughout the country. Each year, the USCA identifies companies that they believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and community.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2009 USCA Award Program focused on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the USCA and data provided by third parties.

About U.S. Commerce Association (USCA)

U.S. Commerce Association (USCA) is a Washington D.C. based organization funded by local businesses operating in towns, large and small, across America. The purpose of USCA is to promote local business through public relations, marketing and advertising.

The USCA was established to recognize the best of local businesses in their community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations, chambers of commerce and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to be an advocate for small and medium size businesses and business entrepreneurs across America.

SOURCE: U.S. Commerce Association

U.S. Commerce Association



Ethernet Gains Ground


The following article discusses the role of industrial Ethernet in manufacturing today.

EMP has been incorporating Ethernet connections into our systems for over 2 years, for many of the reasons discussed in the article.

Motion Control Online - "Ethernet Gains Ground"

Motion Control Puts Ink To Paper


The following article from the Motion Control Association covers many of the finer points of general motion control as well as registration control.

EMP Launches Redesigned Website!!!


Welcome to the new Electronic Machine Parts website.  We are excited about our re-engineered site and more importantly, our improved ability to provide you with EMP's signature service.

Please take the time to browse our revamped Product and Application pages, where we offer videos, images, and detailed information as you search for your ultimate EMP solution.

Tuning a Motor


The following article from the Motion Control Association does a great job of explaining the issues associated with tuning servo motors.