Servo Drives Fuel $15 Billion Growth in Robotics, Automation and Motion Control
Servo drives lie at the intersection of motion control, artificial intelligence and several of today's most promising technologies. Robots, automated equipment and precision manufacturing systems all benefit from these versatile controls.
Without servos, modern engineering feats like drones and self-driving cars wouldn't be possible, and as downstream product sales increase, demand for servo drives is stronger than ever.
According to analysts at MarketsandMarkets, annual sales of drives and motors will reach nearly $16 billion by 2022, which represents a 55 percent increase compared to 2015. Here are a few ways that servos are fueling innovations across multiple industries.
Sophisticated multivariable controls are at the heart of modern robotics. In this application, servo drives provide a direct link between the user or input source and motors located at each actuated joint.
The drive controls the motor's current, velocity and position using nested commands. Without digital drives, robotic servo motors wouldn't be able to perform high-dexterity movements that are required in manufacturing, warehousing and scientific applications. On the factory floor, linear and multiaxis motion controls automate all types of fabrication procedures, including materials handling, welding and repetitive or high-precision tasks.
Thanks to network compatibility, digital drives can relay data back to the command center. This information enables on-board troubleshooting and helps companies optimize their processes and minimize waste. Communicating drives are particularly valuable in automotive, medical and textile manufacturing.
Smart Devices and the Internet of Things
Servo drives play a critical role in the Internet of Things. Almost every mechanized smart device relies on a drive or similar controller to relay information to and from the motor using a fieldbus, cellular connection or short-range wireless network, such as EtherCAT. Servos have many applications in industrial equipment and consumer electronics.
On one end of the spectrum, these components are useful for powering motion-activated security cameras, motorized blinds or shades and garage doors. Servo drives also guide telescopes, communications antennae and observation equipment that requires exact positioning and precise directional control. Electronic components with networking capabilities are vital in the aerospace, telecommunications, defense and scientific industries.
Servo drives are just one piece of the AI tech puzzle that has fascinated scientists like Alan Turing since the earliest days of computing. Today, this emerging area relates to many overlapping disciplines. Servo drives are essential for relaying data used by fuzzy logic controllers and artificial neural networks.
Machine learning is already being used to improve robotic manufacturing processes, including welding and finishing. It's also valuable in the automotive industry where servos provide assisted steering and support crash-avoidance functions that respond to incoming data. These components are already available on the market, and even more innovations are on the horizon as computer-assisted safety features become increasingly common in modern vehicles.
From industrial robots to AI-based safety controls and smart household devices, items that rely on servo drives are flooding the market. As these emerging technologies achieve mainstream recognition across every market sector, engineers will find even more applications for these high-tech components.