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Hub drives – the next step for modular robots

maxon motor UK office spoke with Philip Norman at Ross Robotics, who has created greater flexibility with his modular robots via innovative use of hub drives.

Ross Robotics specialises in remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) that are modular. The robots are designed to be made from generic parts to build robots small, medium and large. Tools and sensors are modular too and can be plugged on to suit the application. One robot can then perform different functions, which is highly unusual in the robotic world.

An unusual advantage

The latest modules offer greater flexibility than previously by using hub drives. Hub drives consist of motors and electronics inside a wheel case. These are stand-alone units, one of the advantages being that little maintenance is required. The speed and torque of the ROV can be changed quickly by swapping to a different hub drive. ‘The idea is to hide the complexity from the end-user to provide a range of performance options’ said Philip Norman, Research and Development Director of Ross, ‘If you want a police force robot to travel at 25 kmh or a bomb disposal unit to travel at 1 kmh, the hub drive will look the same from the outside but will be calibrated to perform to a specific task.’

Philip’s team are now using the maxon EC flat motor series with accompanying maxon gearboxes in each hub. Philip explained that initially they were using an alternative gearbox combined with a maxon motor. ‘We thought we needed a customised gearbox. This was expensive and we found they were prone to failure. We then tried an off-the-shelf maxon motor and maxon gearbox and it worked perfectly.’

The modular ROV’s have huge potential from mine inspection in South America to perimeter fence patrolling in Scandinavia. In agriculture, they can be used inside chicken farms. The robots are used to check the welfare of the birds. By using autonomous or remote-controlled navigation, onboard modular sensors can monitor the air quality, as well as the chicken distribution. Chicken aggression can be a big problem. Because robots are not imprinted as predators (unlike the human stockman) they can modify the behaviour of the birds by interacting with them, like ‘super hens’, allowing smaller birds to get to the feeders and drinkers. This is hugely beneficial for the birds’ welfare and results in improved commercial outcomes for the farmer.

The nuclear industry is using robots to explore areas hostile to humans. The robots can endure rough terrain and deploy modular sensors, LIDARs, cameras and Geiger counters to determine the quality of the environment. When equipped with suitable tool modules they also perform useful decommissioning tasks.

Ross Robotics offers a range of hub motors, depending upon customer requirements. They promise quality and reliability. ‘Our biggest worry is failure. No-one wants a call at 2 am from a customer in Australia to say that your robot has failed, and it’s affecting business’, says Philip. ‘This is why we use maxon products. maxon has a great reputation globally, we only have to say that the Hub has maxon motors and gearboxes in it and customers are reassured. If we want to deliver a quality product, the quality of our suppliers is paramount.’

Please contact Karen Whittaker, Marketing Manager maxon UK and Ireland, for more information.

maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

Left to right: maxon EC flat motor with gearbox; hub drive from Ross Robotics; and hub drive.

Motorising an Automated Guided Vehicle.

Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are most often used in industrial applications to transport heavy materials around warehouses or factories. It is critical AGVs don’t fail. The choice of motorisation is key.

If you’re thinking about motorising an AGV we have five fundamental points to bear in mind and introduce maxon’s IDX drive.

  1. Choose compact motorisation

Compactness is an important factor in warehouses both in the machinery used and the storage solutions themselves. Customer demands have increased and 24-hour delivery is becoming the norm. As things stand, warehouses can no longer afford to be far from major delivery areas. The price per m2 on the outskirts of a town is not the same as it is in the middle of the countryside, so logistics firms are opting for high-rack storage solutions. This means they need ergonomic robots that can move vertically and reach required heights. However, it is difficult, if not impossible, to have a compact AGV if the motor is bulky, therefore it is essential to choose compact motorisation. Drives must also be able to fit into restricted spaces, as they are sometimes integrated into existing trucks. A small footprint is a major issue for applications in logistics.

  1. Focus on true plug-and-play solutions

Essentially, robots were designed to help humans, and motorising an AGV is no exception. maxon’s IDX compact drives have all possible connectivity options as standard and are adjustable to suit individual needs. When you plug the IDX drive in, it works immediately, because they are delivered pre-programmed – a true plug-and-play solution.

When you place an order for an IDX motor, you define all the parameters you need through our online configurator. How the product communicates, what cables are needed, the electronics you choose, the motor power, whether or not you want a brake, etc. You can program everything online in just a few clicks. That way, the motor is configured to suit you and is delivered ready to use.

Motors with integrated electronics can be managed remotely because they are connected. The communication buses used can communicate both with the EtherCAT and CANopen systems, and in the future with IoT networks, too. Robots can therefore be programmed by computer and controlled remotely, which makes maintenance much simpler. This means you can work at one time on your entire fleet of AGVs, to run diagnostics or carry out an update, for example.

  1. Prioritise safety

AGVs operate in close proximity to operators, staff and other AGVs. It is therefore necessary to maintain safe human/ machine interaction, encompassing all of the safety measures. Robots have movement and optical sensors allowing them to detect the presence of humans and avoid any risk of collision. This safety-oriented approach applies also to motorisation. To avoid any danger from overheating, for instance, IDX drives have two integrated temperature sensors, one inside the motor and the other within the electronics. If there is a problem, the motor is secured immediately, without waiting until the whole envelope has overheated. Most motors on the market lack this responsiveness because they have sensors only for the electronics. The motorisation of AGVs can be a technical challenge. To meet customer needs, maxon has designed an exceptionally compact motor, with performance 25% better than its competitors, while keeping pricing competitive.

  1. Base the design on modularity

Not all AGVs do the same job. Some will carry loads of 1 tonne or more, while others will lift loads of around 100kg; some will travel in a straight line, while others will have an integrated steering function.

Motorisation requirements vary with each application, and that is why it’s essential to have a modular solution as a base. It’s imperative to choose the type of motor, power rating, electronics, connectivity, type of communication, the protection rating of the motor, and whether or not a brake or an encoder is required.

All these parameters can be easily configured online. Maxon’s innovative configuration tool is unique in the market; customers benefit from highly organised production that can develop a drive solution to match requirements in just 19 days.

  1. Opt for fast delivery

Today, responsiveness is fundamental and expected as standard. maxon is well aware of the challenges in the AGV sector and guarantees delivery of IDX solutions in 19 days.

Irrespective of how you use your AGV, with maxon’s capabilities and tooling, you can be sure you will have the right motorisation. Find out more about maxon’s IDX compact drive.

maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

Autonomous robots amongst the vines.

In France’s Bordeaux region, robots autonomously eliminate grass and weeds between the vines, making pesticides unnecessary. To enable the robots to navigate the hilly terrain, the developers looked to the Mars rovers for answers.

The wine region around Saint-Emilion in France is world famous and steeped in tradition. Winemaking here goes back to the Roman age. These days, robots help with the laborious care of the vines. The Vitirover, developed by the eponymous company in Saint-Emilion, is one of these robots. It is a fully autonomous lawnmower powered by solar energy. About twenty of these robotic mowers are in use in the vineyards. This year, Vitirover will deliver 200 more robots, for example for use along railway tracks or in photovoltaics plants. The main benefit of the robot is that it is environmentally friendly and helps to make organic wine. The use of the robot in the vineyards makes pesticides like glyphosate unnecessary. In addition, the robot protects the soil by avoiding the compaction that may be caused by tractors or horses.

The development of the robot, which is able to mow more than two hectares of land, wasn’t an easy task. As it turned out, the unstable soil in the vineyards is quite similar to the surface of Mars. This is why, when drafting the first design specifications, Vitirover collaborated with the European Space Agency (ESA) to review the designs of all of the robots that were developed for Mars missions. “This really helped us, because we couldn’t find any terrestrial robots that came as close to our specifications,” says Xavier David Beaulieu, CTO at Vitirover. He started the company in 2010, together with Arnaud de la Fouchardière. After taking over the Château Coutet winery in Saint-Emilion, he faced the challenge of controlling the growth of grass and weeds between the vines.

The robot negotiates rocky, often steep terrain and is exposed to mechanical stresses every 12 seconds, on average. The requirements for its motorisation were accordingly high. The mechatronic solutions are the result of a partnership spanning more than eight years between Vitirover and MDP (maxon France). The robot is driven by four DC motors, one per wheel. They are brushed DCX 22 L drives that offer maximum power density in a very small installation space. They are highly efficient, which is important in battery operation. Combined with a GP 32 C gearhead, this solution enables the mower to absorb the load on the wheels and deliver the torque required for traction. “In terms of the drive, the problem of the radial load on the wheel axle wasn’t an easy one to solve. However, in the end we did it,” says Xavier David Beaulieu.

The greatest challenge however was elsewhere, namely the three blades that are driven by DCX 32 L series DC motors. The high load tended to damage the ball bearings of the motors, which led to failures. The engineers at maxon finally developed an aluminium bell housing for sustainable protection. Kevin Schwartz, in charge of the Vitirover project at MDP: “Our role is not limited to delivering electric motors. Instead, we supply complete solutions that fulfill the needs of the customer.”

For further information please contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

Changes to the maxon pancake motor gives more torque

maxon have modified their EC90 flat DC motor.

The EC90 flat (pancake) 400W DC motor has been upgraded to allow a continuous current of 14.9 A. The re-design of the connector to a mega-fit version is suitable for up to 23 A current and the cable cross-section changes from AWG 16 to AWG 14. The open rotor supports cooling during operation, which allows for greater continuous torques.

The flat design of the brushless EC flat motors makes them the perfect solution for many applications, particularly those requiring high torque and control electronics. The considered, simple design makes it possible to largely automate the manufacturing and this is reflected in the DC motors economical price.

maxons brushless EC90 pancake motors range from 9.2mm to 90mm, 0.2 to 90w. For further information please contact maxon Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

We are maxon

From July 1, 2019 maxon dropped the word “motor” from its name.

maxon is evolving from a manufacturer of motors and components into a specialist for precision drive sys-tems. Known simply as maxon from 1 July, the company is changing its corporate structure to position it-self as a powerful group with a worldwide presence and the capability to respond to specific local de-mands. With a focus on five core markets – medical technology, aerospace, industrial automation, trans-portation & e-mobility and robotics. maxon drives are used wherever the requirements are particularly high, for example, in NASA’s Mars rovers, surgical power tools, humanoid robots and in precision industrial applications. maxon’s expertise beyond drive technology consists of mechatronics, battery management systems and software & cloud services. At maxon Australia, a fully integrated service is on offer with the introduction of Dr Carlos Bacigalupo who is an expert in controller integration, system analysis and configuration assistance.

For further information please contact maxon Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

Multi axis brushless DC motor position controller system

From two to eighty axis – maxon motor release a revised, versatile multi axis motor position system.

Need an eighty axis position control system? Well let’s face it, not everyone does. Though more often than not, in today’s increasingly sophisticated world of motion systems three and four axis systems are required. The trouble for motion control suppliers is being able to meet customer demands for motor position control systems with seemingly infinitely variable requirements.

Three axis controller systems in the past were very common but when you needed to control four motors there were two servoamplifiers paid for but not used. What made this industry standard even more inefficient was that inside the box for these motion controllers was simply three separate motor control units connected on a Bus system. This describes the problem that maxon multi axis system has solved.

Developed as an eleven axis motherboard with snap-apart individual drive segments. The exact number of motor axis can be easily configured simply by separating the required number of drives and jumping both the power and communications along the board. It is an incredibly simple though effective solution that has now been tested and proven in every combination. The most notable application is an eighty axis motor control system for a complex food handling production line.

Technical features include: CANopen control, Interpolation Position Mode, 6 digital inputs and 2 analogue inputs per axis, current regulation and a wide voltage input.

For more information contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

More innovation revealed from maxon

EC90_flat_500W_Back_web_450px.jpg

From 1st to 5th April maxon will be at Hannover Messe, the world’s largest technology fair showcasing the latest in innovation, technology and industry. maxon will unveil new powerful DC motor drives as well as a larger DC and new AC motor offering, with the addition of UK manufacturer Parvalux.

maxon are excited to announce a new modular drive system, the IDX compact drive, consisting of a motor and integrated EPOS4 motor controller. These systems are of particular use in applications within industrial automation or logistics automation. The IDX compact drives are configurable online.

Making a special appearance is UK motor manufacturer Parvalux. The established company has been part of the maxon group since January 2019 and expands the product portfolio with DC and AC motors up to 1.5 kW as well as suitable angular gearheads. These are used for a wide variety of applications, from stair lifts to transport systems and industrial robots. maxon CEO Eugen Elmiger comments: “We will no longer have an upper performance limit in the future.”

maxon has also boosted the performance of its brushless pancake motors (with diameters of 60 and 90 mm).  Suitable for applications where space is limited but high drive power is required, such as logistics applications like belt drives or autonomous vehicles. A new design has resulted in performance increases of up to 100%. Both the EC 60 flat and the EC 90 flat drives are available as power-up versions, either with an open rotor or with an attached fan. As a result of optimal motor cooling, the EC 60 flat now delivers 200 W of power, while the EC 90 flat reaches up to 600 W.

In addition, maxon will present further innovations such as the ENX EASY XT encoder for use in harsh environments, or the tiny brushless ECX Speed with a diameter of 6mm, which can be configured online like all X drives.

For more information contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

 

2017: a year of record growth for the maxon motor group

Global DC motor and drive specialist maxon motor has recorded growth across innovation, markets, revenue and production in 2017.

Sachseln/Obwalden (Switzerland) – The maxon motor group accomplished record revenues in 2017reporting a rise by 8.6% to CHF 459 million (up from CHF 422.5 million in the previous year). All markets contributed to the growth. Cash flow increased to just under CHF 50 million (up from 41.7 million). The number of employees globally increased to 2577. At a 40% revenue share, medical technology continues to be the strongest sector, followed by industrial automation at 28%. With R&D investments of CHF 34 million and more than 360 employees in our R&D sites worldwide, maxon has succeeded in bringing more than 20 new motors and gearheads to market and expand the company’s position as a leading manufacturer of high-quality drive components and systems. maxon looks to the future with confidence.

The impetus of growth behind maxon is mainly from the innovative precision DC motors and drives with high efficiency as well as the matching electronics for controlling complex motion sequences. The company produces in Sachseln/CH, Sexau/GER, Veszprém/HU, Cheonan/South Korea, and soon at its new factory in Taunton near Boston/USA. In addition to the sites above, R&D facilities are also located in China, France, and the Netherlands.

Growth in all markets worldwide

The biggest market in Europe is Germany, followed by Switzerland and the UK. Italy and the Iberian peninsula also grew markedly. After some years of stagnation, a strong growth has also picked up in the US. In Asia, maxon achieved new records in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. In China, maxon has seen double-digit growth over the past years. “The revenue increase by 100 million over four years has posed a great challenge to us as a company in regard to quality and service. Owing to our highly trained employees, we have been able to master this challenge successfully,” says majority shareholder Karl-Walter Braun.

20 + new products released in 2017 alone

One in seven maxon employees works in research and development. As a result of these steadily expanding capabilities, maxon launched more than 20 new electric motors, gearheads, encoders and controllers in the past year. In aerospace, the motors work at temperatures as low as -130°C, while ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter space probe has to withstand temperatures of more than 350°C on its flight toward the sun. In 2020, high-performance maxon motors will be used in two rover missions by ESA and NASA, after having run for more than 15 years in the hostile Mars environment despite a scheduled service life of only a few weeks.

“Our ‘Mission 2020’ strategy for growth, which we launched years ago with the goal of achieving forward integration of drive systems, is showing some initial success,” says Eugen Elmiger, CEO of maxon motor group. “For example, we’ve been able to secure a large order for pump systems to reduce nitrous gas emissions in Diesel cars in the highly competitive automotive market. We also drove forward the development of complete surgical power tools, as well as micro-pump systems used in minimal invasive cardiac surgery.” Eugen Elmiger also expects healthy growth for the user-friendly and efficient high-performance multi-axis controllers made by zub, a company acquired by maxon last year.

Looking ahead: a strong start

The first months of the new year were characterised by strong growth across the group. Pending orders and revenues exceed the figures of the previous year. Due to the overall economic development, the company expects growth to slow down somewhat in the second half of the year. “We will approach further expansion with the necessary caution,” says Karl-Walter Braun.

For further information please contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477.

DC motors for the transportation industry

Maxon’s miniature high speed electric DC motors align perfectly with German manufacturer KAGs larger BLDC and Brushed DC motors.

maxon motor works closely with Hannover based, German manufacturer KAG motors. KAG produces heavy duty, innovative, reliable EC and DC motors for off-the-shelf or customisable drive system solutions to the transport sector. The industry is heavily legislated with regards to access rights for the general public. KAG DC motors can be found in automatic bus and train doors, sliding steps, access ramps, doors for WC facilities in trains, switchgear, sanding systems, mirror adjustment and auxiliary compressors. The designs are vandalism-proof, vibration-resistant, cogging-torque and noise optimised, and have a slim design where needed. For more information on DC motors for transport systems please contact maxon motor Australia tel. +61 2 9457 7477. Visit http://www.kag-hannover.com/en/ for more information on KAG DC motors.

The first of the new breed ultra-small 6mm and 8mm DC servo motors arrive in Australia

Close inspection of the gear motor combination reveals the extent of motor customisations possible, normally for niche hand built servo motor and gearhead combinations that the Swiss engineers have become famous for.

Completely configured by the end user, maxon motors new micro DC motors system of online motor design and fully automated construction is set to change the future of motor manufacturing technology. Without human interference the tiniest of microdrives can be tailored to the application via an online tool. From the shaft length, diameter and flat features to the mounting method, gearhead reduction, winding characteristics, cable length and connector type. All direct from the motor design portal to the automated manufacturing line. Laser welded steel construction, dual stainless ball bearings and integral strain relief on a motor with only 6mm outer diameter beguiles Australian engineers. Over 17,000rpm at much lower noise levels than previously attained and torque levels to 200mNm make the new 6mm and 8mm servo gear motors incredibly power dense.

The ultra-small DC servo motors have linear control characteristics, zero magnetic detent (cogging) making them suitable for applications such as micro pumps, medical and laboratory dosing devices and robotics.

Contact maxon motor Australia for application, engieering or project assistance.
Ph: +61 2 9457 7477.

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