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New Integrated Motors from Faulhaber, Animatics, and Schneider

I just took a look at the specifications for some recent integrated motors; integrated motors combine the motor, drive, and controller in one package.  I’ve used motors from all three companies, but not these particular models.

Faulhaber BX4 Series

The Faulhaber BX4 series are attractive,  compact (22, 32, or 35mm diameter) brushless DC motors with integrated encoders, servo drives, and servo controllers.

  • Versions are available with CANOpen or RS-232 interfaces (I’d use CANOpen, of course).
  • They can be paired with a 22F series gearhead, but unfortunately, no zero backlash gearheads are available, and it doesn’t sound like this will change (which means I won’t be using them any time soon).
  • Versions with separate controller power are available.  This extremely useful feature allows you to turn off motor power (e.g. because of an E-Stop) while still maintaining motor position.

Schneider Electric Motion

Schneider Electric Motion USA (formerly IMS) now has a Ethernet option for their all-in-one MDrives.

  • The MDrives combine a stepper motor and driver, and, on the Motion Control versions, a controller.  Encoders are optional; adding an encoder does not increase the motor length (nice job!).
  • Some models feature their Hybrid Motion technology, which detects stalls, enlarges the stepper’s torque curve, and more.
  • The Ethernet interface supports Modbus/TCP and MCode/TCP (MCode/TCP basically extends the MDrive Motion Control programming model from serial to Ethernet).
  • MDrives are also available with RS-485 and CANOpen interfaces.

Animatics Combitronic

Animatics has a new interface option for their integrated SmartMotors, the Combitronic network with a maximum speed of 1M bit/sec.

  • The Combitronic network uses the CAN bus as its physical layer.
  • It extends the Animatics programming language to the entire Combitronic network; for example, any SmartMotor can easily access any variables on other SmartMotors on the network.
    • So Animatics claims Combitronic allows true distributed processing; you can treat the whole network of SmartMotors as one large multi-axis controller.
    • You should be to do similar things with other networks; for example, use programmable CANOpen nodes (such as Wago 750-838’s) and share variables via PDOs.  However, I am not aware of another implementation that looks as easy to use.
    • On the other hand, I’m not a fan of the Animatics programming language; it quickly becomes very limiting for complex tasks.
  • Another nice feature is that the Combitronic network “plays nicely” with other CAN based network; since it will not interfere with CANOpen or DeviceNet traffic, you can mix Combitronic devices on the same CAN network with CANOpen or DeviceNet devices.
  • SmartMotors are also available with RS-232, CANOpen, DeviceNet, Profibus, and Ethernet TCP/IP interfaces.
  • Now you can get SmartMotors with separate controller power.  As I noted above, this is a great feature.  I have a SmartMotor application using older models without separate power, and it sucks (the SmartMotor has to be re-homed after every Light Curtain interruption or E-Stop).

I do think Animatics overstates their advantages; however, they are a good fit for the right application.  For example, I once did a X-Y table with two SmartMotors, controlled by a sweet CH Products analog joystick.  The joystick’s analog output was fed directly to the SmartMotors, so there was no controller (PC or PLC) required.

Final Thoughts

Although integrated motors are cool, in many applications a regular motor is a better fit.  The combination of a standard motor and a network drive (amplifier + controller) is almost as easy to wire, often less expensive, and much more flexible.

If I have a choice, I will use an integrated motor with a standard fieldbus (such as CANOpen) over a programmable model — motor manufacturers simply do not know how to create decent programming languages.  I have programmed both MDrives and SmartMotors; the experience is like a trip back to 1977 and TRS-80’s.

I find it interesting that neither manufacturer supporting Ethernet uses a real time protocol such as Powerlink, EtherCAT, or Profinet-IRT.

the Animatics programming language to a network of devices.


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