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Miniature Motors Help Power Robotics Applications

May 25, 2022

Robotics is one of today’s fastest-growing fields and is wholly transforming applications within the personal, industrial, and commercial spaces. Not sure that’s the case? Just think of a specific floor-cleaning robot whose sole job is to automate a task that has been manual for centuries!

A key element of the robotics industry is the motion control system that powers robotic applications and helps to make their small footprint, efficiency, and precision a reality. Miniature motors are uniquely suited to solve challenges within the robotics market due to their compact package size and incredible performance capabilities. These motors must be optimized to meet – and exceed – the most challenging application requirements, including specific torque and speed, extreme precision control, or high endurance and long battery life.

Let’s explore a few popular robotics applications and the mini motor technologies that are best suited to drive them forward:

  • Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs). AGVs, or portable robots that operate without direct intervention, are essential in transporting raw materials, packages, and other types of inventory throughout warehouses and similar environments. The motion control system drives the wheels of the AGV’s, and depending on the specific need, brush DC, brushless DC, or Ultra EC BLDC motors can be used for these applications. One of the primary performance requirements is providing continuous torque for acceleration under a load. Improved safety can be provided by high-resolution encoders, which deliver precise position feedback and low inertia that facilitates quick starts and stops; extended run times are also possible with torque-dense motor designs that reduce the weight of the AGV. Operating in harsh environments and a variety of temperatures are also crucial to improve the reliability and continuous service time of these new robots.
  • Bionic Systems. Powered prosthetics and powered exoskeletons are vital in assisting disabled persons to regain mobility and independence. Miniature motors are key in powering these systems and must be compact in size, of low weight, and offer high precision, due to the sensitive nature of the application. Long battery operating times are also critical. Brush DC coreless and Ultra EC brushless slotless motors are the ideal fit for these systems; combining accessories such as planetary gearheads to adapt the motor speed & torque, or encoders for precise position control & smooth motion, also allows the mini motion system to retain the required small footprint.
  • Electric Grippers. Electric grippers are critical tools in manufacturing, material handling and medical environments. Miniature motors powering these devices are responsible for ensuring the execution of highly precise gripper finger positioning, gripping detection, and control of the gripping force and speed. Brushless slotless DC motors, along with their complementary gearboxes and encoders, offer the high-power density, low inertia, high precision, and low weight needed to meet application requirements. Motor customization is also key with these applications, including multiple windings and gearboxes to tailor speed and torque and employing special materials to withstand shock, high duty cycles and temperature constraints.
  • LiDAR. Light Detection and Ranging Systems, or LiDAR, is quickly replacing traditional sonar and radar for detecting and mapping objects due to its ease of use, highly accurate data, and quickness in scanning 3D images. Mini motors help drive the mirror system utilized by LiDar applications, providing compact package sizes, lower speed drop under load, and operating and cost efficiencies. The Ultra EC brushless slotless motors, as well as flat motor configurations, are ideal for these applications because of their compactness and minimum weight. Medium or high resolution encoders are a perfect solution for ensuring precise feedback.
  • Service Robotics. Service robotic applications are typically tasks that are dirty, dangerous, and repetitive in nature, including pipeline inspections, pick and place, and power grid patrols. The robots performing these jobs utilize miniature brush DC and brushless DC motors, as well as gearboxes and encoders, to achieve the long battery life, high torque and efficiency, lightweight package size, and ability to work under heavy load that are required.
  • Surgical Robotics. Surgical robot applications have unique requirements regarding compact size, low weight, high power density, and sterilization, with the high degree of variability making it impracticable to create a one-size-fits-all motor solution. Notably, not all motors within a surgical robotic system require a sterilizable solution; other requirements may focus on the robustness and durability of the motor, such as in autoclave applications, or precise positioning needed for robotic motion control, such as that in joint manipulation. Multiple miniature motor technologies can power surgical robots, including brushless DC, coreless and iron core Brush DC, and linear stepper motors. Motor customization ensures that the desired performance goals are met within a defined package size.

Learn more about Portescap’s portfolio of motors for the Robotics industry or download our latest whitepaper, Trends in Robotics are Expanding the Need for Miniature Motors.