Networking for motion: Update on five realtime Ethernet-based protocols

Industrial communication protocols — including traditional fieldbuses and permutations based on Industrial Ethernet — are systems of rules for messaging between automation components. Variations abound, and there’s no dominant setup with which all devices work. What is clear is that communications offering more connectivity than current-loop (4-to-20-mA) analog communications continue proliferation into even once-simple motion […]

Human-machine interfaces (HMIs): Hardware, software, and new modes of connectivity

Gone are the days of HMIs merely consolidating switches, pushbuttons, meters, and operator warning lights. Today’s HMIs now control machines and even whole production lines with functions to analyze and optimize operations. Some serve as the processor for I/O signals providing feedback on speeds, temperatures, torque, tension, and more to optimize processes. Here, HMIs provide […]

Flexible-coupling considerations for motion designs in OEM and plant setups

Couplings connect rotating shafts in equipment powered by electric motors and other drives. All transmit torque and angular velocity. Flexible variations compensate for misalignment. Many of the latter even address vibration and improve system dynamics. Design considerations include machine or installation construction and backlash, torsional stiffness, damping, inertia, torque ratings, maximum rpm, size, misalignments, ease […]

What limits wave-spring working height and axial force?

Wave springs are core to myriad gear, actuator, clutch, and consumer-grade motion assemblies. They are load bearing — included in designs to address play or compensate for dimensional variations. Wave springs apply load in axially — so are specified by working height (and other parameters). All springs are either for applying load in tension, compression, […]

What are common modes of industrial clutch and brake engagement?

Key operating parameters dictate which clutches and brakes are suitable for a given application. The first parameter is the mode of motion and whether the axis needs a brake or clutch. Clutches generally bridge moving machine sections to shape relative motion, while brakes’ main job is to stop and hold rotating elements. Several design variations […]

Synchronous belt and V belt: How to pick between them?

Power transmission in linear motion designs is often through rotary-to-linear devices, chain, or belt drives. The earliest belt iteration — and one that’s still economical today — is the friction-based V-belt design. These pair a belt with a pulley (often on an electric motor’s geared output shaft) to provide reliable operation in myriad end-user and […]

Reaction forces from couplings: How to prevent or mitigate?

All flexible couplings compensating for misalignment can cause reaction forces if that misalignment is excessive. These often-overlooked reaction forces transmit to connected shafts and support bearings, and can cause damage to motion axes — especially on precision designs with delicate bearings and slender shafts. Recall that flexible couplings must have torsional stiffness to minimize windup, […]

What are gas springs? Technical primer

Gas springs, also called gas dampers, tension springs, or gas-pressure springs depending on the setup and context, are compressed-air or oil cylinders that install in motion designs to damp forces and return kinematic linkages and more complicated assemblies to default positions. Gas springs work through a piston on the end of a rod that protrudes […]

Application brief: Gearboxes in electric adventure vehicles (EAVs)

Electric adventure vehicles (EAVs) need light transmission components but lots of torque. So EAV maker Outrider USA recently sourced a Neugart planetary gearbox to solve the design problem. Outrider makes several versions of the Alpha (for everyday use on gravel and streets) and the Horizon for offroad cycling. Each model has a drive to output […]

HMIs from Pro-face — SP5000 in new screen sizes and with SP-5B41 Open Box unit

Pro-face America now offers an expanded SP5000 series modular HMI family. New options include screens with widths of 15 in. and 19-in. These two new display sizes provide more options for designers with applications that demand larger screens. Both the 15-in. screen and 19-in. screen come with an enhanced glass-top design that boosts visualization and […]

Helix Linear Technologies website — new at

Helix Linear Technologies now has a new and refreshed website at The updated site includes several new lead screw and linear actuator products that deliver smooth, clean and quite linear motion solutions. The manufacturer’s goal with this new website is to provide visitors an easier way to learn about Helix Linear’s products. The new […]

IKO MX series of linear roller bearings — now more standard variations

IKO Intl. now offers more variations in its standard MX series of linear roller bearings to include special features for environments that are sensitive to metal chips, dust, and other contaminants. High load capacity. The MX models utilize rows of cylindrical rollers to provide a greater contact area than slides that use steel balls. They […]

Motor and gearbox maker Lafert North America expands its team

Lafert North America, manufacturer of metric AC motors, metric gearboxes and coolant pumps, is pleased to announce the appointment of Eric Cheung to the role of Sales representative. Cheung brings 7 years of experience in the power transmission (PT) industry in technical support roles using his mechanical engineering knowledge to build customer relations and deliver […]

Real-time performance in PC-based control: Technology update

Eric Reiner, Industrial PC Product Specialist | Beckhoff Automation System performance hangs heavy on the minds of every machine builder when commissioning new projects — particularly when it comes to the control platform. That’s with good reason, as the controller is arguably the most important facet of a machine … and often the first place […]

Can-stack linear actuators: How the motor and screw components work

Can-stack linear actuators are one type of stepper-motor design that converts rotary to linear motion with a built-in leadscrew. The linear actuators incorporate can-stack motors — sometimes called claw-tooth step motors, tin-can stepper motors, or claw-pole motors — leverage low-cost construction with punched sheet-metal parts that form toothed (or clawed) cups surrounding bobbin coils. Common […]

How do brushless-motor drives eliminate motor power-supply setup?

In a recent video recorded at the Design World studios, I teamed up with my colleague Paul Heney to review the features of a brushless-motor drive from Koford Engineering in Winchester, Ohio. Consider some examples from Koford Engineering, which sells a full line of compact 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, and 40-A brushless motor drives. […]

Festo Motion Terminal has apps to replace more than 50 components

Pneumatics is intrinsically a user-friendly technology — and it is set to become even more straightforward, versatile and flexible as the brand new Festo Motion Terminal Versatile Time Domain Electro-Magnetics (VTEM) is bringing pneumatics into the era of Industry 4.0. That’s with apps that can replace more than 50 individual components thanks to developments in […]

Linear actuator designs for vertical lifts: What are pitfalls to avoid during jack-system design?

A jack system is anything from a single jack to eight to ten jacks working in tandem to move a load. Complete jack systems refer to the mechanical components of the jacks as well as their gearboxes and couplings and accessories and shafting; electrical components including motors, the system drive, and encoders; and the motion […]

Short-length inductive proximity sensors allow detection in tight spaces

When working with applications in spindles, grippers, and robotics, space is typically very tight. Unfortunately, that fact doesn’t eliminate the need for automation. If anything, it increases it. These ever-shrinking spaces can create enormous stresses on standard proximity sensors. As a result, manufacturers and users of automated machinery are always requesting greater miniaturization and higher […]

Hollow-bore absolute encoder from Encoder Products Co. (EPC) and technical help on options

The Model MA58H absolute encoder from Encoder Products Co. (EPC) is heavy duty, rugged and reliable. This multi-turn hollow-bore absolute encoder is designed for harsh factory and plant floor environments … and is especially suited to applications where you need an encoder with the capability of output even in power-off scenarios. The Model MA58H has […]

PLC called Do-more! controller leverages AutomationDirect programming software (with embedded help)

With the launch of the newest Do-more! controller, the BRX PLC, AutomationDirect released an enhanced version of the Do-more! Designer programming software. Do-more! Designer 2.0 has many new features added to improve programming efficiency. A new dashboard allows easy navigation to important features and functions … … but one of the more popular additions is […]

Precision limit switches — new line from AutomationDirect

AutomationDirect has added a new line of high precision limit/position switches from Metrol. Traditional limit switches and even electronic proximity sensors are limited in terms of accuracy and repeatability. These cost-effective, ultra-precise mechanical limit switches have repeatability down to 10, 5, 3, and even 0.5µm (µm) depending on the specific model. Along with their high […]

Miniature servo controller from maxon survives extreme conditions

The Swiss drive specialist maxon motor is expanding its range of miniature servo controllers by adding the ESCON Module 50/8 HE (Harsh Environment). This compact plug-in module with a nominal current of 8 A is a true powerhouse, designed for brushed and brushless DC motors with a peak power of up to 750 W. However, […]

High-torque EC brushless dc motors from maxon

The EC-i 52-mm motor is one from a family of EC brushless dc motors from maxon. It’s an iron-wound internal rotor motor redesigned from 7 pole pairs to 8 pole pairs. This significantly reduces the vibration and noise output of the dc motor. Available in three voltage outputs, 18, 24 and 48 V, the 52-mm […]

Wear indicator nuts for jacks: How do they work?

One concern when designing a lift platform based on screw jacks is how to know if the travel nut (which bears the load) is worn out or about to fail — especially when the lift operates in a place where personnel might get hurt if the mechanism fails. In these machines, a follower nut assembly […]