Design World’s Motion Control Classroom

Design World Motion Control Classroom

Welcome to the Motion Control Classroom or MC² — a new online reference series for design engineers needing information about motion components and systems. Curated by Design World’s editorial team, each installment is a digital content hub with comprehensive background information, current trends, typical and emerging applications, and FAQs on one motion technology.


Springs and retaining rings are mechanical components essential to a vast array of consumer, medical, electronic, and industrial-grade designs. Increasingly engineered to specific applications, springs maintain tension, compression, or torsional loading on assemblies of all sizes as a way to ensure certain return setpoints or performance characteristics. In contrast, retaining rings — whether tapered section, constant section, or spiral — are a subset of removable fasteners that engage some grooved portion of a design’s housing or shaft to hold that subassembly together.

Detailed in this Motion Control Classroom are spring and retaining-ring subtypes and their uses; calculations commonly used in their specification; and the metals, composites, and manufacturing techniques that have helped maximize their performance in cutting-edge applications.


Connectivity is at the core of modern automation in manufacturing and beyond. System links between devices, controls, machines, and the cloud facilitate the use of data so important to IIoT (Industrie 4.0) functionalities.

Check out this classroom to learn more about intelligent systems with communication structures.


Many of today’s precision applications necessitate gears capable of dramatic speed reductions, power densities, and transmission accuracies. Leading choices in these designs include trochoidal and cycloidal gearing as well as gearsets relying on wave-inducing subcomponents having an elliptical or Reuleaux or other polygonal shape.

The editors of Design World explain the variations of (and applications for) these strain-wave and cycloidal gear offerings in high-end machine tool, aerospace, material handling, and robotic applications.


By the end of the 1980s, PBC Linear had invented and begun commercially producing the first plain bearings which were size-interchangeable with linear ball bearings. This prompted PBC Linear to define the 2:1 Ratio rule, which was first introduced to the marketplace in the 1990s. Since then, the rule has been adapted by most linear plain bearing manufacturers as one of the guiding principles regarding plain bearing use.


In this Classroom, you’ll learn about ballscrew load-life characteristics — and why ballscrews excel where high speeds and loads are present … even while maintaining 90% efficiencies. You’ll also learn how roller screws leverage multiple sets of rollers for exceptional internal contact to withstand high loads and shock even while providing distinct stiffness advantages over ballscrews — and maintaining 84% efficiency or better.


In this Motion Control Classroom, we detail the most common gear types for motion applications — as well as the contained gear trains known as gearboxes (those mechanical components consisting of a series of integrated gears) and other iterations to simplify integration and servotuning. 

Topics include various gear subtypes and geometries as well as those related to gearing for washdown settings, exceptionally demanding motion designs, shaft-mount designs, and axes needing servogearing customization.


Servo systems consist of four main components — motor, drive, controller, and feedback. In some cases, a standalone controller determines required motor moves and prompts the drive to supply the necessary electrical energy to make those moves happen. In other cases, drive and controller are integrated into one component. Either way, the drive core controls torque or velocity or position ... although in servo systems, the most common command parameter is torque.

A gearmotor is basically a combination of a gear reducer and an ac or dc electric motor, with the gears and the motors combined into one unit. Most industrial gearmotors use ac motors, typically fixed-speed motors. However, dc motors can also be used as gearmotors, particularly in automotive applications.

Vibration is mechanical oscillation (regular or otherwise) about some equilibrium — prone to becoming problematic in motor-driven motion designs where there’s looseness, backlash, windup, uneven effects from friction, machine-assembly imbalances, or shock loading. Noise is a manifestation of vibration that degrades the perceived quality of machines … and in many cases is an unacceptable byproduct of motion.


Motion control systems can vary from straightforward single-axis direct-drive systems with little wiring to large and complex multi-axis robotic systems with an abundance of cables. Cable carriers are essentially structures designed to house cables.


In this Motion Control Classroom, the editors of Design World present a library of FAQs, technical articles, and videos on industrial power supplies. 


In this Make Parts Fast Classroom, we cover injection-molding processes in detail — as well as the wide range of materials that can be used to make injection-molded parts.


In this Motion Control Classroom, you’ll learn about the different types of linear stages and tables and how to get the highest performance from these linear motion systems in challenging applications.

In this installment of the MC² series, you’ll find resources on integrated motors to differentiate the most common variations of these motion-control mainstays, and details on how to use the motors to satisfy requirements for loading, stroke, speed, accuracy, and design life.

Couplings connect together two rotating shafts in order to transmit motion, or power. For this MC² on couplings, you’ll find resources on the basics of couplings and how to select the right one for your motion system. From technical overviews to selection tips, information is included on the many different kinds of couplings including bellows couplings, flexible couplings, gear couplings, beam couplings, and servo couplings, among others. 


Linear actuators are pre-assembled motion devices consisting of a drive mechanism, a housing, and in some cases, a linear guide. In this Motion Control Classroom, you’ll learn about the many variations of electromechanical linear actuators, get tips for sizing and selection, and see examples of where different actuator types are used.


In this Motion Control Classroom, we’ll cover miniature linear slides guides, sensors, encoders, gears, and motors that lend themselves to tiny designs.

The biggest driver of miniature motion designs is the medical-device industry … a trend likely to grow as COVID demands creative new approaches to medical manufacturing, distribution, and treatment — including more emphasis on automated status-monitoring systems, distributed laboratory operations, and home healthcare.

A common way to classify ac motors is based on the magnetic principle that produces rotation. So there are two fundamental types of ac motors; induction motors and synchronous motors. Induction motors are more common in motion control applications, but synchronous motors do find use in applications requiring precise and constant speed.

In addition to some basics of ac motors including motors for harsh environments, cogging, and the use of soft starters, this installment of Motion Control Classroom covers the basics of VFDs as well as various motor control methods including V/Hz control as well as some different motor braking methods.

Conveyor functions are as varied as the applications they complete. Conveyors for discrete product transport benefit from customization to satisfy requirements — including chain and belt size, morphology and material; support frames; controller, drive, and motor or motors; mode of engagement with the drive; encoder, vision, and switch feedback; tracks, bumpers, and gates; and HMIs and plant-level IT integration.

In the conveyor installment of Design World’s MC²  we’ve written and collected more than a dozen references that detail these and other types of material handling with conveyors. 

In this MC² we detail the operation of dc brush motors, also called permanent-magnet (PM) dc motors … as well as the use of these motors in various in motion designs. We also cover brushless dc (BLDC) motors and their application. As this MC² details, caveats and application considerations abound.

Gearmotors combine a gear reducer with either an ac or dc electric motor into one physical unit. In this installment of MC² featuring gearmotors, you’ll find resources covering the basics of gearmotors and gearmotor accessories, but also how to select the right gearmotor to meet your particular application’s requirements. You’ll also find information on gears and gearboxes, including gearbox service factor and service class.

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