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Advances in servo technology open up new applications
Published:  01 October, 2005

Advances in servo technology open up new applications

Improvements in servo control techniques and algorithms, coupled with greater processing power in drives, are increasing the functionality, capability and appeal of servo-based control systems, according to a new report.

The market analyst Frost & Sullivan says that servo technology is now being considered in areas where its use was previously restricted. Linear motors, in particular, are being used increasingly in fields once dominated by traditional and low-cost technologies.

Another factor driving the adoption of servo technologies has been the falling cost of processing power, which has helped servo technologies to meet rising end-user demands for applications such as packaging.

"Servo technology, which previously found application only in high-cost, advanced, fly-by-wire systems in military aircraft, is now replacing hydraulics and pneumatics in applications as commonplace as automobile power steering," notes F&S research analyst, Rahul Nayar. "For a technology that has been labelled as expensive, this is a significant step.

"Integration at lower levels within the controller itself increases the number of features and functions that can be integrated into a single chip," Nayar adds. "In some controllers, this can occur to a considerable degree, absorbing many of the functions of the servo drive into a single microchip."

In Europe, he reports, servo research is focusing on three major technologies - high-force-density linear motors, nanoposition controllers, and high-speed torque motors.

But F&S warns that the rapid advances in servo technology have outpaced awareness of the significance of the developments among engineers and other personnel. Some engineers, it suggests, prefer to stick to tried-and-tested techniques and technologies such as proportional-integral controllers, which are considered reliable, stable and "safe".

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