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Pneumatics giant reveals its electrical ambitions
Published:  10 November, 2007

Festo’s increasing commitment to electric drives was on full display at the recent Motek handling show in Germany, where the company unveiled various new ranges including servo and stepper motors and controllers. The company now has around 50 people devoted full-time to electric drives r&d.

Festo stepper motor

One new range was a family of closed-loop stepper motors (shown above) that that are said to offer a similar performance to servos, except that they are limited to a top speed of 1,000 rpm. The torque range is 0.3–6.5Nm.

There was also an extended range of servo motors, in three lengths, capable of delivering up to 26Nm. Previously, Festo relied on resolver feedback, but it is now moving to absolute encoders at the same price.

Festo has also been working on matching controllers. It previously sold badged controllers made for it by an outside company, but it is now developing and manufacturing its own products. For example, at Motek it was showing a stepper controller with a 2µs update rate for positioning loops. The controller will cost about two-thirds as much as a servo controller, but deliver similar performance. It can run steppers in open or closed loops.

Festo servo drive

There is also a new family of servo drives (above) in two performance levels: standard and premium. These drives are expected to be cheaper than their predecessors.

Also on show at Motek was a tubular linear motor which Festo claims has a higher power density than any other tubular motor. The design, based on a pneumatic cylinder, has the benefit of keeping the magnetic path internal, thus avoiding the risk of attracting potentially damaging metal particles.

Festo was also demonstrating a new U-shaped linear motor that runs on air bearings. This machine is built for it by System Technik, but Festo is also believed to be developing its own flatbed linear motor.

At the 2008 Hannover Fair, the company is expected to unveil a new range of high-performance linear axes. In laboratory trials of a 25mm ballscrew axis with a 60kg capacity, a 600mm-long version is said to have demonstrated an accuracy of better than 6µm after 6,000km of travel.

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