Servo Drive Trends for 2022

It's time again for our annual review of the latest servo drive trends for the upcoming year.  As with recent years, the servo drive trends for 2022 are being driven by industry demands for more power and better performance.

Mobile robotics and electric mobility continue to lead the charge when it comes to pushing the envelope for new innovation in servo drives.  This includes warehouse and factory automation as well as automation in people-centric industries like grocery stores, shopping malls and hospitals.  Commonalities with these applications include lower voltage DC systems typical with battery power along with rugged designs able to withstand bumps and vibrations over sustained periods.

We can't talk about servo drives in 2022 without mentioning the elephant in the room; much of our focus is projected to be spent on identifying and integrating replacement components that are unavailable or in short supply.  2021 went down in history as the year of the chip shortage and those of us in this industry expect to still be dealing with the effects well into 2022.

Despite these challenges, progress and innovation will always continue.

New Servo Drive Features in 2022

We have a lot of things planned for 2022, so these are a few features and capabilities to expect in the coming year.

Dual Universal Feedback

Dual Universal Feedback is the combination of Dual Feedback with Universal Feedback.  In simple terms it gives the ability to process two encoders of any type.  Individually, we have both features already, but we plan to combine them in 2022.

Dual Feedback means the servo drive can accept two encoders.  This is used in dual loop control configurations to increase the accuracy on machines that have backlash.  One encoder is placed on the motor to ensure smooth, controlled velocity even when the load changes due to backlash.  The other encoder is placed on the load to ensure precise positioning at the load regardless of backlash or when there are non-rigid transmission components (like a long ball screw that might flex a little).

Block diagram showing dual loop feedback

Dual loop feedback with device on motor and on load

Universal Feedback means the servo drive can accept multiple types of encoders such as incremental encoders such as A/B quadrature as well as a variety of absolute feedback protocols like BiSS-C, Endat, SSI, etc.

The primary advantage is that Dual Universal Feedback gives engineers and system designers more flexibility with how they set up the feedback in their system.  A simple example would be if the motor-mounted encoder has one type of feedback while the linear slide on the load uses a different type of feedback.  Rather than changing one of the encoders to match the other, it allows engineers to just use what they have saving cost and time.

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Panel Mount FlexPro

Panel mount servo drive with aluminum frame

Panel Mount FlexPro Servo Drive

PCB-Mount and Machine-Embedded style servo drives provide the best power density and smallest size, however we've seen ample demand for servo drives to be packaged in the more traditional panel mount form factor.  In 2021 we introduced our first FlexPro servo drive in the panel mount style.  In 2022, expect to see a lot more FlexPro servo drives offered in the panel mount option.

Panel mount servo drives offer a little more protection because they have a case to protect sensitive electronics.  Their larger size also makes room for bigger connectors which can make installation easier.  If size and weight isn't a constraint, then the panel mount form factor can provide the benefit of easier installation and better protection.

SSI Encoder Feedback

At ADVANCED Motion Controls we pride ourselves on providing solutions that are compatible with as many feedback types as possible. This year we plan to add Synchronous Serial Interface (SSI) to the mix.  SSI is an encoder feedback protocol for absolute feedback.  This will be added to our exiting options that include BiSS-C, EnDat, Hiperface and Tamagawa.

Auto-tuning for the Velocity and Position Loops

We added automatic current loop tuning last year.  For 2022, we'll be adding automatic velocity and position tuning.  On the one hand manual tuning is kind of fun and allows engineers to tweak the performance exactly to their liking.  On the other hand automatic tuning can save time or give a good starting point for manual tuning later.  Auto-tuning will be made available through a software update as a free expansion in capabilities.

Ethernet/IP Updates

We introduced our first Ethernet/IP servo drive in 2021.  In 2022, we'll be filling out the FlexPro product line to include more power levels and options.

More Power Options for the Mini-Sized FlexPro Drives

Contrary to their name, our mini-sized servo drives are actually the larger models in the FlexPro family (so far).  The "mini" sized FlexPro drives were first introduced in 2021 and are the bigger versions of their "micro" sized counterparts.  In 2022 we'll be adding options for 200V and 60V operation with an estimated continuous current output to exceed 25A and 80A respectively.

With roughly the same power (in terms of V*I) and same power density, the advantage of more voltage levels allows for  operation in a wider range of systems that use different battery configurations or DC power supplies.

Small Servo Drive PCB with copper pins
Small Servo Drive PCB with copper pins and screw lug terminals
Small Servo Drive PCB with copper pins

Multi-axis FlexPro Servo Drives

multi-axis FlexPro servo drive concept

Concept design for multi-axis FlexPro unit

The task of introducing multi-axis FlexPro servo drives was on our list in 2021, but we weren't quite able to fit them in.  They're back on the list in 2022, so keep an eye out for multi-axis options!

Two, three, and four-axis systems are great solutions for gantries, delta robots, robotic arms and mobile robots.  They can simplify the installation process, reduce the part count on designs and take up less room for the electronics.

Conclusion

With the uncertainty of supply chain issues looming over our heads, it's hard to make solid predictions, but this list has been narrowed down to the features that we are more likely to release. We'll have to check back and see how we did in 2023!

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