Electronic motion control comes of age

Gideon Argov, President and CEO,
Kollmorgen Corp. , Waltham, MA

Argov was elected to his present position in May 1991. Prior to joining
Kollmorgen, he served as president and CEO of High Voltage Engineering
Corp. of Boston. From 1982-1987, he was a manager and senior consultant
with Bain and Co. of San Francisco. Argov graduated Magna Cum Laude from
Harvard University with a B.A. in Economics, and received an M.B.A. from
the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Electronic motion control really grew up in the machine-tool business well
over ten years ago. What we are seeing today are quite a few other areas that
the technology is migrating into, says Argov.

Design News:

Could you cite an example of where such migration is taking place?

Argov: Let's look at aerospace. Most of the inroads have come in the area of primary fight-control surfaces in military aircraft. Since hydraulic systems have operated so well for so many years, it takes a mental leap to abandon that technology and go to electronic motion control. Airbus and Saab have been pioneers in this area. Still, it's amazing to me the number of industries where it has yet to occur.


What can you do to make integration of motion packages simpler for increasingly busy engineers and other users?

A: We have found that there is no substitute for having your own strong applications or engineering staff in the field to deal directly with customers. This is a technology that is complicated and it will remain that way, even though a lot of things about it are becoming simpler to use. The key comes down to making the product easier to install and user friendly. We have, for example, a Windows-based package called Motion Link that helps install, tune, and measure the performance of drives. Any technician can use it with minimal training.


Is industry moving to open systems and away from proprietary software?

A: The motion-control industry is going through the same changes that the computer business did five or ten years ago. Companies that rely on hardwire or closed systems will have to do some hard thinking about how they move forward in a time when customers want more flexible controls that can run on any number of communications standards. We are basically a components supplier, not a factory automation house. We don't have a huge base of proprietary, closed systems out there. That's why we're excited about the future.

Q: Will global competition demand "computer-integrated manufacturing" or "lights-out" factories ten years from now?

A: To some degree, that's already here. At one of our businesses we design products in 3-D on a workstation, then software transmits the design electronically to where a prototype is produced by x-ray lithography. This basically enables us to take two to three months off the prototyping stage. Adjustments can be made using e-mail, with the files again sent electronically to machine tools to produce components.


Where is the need for greater precision taking motion-control design?

A: A huge amount of all energy produced in the country

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