Technology Forecast '95 : Page 3 of 6

continue to enhance in 1995. The software aims to make it possible for engineers to more easily use hexagonal FEA elements, which many people believe provide the most accurate results in the shortest computer processing time.

Motion Control: A turn to silicon

Russell King, Contributing Editor

The digital and knowledge revolutions will gain strength in the motion-control industry in 1995. George Gulalo, president of Motion Tech Trends, Inglewood, CA, refers to these component and systems-level developments as "technology transparency" and "solutions in silicon and software."

What does this mean for design engineers? Greater speed, efficiency, power, reliability, precision and accuracy. Additionally, the demand for lower-cost, smaller packages will open the door to digital technologies.

"We're seeing that the performance of motion control systems is being determined by electronics, not by mechanical and electromagnetic components anymore," observes Gulalo. "The industry is evolving towards simpler, less-expensive motors and more complex electronics that perform the functions that motors, gears, and reducers once performed."

Given that premise, variable reluctance and switch reluctance motors--simpler than ac induction motors, but requiring complex control--are around the corner. And design engineers should also expect more compact, variable-speed digital microdrives and servo drives.

A surge in controls software will parallel advances in components. "Programming is taking leaps and bounds," states Jim McCormick, chief applications engineer at Baldor Electric Co. Natural-language and Windows-based graphic-oriented software will allow quicker, easier programming. In designing systems, the designer's need to know component electrical or mechanical intricacies will diminish or disappear.

Watch for improvements in communications and systems integration, as well. Precise and rapid control and coordination of complex machines comprising multiple sensors, motors, drives, and controllers will steer the need for standardized network protocols. According to Gulalo, German-based Indramat may lead this push with the SIRCOS standard it's successfully spreading in Europe. Allen-Bradley's "Highway" is another contender in this arena.

As a result of all of this action, motion-control designers will be able to build and program faster, more reliable, and more precise systems in less time for less money. This will enable designers to concentrate more attention on system design, not on components. And they will have more choices than ever, since nearly any motor technology will work in any motion-control function.

Fluid Power: Combatting noise and leaks

Charles J. Murray, Senior Regional Technical Editor

Engineers in the fluid-power industry have long recognized the need for advancement in three key areas: control systems, noise reduction, and leakage.

In 1995, equipment users will continue to see innovation on all three fronts. More pumps, valves, and cylinders will incorporate on-board electronics, resulting in greater flexibility for design engineers. With this new generation of components, users will program acceleration and deceleration profiles directly into actuators. They'll do the same with pumps. By varying the position of the pump's swashplate with a control signal, for example, they can now vary its output. The result: fewer components, less complexity, and lower overall system cost.

"To control speed and direction in the past, you would have needed a directional valve and a flow-control valve," notes Jim McKee, chairman of the

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