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Implementing Advanced Servo Operation in Robotic Designs

Implementing Advanced Servo Operation in Robotic Designs

Greater reliance on robots seems to be a certainty in the years ahead. Though this has been prophesied in sci-fi films and literature for decades, and admittedly never really happened, the dynamics that were previously not strong enough are now becoming increasingly compelling. Firstly, we have an aging population here in the West, and not enough care staff to look after them. Also, we now have greater concerns about safety. There are various places where use of autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) will mean that human operatives no longer have to be put in danger (when it comes to materials handling, repair work, exploration, etc.). Use of robots in an industrial context will, of course, help to drive up productivity levels and remove the impact of human errors on output quality. The fear in the past was that this would lead to jobs being lost. Now it is clear that, rather than replacing jobs, workers will be able to offload their more menial tasks and focus on activities where they can have greater value.

With robots starting to interact more closely with humans - whether it is in a care home, in a public service environment, or on the factory floor - the need to ensure that their movements are not clumsy or erratic will be a priority. Servo motors are a key element of any robotic design, since it is through these that a robot is able to move or orientate itself correctly. If they are to operate effectively, then then appropriate motor control technology will need to be implemented. The degree of accuracy with which control for each individual axis of a robot’s often complex movement is achieved will be dependent on how precisely the position of the relevant BLDC’s rotor can be determined. That can prove a difficult proposition for engineers, especially those who have little prior experience in this area.

Figure 1: The servo drive reference model now available from Toshiba
Figure 1: The servo drive reference model now available from Toshiba

With the intention of facilitating motion control implementation within robotic systems, Toshiba has introduced a multi-faceted servo drive reference model. This provides engineers with a convenient and easy to configure platform upon which they can construct applicable motor control systems. Central to this hardware is the company’s Arm-based M4K MCU.

As the reference model is able to drive up to three BLDC motors via a single MCU, there is potential for significant reductions in component count and overall system cost to be realised. Also, its modular construction means that there is greater scope for engineers from a design perspective. Different power delivery and encoder options can be utilised, in line with the particular application requirements. 

You can access a whitepaper that looks at the incorporation of servo drives into robotic systems below: