Linear thinking on show

by David Fowler

On the technology front, visitors to Emo are likely to see greater use of linear motors and the start of web browser technology being incorporated into machine tools.

Linear motors have become increasingly commonplace in recent years where fast speeds or accelerations are needed. Take-up of the technology is becoming more widespread now that engineers are more familiar with the motors. `There were some dynamic problems associated with controlling the motion, arising from designers having to get used to the technology,’ says Andy de Vicq, technical director of machinery research centre Amtri. `With a very lively axis you have to ensure you don’t feed excitation back in. But that has been sorted for a while now.’

Linear motion has advantages where high speeds are needed, but there are still areas where a conventional ball-screw drive gives better performance. Linear motors have limited load capability and generate a lot of heat, which has to be controlled or it will cause dimensional inaccuracies. Ball screws only start to generate excessive heat if they have to carry out a lot of rapid cycling moves. `For dealing with high loads, ball screws take a lot of beating,’ says de Vicq.

With PC interfaces for CNC control now virtually universal on machining centres, de Vicq expects the next step to be incorporating browser technology. `I would suspect we will start seeing browser technology in machines as a way of navigating through information’ – not for searching the web but for viewing user manuals and maintenance manuals embedded in the machine, and for accessing company information such as CAD files via an intranet.

`Now that people are familiar with using web browsers and PC platforms, I suspect that it is the way things will go,’ says de Vicq.