The importance of motor control expertise -

The importance of motor control expertise

An area of expertise that embedded developers can't afford to let get rusty or out of date is anything to do with motor control. Partly this is because a significant portion of the applications in any embedded market segment involves developing the fuzzy logic and PID algorithm code for making motors work efficiently.

For example, microprocessor-controlled stepper motors are one of the most versatile forms of positioning systems, used in factory automation systems, automobile engines and steering, lasers and optics, computer disk drives, flatbed scanners, printers, plotters, and slot machines, among many apps.

Nor is consumer electronics immune to the need for precise motor control, especially with the increased concern about the power efficient operation of the many electric motors in our homes. From what I saw at the recent 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, the need is even greater in smartphones and tablet computers as well as in consumer robotic designs.

Regardless of all the talk about solid state drives, many multimedia-focused consumer devices use not solid state but hard disk drives for the density, cost, and reliability advantages they offer. HDD makers, to remain competitive with solid state drives, have already moved to the use of ultra-small MEMS-based motors and gears and must face the challenges of developing the precise PID algorithms they need. And I don’t think other consumer segments will be far behind.

Fortunately for developers of embedded consumer designs, much of the work has already been done for them in military/aerospace applications, and I expect to see more such MEMS-based motors not only in consumer apps, but industrial and automotive apps as well. And, embedded developers will face new challenges in coming up with the precise machine control algorithms they need.

This week's Tech Focus newsletter on “The challenges of motor control design,” includes some of the many motor control design articles and blogs we have published recently on this topic. Among my favorites is “PIDs without a PhD, a favorite with embedded designers year after year, ever since it was first published on more than a decade ago. My Editor's Top Picks are:

Combining Model-Driven and Model-Based Design in industrial and machine control
Two popular approaches to high level embedded design, model-based development using Simulink and model based design using UML/SysML can be used effectively in a wide range of robotic and machine control systems.

Using simulation software to simplify DSP-based Electro-Hydraulic Servo Actuator Designs
Richard Poley describes the basics of electro-hydraulic servo systems and how to use Matlab's Simulink to do “hardware-in-the-loop” design a DSP-based control system.

Using block diagrams as a control system design “language”
In the first of a two part series, Tim Wescott, author of “Applied Control Theory for Embedded Systems,” describes how you can use block diagrams as a system design “language” for control system analysis and design.

The basics of doing PID control system design
In this first of a three part series, robotics pioneer John Holland provides a brief tutorial on the basics of the proportional, integral and derivative (PID) algorithms and their effective use in many robotic, machine and industrial control applications. Part 1: Classical control theory.

Designing DSP-based motor control using fuzzy logic
The increased use of variable-speed drive motors to reduce energy consumption will require a shift from PID controllers to systems based on fuzzy logic algorithms to simplify design, reduce development time, and elminate complex math formulas.

If you want to delve even deeper into this topic, go to's Collections Archive, where we've organized our knowledge base of almost 20 years of design articles into a number of topic areas including Motor Control, PIDs , and Algorithms. Site Editor Bernard Cole is also editor of the twice-a-week newsletters as well as a partner in the TechRite Associates editorial services consultancy. He welcomes your feedback. Send an email to , or call 928-525-9087.

See more articles and column like this one on up for s ubscriptions and newsletters . Copyright © 2012 UBM–All rights reserved.

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