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Servo Drive 101: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Posted by FPP Outlet on

Whether you're working with a robot or a computer numerical control (CNC) machine, there's one thing you absolutely need to get the job done. Speed.

Fortunately, that's where a device called a servo drive comes in.

However, this drive is a powerful and critical part of the CNC process for a multitude of other reasons, too.

Are you wondering what exactly the servo drive is? Here's a rundown on what these drives are, how they work, and why you need them.

Let's dig in!

What Exactly is the Servo Drive?

Serve Drives
are one of four key components of a servo system. The other three components are the motor, a controller and a device known as an encoder, or a feedback device.

The drive and controller work in a collaborative manner to figure out what the servo motor must do (this is the controller's responsibility) and then send the motor the required energy (this is the drive's task).

How the Servo Drive Operates

Here's an in-depth look at how the above-mentioned process works.

First, the controller -- also called the control panel -- calculates the necessary trajectory or path and sends command signals that are low voltage to the drive.

Then, the drive gets the signal and sends the needed current and voltage to the motor to produce the correct motor movement.

Next, a sensor located on the motor provides a report on the motor's status to the drive via a feedback signal.

Finally, the drive regulates the frequency of the voltage so that it matches the signal initially received from the controller.

You could also call the servo drive an amplifier, as it basically magnifies the low-power control signal it receives from the control board to cause the servo motor to move.

To make this process even easier to understand, let's briefly liken it to how the human body functions.

The controller is essentially your servo system's brain, taking data from the system's feedback device and sending the drive the right voltage signal accordingly. Meanwhile, the drive functions as the nervous system, sending an appropriate quantity of current to your motor.

The process of reviewing and responding to the feedback received makes the servo system what's called a closed-loop system.

Types of Drives

The drive can easily control position, velocity or torque.

However, in a servo system, it is mostly used to control torque. This is why a torque-mode amplifier system is the type you'll most frequently see.

Note that in these systems, current is proportional to torque. As a result, the drive essentially controls the quantity of torque produced by the motor.

Meanwhile, in linear motors, current happens proportionally to force. Therefore, the drive directly controls the motor's force output.

Servo Systems Today

Originally, the drive was a stand-alone component. However, during the past decade, many manufacturers of motors have created integrated systems that feature the drive, motor, and controller together.

This has made the selection and sizing easier. It has also reduced wiring and saved a great deal of setup time and space.

So, Why Use a Servo System?

A servo system performs at a high level when it comes to precisely controlling position, torque, and velocity.

Specifically, a high-quality servo system provides a large quantity of torque at a high speed. It also provides a wide power range. In addition, you don't have to worry about stalling problems when you use this system.

All of these qualities make the servo system a top choice for a variety of applications, ranging from CNC machining to factory automation, robotics and even semiconductor manufacturing.

The reason why the servo system is so precise and reliable is that it uses position feedback for accounting for system disturbances and errors -- something that open-loop systems don't do.

The feedback device leverages feedback that is negative to send the control panel a signal.

As far as motion controls are concerned, the feedback device looks at the relationship between the control input and the control shaft's actual position (note that either digital or analog inputs can control servo drives). By comprehending the relationship between the shaft position's wanted value and its actual value, the controller can send the drive a signal for taking corrective action within the motor.

Important Considerations

In a more advanced application, a servo controller can communicate with a servo drive by utilizing network commands. A digital servo drive offers far greater performance and configuration capabilities compared with analog or pneumatic devices.

When you add in these devices' intelligence today, it's easy to see that a modern-day drive offers wonderful diagnostic benefits.

Currently, most of the industry depends on fieldbus networks -- specifically, those standardized for the control of motion.

However, manufacturers can now operate in applications that are time sensitive thanks to industrial-quality Ethernet networks.

Keep in mind that although the two networks have their own unique benefits, some products are made specifically for fieldbus networks. For this reason, if your industrial facility uses a certain network protocol, it's critical that you buy the right product for it.

How We Can Help

FPP Outlet offers top-of-the-line servo drives along with a wide range of other industrial products.

Specifically, we offer products under a number of categories, ranging from electromechanical products to hoses and fittings, as well as those related to pneumatics, hydraulics, instrumentation and process control.

For instance, we offer the following items:

  • Motors
  • Pumps
  • Cylinders
  • Rotary actuators
  • Modules
  • Tubing
  • Regenerative blowers
  • Vacuum generators

We take pride in the quality of both our products and our customer service.

Get in touch with us today to find out more about the benefits of the servo drive. We'll show you how our products can add value to your facility and thus to your bottom line long term.

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