Drive solutions for smart farm machinery

By Chad Elmore28 July 2023

farm equipment Faulhaber makes drive systems for medical equipment and factory automation, experience it said is important for new applications in robotic farm machinery. (Illustration: Faulhaber)

Faulhaber Group specializes in the development, production and deployment of precision miniature drive systems, servo components and drive electronics with up to 200 watts of output power. Its products are found complex and demanding applications, such as medical technology, factory automation, aviation and aerospace and robotics – experience the company said makes it ready to help in the evolution of farm machinery.

“In conventional agricultural machinery, mechanical gear transmissions and pneumatic drives are very common,” said Kevin Moser, business development manager, Faulhaber. “For smaller-scale systems in smart farming, these are often too heavy, too bulky, too mechanically complex and too energy inefficient. We therefore see an increasing number of electric micromotors in use here that supply the power for specific work steps.”

The company offers the maintenance-free brushless and compact flat DC micromotors in its BXT series as well as copper-graphite motors in its CXR line. The gearheads of the company’s new GPT series are suited for high load transmission under harsh conditions, it said, while optional incremental encoders enable highly precise positioning. Controllers with CANopen interfaces are available for drive system networking.

“Drives from Faulhaber are already being used in smart farming,” said Moser. “They will continue to play an important role for demanding applications in this area.”

Unlike the traditional large farm machinery, the company said machines and components used in smart farming are generally more compact and lighter, which means there is often limited space available for the motors. However, the drive systems of autonomous planters and robotic harvesting arms must supply sufficient power to perform tasks over countless cycles. At the same time, they must operate efficiently, as the autonomous units usually draw their energy from batteries. It must also be possible to integrate the drive electronics in networked structures and make intelligent control possible.

“Moreover, the drives used in agricultural environments must also be extremely robust so that they themselves function reliably and for the long term under the most demanding conditions,” said Moser. “Large temperature fluctuations and strong mechanical loads are the norm in agriculture and horticulture. And, in spite of all of this, the costs must remain reasonable. We at Faulhaber can offer multiple series of devices that manage this balancing act.”

Founded in Germany in 1947, the company maintains development and production locations in Clearwater, Fla., Switzerland, Romania and Hungary. It has more than 2300 employees.

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