maxon IDX motor superimposed over farmland

Cobotization: The New Reality for Farmers

Dec. 14, 2020
Compact motors and sensors allow for wider use of automated crop management.

The agricultural sector is undergoing significant changes and modernizing: reducing difficult working conditions, optimizing working time, developing the energy self-sufficiency of farms, increasing productivity while using fewer pesticides. To take the strain off farmers, robots have been deployed to automate tasks.

Autonomous and remotely controllable agricultural machines are becoming part of the day-to-day lives of more and more farmers. The sector has entered an era of human/robot collaboration, called cobotization. These new types of machines are true production assistants and require a particularly resistant motor unit that is just as innovative as the machines that it operates.

This human/robot collaboration for agriculture is also an opportunity for growers to use fewer plant protection products. Thanks to its sensors and motor unit, the agricultural robot can also adapt to ground conditions. They are already showing tremendous progress in seeding and weeding. Today, agriculture is the world’s third largest market for professional robotics, behind industry and logistics.

The IP65 standard guarantees protection against the infiltration of liquid or solid materials. This is a determining factor in equipment safety. The IP65 protection rating (the first digit is for solids, and the second liquids) therefore guarantees that the motor is not susceptible to corrosion due to water infiltration or to damage from seeds or dust. To ensure this, drive motor manufacturers, as in other sectors, rely on IEC standard 60529 for proper testing.

A motor is never completely impermeable and requires additional protection. Compact drives make it possible to include the motor unit, encoder, brake and electronic components in the same casing. This provides increased resistance to water or dust infiltration. However, the motor will not withstand immersion. A compact motor also eliminates the need to design a specific casing.

High Performance and Competitiveness

Agriculture faces substantial productivity challenges. Agricultural machines—and in particular, automatic seeders—require sustainable performance, because farmers can’t take the time to call maintenance service every day or even several times a day. Their machines must therefore be dependable. To achieve this, manufacturers need to have confidence in the motor units of the equipment that they design and offer on the market.

Compact motors, such as maxon’s IDX motors, make it possible to combine mandatory standards, the IP65 protection rating, safety and performance. Among the benefits of such compact motors are:

  • A compact, efficient motor unit. Agricultural machines benefit from motor units that improve their overall profitability, particularly with regard to seeding. A compact drive with a positioning controller allows for automatic adjustment and more power.
  • Remote control for easier maintenance. Communication buses enable the motor driver and the automated system to communicate in real time. This makes it possible to control agricultural equipment remotely. As a result, information is more visible and day-to-day maintenance by farmers themselves is easier. They can also benefit from predictive maintenance to avoid breakdowns. As a result, they enjoy significant savings in repairing their agricultural machines/robots, increasing their productivity and profitability.
  • Dual temperature sensors. With most motors currently on the market, temperature sensors are outside the motor. This leads to overheating and delays in its securing and consequently risks of fire. Internal temperature sensors are located in the motor and the electronics area. If a problem is detected, the motor immediately goes into a safety mode without giving the entire casing time to heat up.
  • Modularity. A compact motors can easily replace existing solutions, since it adapts to the flange. There is therefore no need to change all the equipment in order to obtain more power and better performance. For farmers, this represents welcome savings, while fundamentally changing the way they produce, to improve productivity with less effort.

The robustness and compactness of compact motors, combined with a motor equipped with an integrated electronics system, allows farmers to switch to Farming 4.0 mode more easily and at a controlled cost.

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