maxon Group recently named John Uzzolino to head up the business development activities for the Parvalux product line in the United States after maxon acquired the British geared motor manufacturer in December 2019. The acquisition expands the maxon portfolio in DC drives, AC motors and worm gearboxes. Uzzolino discussed the motors market and its impact in specific vertical markets with Machine Design.
Q: Assess the DC motors market in the U.S. market right now. What are some of the fastest-growing segments of that market, and what motors are driving that growth?
Uzzolino: There are several fast-growing segments in healthcare and mobility, leisure and industrial automation. Stair lifts, powered wheelchairs, patient hoists and lifts as well as vehicle access are big and growing markets for us. There is significant opportunity in leisure, which consists of applications such as caravan movers, golf trolleys and carts, clay pigeon traps, amusement and food preparation. We are also seeing amazing growth in industrial automation, specifically intralogistics (conveyors, lifts and autonomous vehicles), which is where we see an influx of inquiries and have had significant success over the past few years. Other applications with good overall market growth include packaging equipment, windshield wiper motors, gaming, robotics, food services and many others.
Customers are asking for more integrated solutions, which often translates into bespoke, or highly customized, solutions. Integrated transmissions and direct drive-hub motors are examples of bespoke solutions and are driving growth. Integrated solutions often provide better performance, less moving parts and a more efficient design.
Q: One area maxon has looked at for expansion is the medical device market, in particular products such as chair lifts and motorized chairs. With an aging population, what are some of the new requirements customers are asking for in this market, and how do you adapt products to meet those needs?
Uzzolino: There is so much innovation in this space right now, targeting the health and well-being of seniors and other people who require chair lifts and motorized chairs. Advances in battery technology are enabling longer run time than ever before. Battery life, in conjunction with a highly efficient motor, means more freedom for people who use these mobility products.
Additionally, designers are creating walking-height options, which have been proven to be better for the person than sitting all the time. Further, designers are adding tilting, swinging and other adjustments to provide better comfort. Lastly, designers are being challenged to provide more compact, lighter, foldable/portable systems.
For Parvalux, we are focused on providing customized solutions and even highly integrated solutions to enable designers to achieve their design goals, meet and exceed market requirements, and delight the people who are ultimately using these products.
Q: You have a background with machine builders. What should end-users know about their machine builder to make that process work better? At the same time, what is the best thing suppliers and machine builders offer to their end-users?
Uzzolino: What comes to mind immediately is communication—setting the right expectations and setting design goals upfront. When you do this, you ensure that the end customer gets a solution that meets their needs. Overcommunicate, document all decisions and agree on design goals early. Everyone should also understand that if a specification changes, it can impact the entire design. Managing specification changes closely allows you to mitigate costly increases and time delays to the project.
Regarding the best thing a supplier and machine builders offer to their end-users—there has been a trend in the industry over the past 10-15 years or so, where engineering departments are getting smaller and they are relying more and more on their suppliers and machine builders to augment their engineering team. The most successful projects are the teams where everyone, from the end-user and machine builder to component suppliers, are working together as one team.
Q: Talk about the robotics market. What are the challenges and opportunities for motor manufacturers, and what should end-users expect from suppliers in this rapidly growing market?
Uzzolino: The biggest challenge we see is the need for a smaller, faster and higher-performance product at a lower price. This creates an opportunity to provide optimized solutions. The motor manufacturers who are open to creating customized solutions will prevail.
I had an opportunity recently where size and weight were critical for a low-duty cycle application. We were able to go with a smaller motor by modifying the winding. It was a simple modification, but we were able to offer the customer a smaller, lighter and more cost-effective solution so they were able to meet their design goals.