Keywords: General Motion Control, Machine Control, Automation, Machine Design, Motion Controllers, Logic Controllers, Servo Drives, Servo Motors.
Over the last decade, machine builders have been seeking automation partners to provide increasingly more support throughout the entire machine design and development cycle. A handful of automation suppliers have the depth and knowledge to help the machine builders identify the optimal selection of technology for a particular application. Recently, Aerotech, which considers itself among that select group, invited ARC Advisory Group to visit with company executives to learn more about its mission in the industrial automation business.
Over the last 40 years, the company has developed a reputation for specializing in ultra-precision applications with electro-mechanical capabilities in a limited number of industries. However, as we learned, the company's product portfolio actually includes a broad range of industrial motion controllers, logic controllers, servo drives, and servo motors that are well suited for most motion-centric industrial machinery control applications.
Vertical Integration Improves Quality Control
Touring Aerotech's operation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania revealed an organization with a high degree of vertically integrated automation expertise in motion-centric machine control. The company recently completed a major capital expansion with a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility that added both production capacity and a greater range of capabilities. While the company initially focused on the design and manufacture of high-precision mechanical motion control devices, over the years, it has expanded its domain expertise to include scalable motion controllers, PLC/PACs, a wide power range of brushless and DC servo drives, and rotary and linear brushless motors that cater to a variety of industrial applications.
Aerotech's Recent Plant Expansion Will Support Its Extensive In-House Engineering and Manufacturing Capabilities
The company manufactures all its products in house, including both printed circuit boards using surface-mount technology and motor winding. Aerotech also develops its own automation software. In-house design and manufacturing help ensure consistent quality, flexibility to meet customers' unique application requirements, and appropriate industrial robustness.
The company prides itself on the support it can provide to customers through its engineering and design staff, which boasts a high percentage of individuals with either Masters or PhD degrees.
Rapid Turnaround Supports Machine Builders
According to the company, many machine builders already take advantage of the company's system integration capabilities and ability to customize standard products to achieve optimum machine performance. Machine builders can reduce their time to market by working with the Aerotech engineering team to mitigate the risk of unanticipated performance issues. More importantly, Aerotech's strong understanding of machine design and operation and its software development capability help machine builders optimize initial machine design to improve the productivity of the machine and reduce the overall cost. Should unanticipated behaviors in the system become apparent during final integration and testing of a machine, Aerotech's engineers are available to quickly diagnose and help resolve the problem – whether in the software, electrical, or mechanical design -- to help keep the project on schedule.
According to company executives, Aerotech is charting a new course to bring its value proposition to the industrial market. Thanks to its broad range of controllers, servo drives, and servo motors, the company's product portfolio is well-suited for machinery from food packaging to metal fabrication.
In-house product design and manufacturing and engineering capabilities also support the company's machine builder customers in their ongoing efforts to gain a competitive advantage by supporting the entire machine design and manufacturing lifecycle; from the innovative phase of machine design to final integration and testing. ARC believes that this enables the company to provide degrees of both innovation and customization that are becoming increasingly rare in a market served by suppliers many of which provide standard products designed and built to meet a price point rather than a value point.
This could help explain the relatively high retention rate among Aerotech's machine builder customers.
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