Engineers from Germany’s Saarland University are developing intelligent motor systems that function without the need for additional sensors. The team’s aim is to transform the motor itself into a sensor, so that it can keep its human minders advised as to whether it’s running smoothly, and can communicate and interact with other motors.
“We’re developing an important new type of sensor: the motor itself,” said team leader Professor Matthias Nienhaus. “That makes our approach very cost-effective, as there’s no need to install any additional sensors. We’re looking at elegant ways of extracting data from the motor and of using this data for motor control and for monitoring and managing processes. We examine how our measured data correlates with specific motor states and how specific measured quantities change when the motor is not operating as it should.”
Nienhaus and his team monitor the precise distribution of the magnetic field strength in the motor, and record how this magnetic field changes when the motor rotates. This data can then be used to compute the position of the rotor and to draw other inferences about the status of the motor, which allows the motor to be controlled efficiently and error states to be detected.
The engineers are developing mathematical models that simulate the various motor states, fault levels and degrees of wear. The results are fed into a microcontroller that can identify any fault or error and respond accordingly.
These sentient motors can be linked together via a network, opening up various opportunities in the fields of maintenance, quality assurance and production. It is also conceivable that a system could be designed in which one motor automatically takes over if another fails.