Motion control and sensors in robotic applications: enhancing perception and performance

Integrating sensors into the motion control systems used by robots is transforming manufacturing, helping to improve productivity, quality and efficiency during the processing of raw materials, components or parts into finished products.

Robotics are widely used for tasks such as assembly, pick-and-place, welding, painting, quality control and material handling and are often employed to achieve high production volumes. Sensors play a pivotal role in the motion control system. They enhance a robot’s perception, enabling it to interact with its environment, make informed decisions and perform tasks with high precision and repeatability.

Motion control systems 

Motion control systems are integral to the operation of robotics in industrial manufacturing, enabling precise control of their movement and positioning. These systems encompass a range of technologies and components that allow robots to navigate, manipulate objects and perform tasks with accuracy and repeatability. 

Among the components are servo motors, which are paired with servo drives to provide high-precision control of speed, position, and torque; and stepper motors, known for their reliability in applications requiring precise control of position and rotation, such as automated assembly. Linear motion systems, including linear actuators, enable precise movement along a straight line, while motion controllers, often integrated with programmable logic controllers, receive input commands, process them, and send signals to motor drives or actuators to control movement. Gears and gearboxes transmit power from the motor to the robot’s joints or end-effector, allowing for precise control of rotational movement; and feedback devices, such as encoders, resolvers, and sensors, provide real-time feedback on position, speed, and torque to ensure accurate closed-loop control.

Force and torque sensors 

These sensors are crucial components in robotics, measuring forces and torques applied to a robot’s end-effector or joints. The sensors provide essential feedback to the robot’s control system, allowing it to make real-time adjustments to ensure safe and precise interactions. The sensors can also help robots detect unexpected forces or collisions and take action to avoid damage to itself or its surroundings, enhancing safety in dynamic environments. They are also used for quality control to ensure components are assembled with the correct force and alignment, helping maintain product quality and consistency. 

Position sensors 

By providing information about the position and orientation of various parts, including joints, end-effectors and mobile platforms, position sensors enable robots to navigate, manipulate objects and interact with their environment effectively. Robot arm control, 3D printing and CNC machining are common applications. Rotary encoders measure the rotation angle of a joint or motor shaft, while linear sensors measure displacement along a straight path, making them suitable for applications such as linear actuators and robotic sliders. Low-cost robotic applications often use potentiometers to provide position feedback.

Temperature sensors

Temperature sensors help monitor and control the operating temperature of various robot components including motors, processors and batteries to ensure they remain within safe operating limits as well as improving overall efficiency and performance. They can also help robots adapt to changes in their environment, such as temperature fluctuations in factories.

At Variohm Group, we bring together cutting-edge sensors and precision motion engineering services for robotics applications in industrial manufacturing. With an extensive portfolio of sensing and switching components and our long-standing expertise in designing and developing complete motion control solutions, we invite you to discuss your robotics application with us and discover how we can help you.