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The Evolution of Step Motor Manufacturers

A decade ago, manufacturers of step motors were primarily focused on offering a complete line of steppers that would meet the needs of a wide range of motion control applications. In the eyes of our customers and the market as a whole, we were simply designers and manufacturers of various types of step motors. Ultimately, that was our primary responsibility. The electronics component of the motion control industry, such as drivers, controllers, modules, and integrated circuits, is more of an afterthought. At that time, stepper motor manufacturers did not need to worry about such products. It was still common practice for customers to purchase a step motor from one company and then look for the necessary electronics elsewhere. In many cases, this was because most motor manufacturers were not able to offer an all-in-one solution. Both the motion control industry and step motor manufacturers have evolved. U.S. motor manufacturers are being forced to better differentiate themselves due to the demands of today's market and an increase in pricing pressure from overseas manufacturers. Every business relies on differentiation to survive. With the rise of overseas competitors, being a manufacturer of an increasingly commoditized product will not suffice. Despite the fact that most overseas manufacturers produce low-quality knockoffs, American manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to improve their products. In order to achieve differentiation, motor manufacturers must specialize in making motors that have superior performance, superior capabilities, or superior modifications. In the United States, the newfound notion of integrating step motors with electronics into one complete package is driving the newfound notion of differentiation among motor manufacturers. Nowadays, integration is the preferred method of operation in many cases. There has always been a common misconception among some users that all step motors perform the same. Drivers and controllers are also subject to the same illusion. As a general principle, it is important to recognize that one size does not fit all. Since step motors come in various shapes and sizes, drivers and controllers must be selected accordingly. Integration may be an option for those who do not wish to go through the trial-and-error process of finding these compatible electronics for their motors. Customers are now looking for a "one-stop-shop" where they can purchase not only a step motor, but also a compatible driver and controller, and even accessories such as power supplies, gear heads, and encoders. It is no longer possible to succeed as a one-dimensional organization. To remain competitive, a company must constantly adapt to new competitive forces. Currently, all product lines, expertise, and manufacturing capabilities must be expanded to encompass motor-related products. It is true that there have always been demands for better performance at a lower cost in a smaller package, but integration has gained a lot of momentum and will continue to be a dominant force for some time to come. In order to maintain a dominant position within our market and maintain an edge over overseas competitors, we must continue to innovate and differentiate within the motion control industry to achieve today's requirements for a successful U.S.-based motor manufacturer. Author Information Ted Lin is the president of Lin Engineering, a Company in MOONS' Group