Automation Now: News and Info for Users of Motion Control

5 Most Common Reasons an AC Drive Ends Up Needing Repair

Posted August 28, 2019 by Pepper Hastings

Categories: Blog

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Hi, I’m Lonnie Muse with Innovative IDM. I'm going to talk a little bit about AC drives this morning. These things are wonderful. They have come into being, they've lasted a long time, and there’s a real great need for them in our plants. But they are put into some places that have difficult environments. So I want to kind of talk about the AC drive failures.

Maybe how to mitigate it a little bit and what causes them. The biggest cause is not the product itself but the things that surround it. Heat is the biggest issue. It does generate a little bit of heat. It adds to the environment that's outside the ambient temperature. All the other products in the panel that are creating heat add to the source. If we don’t get that heat out of there or cool it down, overtime this will die. Especially if it’s a dusty environment or other airborne things that are attracted to the fans in the back of the drive aren’t cleaned out. Or the fan of the AC drive stops, not pulling the air through.

The biggest thing is heat, we need to mitigate that. The next thing is power spikes that come through. Whether it’s caused by machines upstream, lighting, the power company, or somebody hitting a power pole outside, power spikes can kill these drives rather quickly. So we need to take steps to eliminate some of that or at least reduce it. One of the steps could be putting a reactor in front of the drive. That will help keep the power spikes from coming in and damaging the drive.

Another area where a drive fails is because of the other end that is attached to the motor. If the motor is not taken care of or if the bearings aren’t greased, there are issues that a motor – and this is related to heat as well – can short out. And if it shorts, normally it’s going to take the drive as well. It’s going to short internally, draw too much current, and will damage the drive. Check the motors.

The next one is age. The mean time between failure for these typical drives here is 28 years. But I guarantee you if you don’t do things ahead of time and keep it working when it gets to 10 years, 15 years, 20 years we’re going to start having failure. Can you imagine 20 years old and still running? Some of us don’t drive cars that old. Age can affect things. Things deteriorate, change over time, and eventually there’s failure.

The largest one and usually it happens on the front end when a drive is being installed is it’s installed incorrectly. What I have seen in my experience, customers put the input power on the power leads of the drive which just tears it up. It fails. We have 24 volts for the inputs and outputs and we'll put 110 on it. So sometimes it’s installation driven. Not the product itself just improper installation.

If you’d like to know more about this, come see us at We’ve got white papers, we’ve got products, we’ve got technical expertise that can help. After all we're the home of legendary customer experience.

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The Advantages of Using Linear Servo Motors

Posted August 21, 2019 by Pepper Hastings

Categories: Blog

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Hi, my name is Jack Marsh with Innovative IDM. Today I’d like to talk a little bit about the advantages of linear servo motors. A lot of people have never even heard of a linear motor and don’t know that that is. Well, a linear motor is the same thing as a rotary motor that’s cut and then rolled. There’s as many types of linear motors as there are rotary motors. The physics are the same, just the mechanical arrangement of the parts are a little different.

For example, linear motors you've probably experienced multiple times every day in your life. If you look at audio speakers, the motor that moves the speaker back and forth and generates vibrations is a linear motor. Just a different kind of linear motor than is typically used in industrial applications.

For example, if you take this rotary motor, slice it, and unroll it, you’re going to have windings on a part that can move back and forth over the top of a piece of steel that has magnets on it. That is a direct drive thrust producing device that eliminates all the mechanical components in the drive train that would ordinarily take this spinning motor shaft and translate that into linear motion and linear force.

By eliminating all those mechanical components, you eliminate all the wear in the drive train, the back lash, inaccuracies – all the things that degrade the performance of your positioning system.

So if you need micron level precision, extremely low friction motion, very high accuracy and reliability, or very high accelerations and velocities, a linear motor might be the perfect solution for you. What you don’t get is the mechanical advantage of say a gear box that you could put on the end of a rotary motor to multiply the torque output of the motor. So until someone invents the linear equivalent of that, maybe a lever box, we are stuck with the direct drive nature of the linear motor. And if you need more force, the cost goes up because you have to buy a larger motor. You can’t put a mechanical advantage device on it. But with that comes all of the advantages of speed and precision a linear motor can provide.

If you’d like to know more, please visit our website at and remember Innovative IDM is the home of the legendary customer experience.

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Aluminum Extrusions Collateral Damage

Posted August 19, 2019 by Pepper Hastings

Categories: Aluminum Extrusion, Blog

Parker Industrial Profile Systems recognizes Innovative-IDM as one of its regional design centers.

The result is that we design, cut and assemble a LOT of extruded aluminum products.

The collateral damage to all that fell on Jimmy Taylor, who is left to deal with the now-empty 20-foot heavy duty cardboard boxes in which the raw aluminum was shipped from Parker.

Sweet Jimmy and a SAWZALL in 100-degree weather took care of the problem.



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Massive Control Panel in Dallas Shop

Posted August 16, 2019 by Pepper Hastings

Categories: Blog

Look at this thing!  Built with love by our own Jessi Bratcher in the Dallas UL508A Panel Shop.  Great job, Jessi, keeping it Legendary for our panel customers.

Our scale of operation and shop efficiencies mean we many times can build panels in less time and for less cost than our customers can do for themselves.  We can build to your prints, or help you design your control panel. Try us!

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The Benefits of Retrofitting an Industrial Control Panel

Posted August 14, 2019 by Pepper Hastings

Categories: Blog

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Hi, I’m Adam Ring with Innovative-IDM. You know, when I walk through manufacturing plants, sometimes I’ll come across a control panel where you open it up and look inside and you see this technology that is like 30, 40 years old. So what’s starting to happen is, customers are finding that a lot of the controls in their automation are starting to really become aged, and when that happens if something breaks it's really, really hard to find.

We find a lot of people who try and search on eBay to find replacement parts. Sometimes they’ll send them in and try to get parts repaired. But as they continue to age, the repair gets more and more expensive and eventually things just get to the point where they’re not repairable anymore. One of the worst things that happens is a major component necessary for the operation of a machine goes out and then the machine is completely rendered useless until you either find a new part or completely rebuild the controls for it. And so by retrofitting a control panel, you’re able to remove any of those obsolete components and replace them with the current up-to-date stuff that’s readily available. It gets rid of all of your hard to find really difficult parts, it enables you to not have to worry about repairs for a while.

Typically the life of a new control panel, before you have to really start repairing stuff, usually lasts about 10 years before it starts to break down and then you eliminate that big terrible major risk of down time. And everyone knows, whatever the cost to build a new control panel is usually minimal in regards to or compared to what it costs if a machine goes down or can’t produce products for weeks or months on end while a new control panel is being designed and built.

So overall, it’s a really good idea if you’ve got aged control panels where a component going out could really, really cost some major downtime and production loss, it’s a good idea to go ahead and take a look at retrofitting those control panels.

If you’d like help in that regard take a look at We are Home of the Legendary Customer Experience.

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Why You Should Use Cage Clamp Terminal Blocks

Posted August 8, 2019 by Pepper Hastings

Categories: Blog

Hi, Adam Ring with Innovative-IDM. I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about the battle between the screw terminal and the cage clamp. So, why do people choose one or the other? Well, let’s just look at some of the basic facts. On the screw terminal, when you strip a wire and insert it into a screw terminal, the tightest that that’s ever going to be is the connection at the time you actually torque that screw driver down. From that point on it’s only ever going to get looser. Now when you talk about cage clamp terminal, when you strip the wire and insert it into the cage clamp, that’s actually the loosest that connection ever is. And as that wire then starts to take the shape of the terminal and the wires kind of splay out and basically mold to the shape of the terminal, it’s actually going to get tighter over time because of the spring force that’s holding that wire in place.

So, with temperature cycling as that wire has current running through it and it heats up and cools down and heats up and cools down, it’s going to be expanding and contracting and so forth. Well with the screw terminal, that’s only going to force that screw to back out and get looser and looser over time, whereas with the cage clamp with its spring technology, the spring actually compensates. As the wire expands, it expands, when the wire shrinks back it shrinks back with it and so it always maintains the right amount of tension on the wire for the application.

Now there’s also industrial applications; there’s typically a lot of vibration that is experienced. With a screw we all knows what happens when it’s around vibration, they tend to loosen up. With the cage clamp, vibration typically doesn’t matter. It moves and it adjusts and responds to the vibration without coming loose over time.

Now think about what it costs if you’re having to install hundreds of terminals in a given control panel. If you’re having to screw and tighten down each and every terminal, that’s going to take quite a bit of time. But with the cage clamp, all you basically do is insert a screwdriver, insert your wire, remove the screwdriver and it’s done. You get the same great connection every time. The other thing to consider is first thing in the morning when your fresh, you’re probably going to be tightening down those screws a lot tighter than the last one at the end of the day when you’re kind of tired. So you get a variation of how tight those wires are. And so then what ends up happening is once that panel gets installed in a machine, you’re going to start having loose connections and that’s going to potentially cause a machine to go down and cost you extra money.

So you always want to make sure that you use the right product for the right application. In the case where you have temperature cycling and vibration and you’re looking for the most efficient and best cost to connect your wires cage clamps are definitely the leg up.

So if you’d like to learn more about cage clamps and how Innovative-IDM can help you please visit our website We are Home of the Legendary Customer Experience.

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