Robotics in … farming? Q&A with Boston Gear’s Mike Stegmann after Automate 2022
Last week, Boston Gear joined fellow Altra Motion brands Kollmorgen, Portescap, Thomson, Bauer Gear Motor, Micron, and Warner Electric at Automate – North America’s largest automation and robotics trade show.
Representing Boston Gear and Micron was Business Development Manager Mike Stegmann.
With 24 years of rotary and linear power transmission experience, Mike has spent the last 14 years of his career at Altra. He studied mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech and holds an MBA from Hofstra University.
During the show, Stegmann walked through the product display with a member of Altra’s Marketing team.
The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What Micron motors did you bring to the show?
MS: These are most synonymous with servo motor designs. We have our UT ‘Ultra True’ products; they mount right up to any servo motor with a ready mount design. So any type, any brand of servo motor can be used with this product.
MS:The advantages of Micron product are high torque in a very compact package. Very high efficiency and low backlash. So you're getting a very high performance product in a very small package. These are perfect for robotic applications that are utilizing servo motors.
Q: So when you’re talking about a robotic application, how exactly are these products fitting into those applications?
MS: So these are typically used with pick-and-place. With any type of robotic clean-and-place type product, you’re dealing with synchronized motion. That's why you’re using servo motors. These motors, because they’re compact, because they’re highly accurate from a positional accuracy standpoint … Those are the moves that you’re trying to synchronize. … With the Micron products, it's more gantry style … Maybe attaching a label onto a product, or packaging applications.
Q: How have changes and innovations in this market changed what you do?
MS: I think what we do is look at different trends out there. And we look for opportunities to develop new products, or to integrate the products into a customer’s application. We like to work hand in hand with an OEM in designing the product, with their engineering team. That’s something that we specialize in, on all of our brands.
MS: We’re doing a lot of custom applications … for example, a seeder on a combine.
MS: This is pivoting a wheel that is actually depositing seeds into the ground. And it’s doing it at a controlled speed.
MS: What the controllers can do, with the OEM that we work with, is change the rate of speed. Whether you’re going around an elevated surface, or going around a bumpy turn, it’s dropping at the rate to provide the best yield.
MS: Farmers don’t want to waste seed. And you don’t want to waste land. You want to get maximum yield. And that’s what we work with that OEM to do.
View the Application Profile: Custom Clutch for Agricultural Planter (P-7436-WE)
Q: So there are agricultural applications in the robotics market?
MS: Yes, because agriculture is incorporating GPS into their equipment to maximize yield. And the types of automated equipment that we make also do that.
MS: We also have we have applications in military, as well. The miniature worm speed reducer here happens to be one that we designed to fit into a compact space.
MS: What it’s doing is providing a pivoting motion for a camera that was detecting mines in front of military vehicles. We can go very compact in size. We can go very customized in applications.
View the Application Profile: Custom Compact Speed Reducer for MRAP Vehicle Camera Positioning System (P-7600-BG)