View from the top: Electro Mechanical Systems

Written by: Paul Fanning | Published:

As a leading supplier of motors and a manufacturer, EMS is well placed to assess all aspects of the industry. Paul Fanning reports.

EMS (Electro Mechanical Systems) could appear at first glance to simply be a components supplier, however this could not be further from the truth. While the company's success has been founded on their specialist knowledge and supply of small DC motors and drives, As Sales & Marketing Director, Stewart Goulding is keen to emphasise 'catalogue sales' is far from being what EMS is all about.

Established in 1985 as exclusive distributor for two principal manufacturers, Faulhaber and Magnetic (now SKF), EMS has since added ranges from a number of complementary high quality manufacturers in the small drives market. Says Goulding: "We're specialists in fractional horsepower motors up to 250 Watts."

The company's customer base is extremely diverse, ranging from manufacturers of medical devices, laboratory equipment, optical devices and stair lifts. Says Goulding: "Our customers are extremely varied. We are involved in virtually every application you can possibly imagine. From aerospace, defence, medical devices, disability aids right the way through to cattle feeders and chicken egg incubation."

With such a diverse product portfolio and broad customer base, it is crucial that EMS works closely with its customers to achieve the desired end result, something achieved in no small part thanks to a number of highly experienced and qualified field sales engineers, affording nationwide coverage. According to Goulding, the company pride itself on offering a highly consultative service, which is essential when specifying the drive element for a technically demanding application. "In a complex piece of equipment the drive motor is not always the first element to be considered. The focus is on the whole product, including power supply, electronics, packaging and aesthetics, most of which ultimately define the space envelope available for the motor. It is often assumed that the drive element can come later in the development but that is not always the case."

EMS understands intimately the criticality of the design process, due in no small part to the fact that it has its own design and manufacturing facility in the UK – something that Goulding believes differentiates it. The manufacturing facility came about as a result of a desire on the part of the company to be involved in the design and manufacture of small gearboxes and drive mechanisms and in 1990 a small engineering company was acquired, with an established market in the field of remote handling equipment for the nuclear industry.

The next step was for the company to start to design a standard gearbox and a gap in the market was identified for a small 2Nm spur gearbox that was compatible with their existing motors. This was launched in 1994 and remains in production today, but from this point onwards the company has continued to design and manufacture small bespoke drive mechanisms.

Goulding explains the reasoning behind this move, saying: "The emphasis for us was to put ourselves in a position whereby if we could not satisfy an application with a standard product, we could instead design a bespoke solution. This could take the form of simple added value by way of a pressed pinion, mounting adapter or wiring loom, all the way through to a complete new design from a blank piece of paper; a complete solution. Typically we do not charge for our design time, but we only use our design resource to develop products that will ultimately put production onto our shopfloor. Of course we are not adverse to manufacturing to our customers' drawings as well."

The manufacturing side of the business has grown in the last 10 years and the facility has expanded to 2200m². EMS' annual turnover now exceeds £12m of which manufacturing accounts for 25% and is complementary to the core business of distributing small DC motors and actuation systems. Says Goulding: "On the back of custom solutions we have been able to sell more motors. Virtually everything we design at the factory has a motor integrated from one of our principal suppliers."

Goulding feels that the desire to save energy is one of the major drivers in his market at the moment. The need for greater energy efficiency throughout industrial and domestic markets is resulting in increased interest in brushless DC motors. Moreover, in today's market of miniaturisation of portable battery powered devices, the need for ever more efficient small motors is apparent. Technologies leading the way are precision brushless DC motors from Faulhaber (one of EMS' major principals) starting at just 1.9mm diameter. Another innovative product from the Faulhaber Group is a new series of four-pole brushless motors type BX4 that give high torque at a consistent speed.

Says Goulding: "The speed/torque curve for this high performance motor is quite flat, allowing you to deliver consistent torque across a wide speed range. They can also be equipped with integrated speed control and motion control within the same motor diameter of just 22mm, resulting in the world's most compact drive with integrated motion controller." Other technologies he sees having an increasing impact include piezomotors. He says: "Piezo technology is not new, but the successful application of the technology in industrial applications is beginning to develop. While never replacing conventional DC motors they will be playing a bigger role in the drives market."

Whether in manufacturing or distribution, however, Goulding makes it clear that EMS' main role is to provide the best possible technical and commercial outcome for its customers. He says: "Our priority is always to sell the best solution to the problem, whether that means selling standard product or going down the bespoke design route."


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