Despite the economic uncertainty of recent years, the market for drive components used in hoisting and traversing has remained largely unchanged. The inescapable reality is, that despite the state of the economy, machines must be kept running. So, while economic uncertainty may lead to more machine repair projects instead of replacement, drive components are generally still part of the capital budget in either event.

However, although the market is relatively stable, there are significant technological developments on the horizon that are changing drive components for hoisting and traversing.

Aaron Kureck director, product and development, material handling at Magnetek, met with Hoist magazine and discussed the considerable impact being made by solid state digital controls.

"Solid State digital controls have revolutionized motor control for hoisting and traversing applications," Kureck said. "These controls provide users with the ability to link components to networks for data acquisition, control, and diagnostics, including intelligent fault codes. Solid state controls help improve efficiency and reliability, and reduce maintenance. It’s no longer basic motor speed and torque control. We have developed and patented many software features that allow us to use our controls for just about every material handling application out there without the need for additional intelligent devices. For the majority of applications, we have built the intelligence right into the drives.

However, Kureck notes that solid state digital devices are always rapidly changing. He said: "Look at your television or cell phone, for example. New becomes old very quickly. The same types of components in these devices are often used in drives and are selected or assembled in such a way that ‘hardens’ them for industrial uses.

"As with cell phone technology, new drives will continue to become more powerful and faster at processing information. Networking capabilities will increase, and user interfaces will continue to be enhanced with brighter, higher definition displays. Components will likely become smaller and, in some cases, able to withstand more extreme temperatures."

Magnetek is one of the companies taking a lead in shaping the future of drive components for hoisting and traversing. The company, based in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, has a complete line of AC and DC drives and components that are utilized for both hoisting and travelling motions. Magnetek prides itself on listening to its customers and is committed, through its R&D efforts, to continually enhancing products and adding new features which will provide customers with reliable, cost-effective solutions to their application needs.

Aaron Kureck told Hoist: "We rigorously test our products in the lab and the field so customers can be assured they are applying the highest quality drive solutions. At Magnetek, we strive every day to provide OEMs, service companies and end users with products and services that will enhance their success. As far as significant achievements go over recent years, Magnetek lists the introduction of its Impulse Series 4 drive (pictured) as a milestone.

Kureck said: "The drive provides customers with truly innovative safety and control features to improve the performance of their crane or hoist. For example, we have a feature we call Load Check II that continuously monitors the hook load.

An auto-setup function defines the hoist’s maximum hook load in seconds and Load II upward motion if necessary, only allowing the hook to be lowered. In most applications, with Load Check II, load cells and intermittent testing are no longer necessary and productivity and safety are increased.

Another advanced feature in our Impulse Series 4 drive is called Safe Torque Off. This provides a redundant hardware safety circuit that guarantees the motor and brake power are removed when an E-STOP switch or safety controller opens the drive input. This eliminates the need for external motor disconnects. Our Impulse Series 4 drive is packed with advanced features like these that enhance our customers’ productivity and safety."

As for the future, Magnetek is in the process of launching its active front end regenerative controls. Kureck explained: "Interest in long-term power savings and reduced maintenance provided by line regenerative controls is increasing in the material handling industry. Our AC line regenerative systems take surplus regenerative energy from the load and crane and return it to the AC power source. Energy efficiency can be improved by as much as 40-45% and the ROI can be achieved in as little as one year.