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maxonInterview with

Eugen Elmiger

Director Sales & Marketing, spokesman for the GL, maxon motor, Sachseln-Switzerland:

"We have not so many black holes' on Earth, so our further conquests will probably take place on another planet."


With both feet on the ground, patients with amputated limbs are back, have opted for prostheses with drives from maxon motor. Here, the inventor of the diamond-shaped coil and a specialist for coreless motors for years looks far the bigger of the planet beyond. development scout spoke with Eugen Elmiger others on new projects in the medical, future markets and niches that SPS/IPC/Drives- "collection" and the next global sales office on Mars.

development scout: From the Foil manufacturer for Braun Shaver 1961 to a provider of high-precision drive systems today: the milestones maxon motor has put on this way back?

Elmiger: One of the major milestones is certainly the invention of the diamond-shaped coil and the manufacturing process for micro motors with ironless rotor in 1967 / 68. Very important for us was the internationalization. It started just before 30 years in the U.S. and is currently in the establishment of an office in India this summer. 1989 we opened our production operation for transmission in Sexau near Freiburg, Germany. 1997 were eleven of our DC micromotors in the vehicle, "Sojourner" on the very first Pathfinder mission motors on Mars. And successfully so that in 2004 twice 39 more engines, installed in the two Mars rovers "Spirit" and "Opportunity", take repeated the trip to Mars could. Hungary as a third site was 2004 commissioned and presented as another pillar also a milestone

development scout: You have for the first four months 2010 already reported record sales. How is the current economic situation at the end of the year?

Elmiger: Currently, it looks very good. The records of the first half has to be seen in connection with the bad year 2009. Currently we recorded a growth stabilized at very high levels. We sometimes work in two shifts, especially the procurement situation is tense. With our turnover this year we expect to build on the year 2008, possibly a bit more.

development scout: In your mission statement, you define the goal of expanding its leading position in the niche market and in all key markets to be the number 1. The markets in which you have already occupied the top, which should be added and what niche markets you want to expand?

Elmiger: We are leaders in medical technology with 47 percent revenue share. In 2010 that is something to go back, because other markets are to grow strongly, but we are due to attractive projects that we have in the pipeline remain the No. 1. We are also a leader in humanoid robotics and safety engineering. New and interesting for us are the so-called "eco" projects. Maybe we bring in the near future a bike drive on the market. Ideas and prototypes are already in use. Promising is also our duty 22Heavy EC output, which is found to 240 ° C special applications. For this motor, we just won the Innovation Award in central Switzerland, which we are very proud. It is an interesting niche market for mechatronic Microdrives, find the use in safety technology. User with new developments for personal protection systems. In deep drilling, it can also be exciting for the heavy-duty engine.

development scout: What are these wonderful projects in medical technology?

Elmiger: These are, for example, according to our Hand prosthesisThat further developments of foot, joint and knee replacements. Very exciting is the development of thought-controlled prostheses by bioelectric signals of what we promote, in cooperation with Japanese companies. People who have had a stroke, for example, disabled, frail or elderly people can use it to go back. Further, there is also Development of totally implantable drive systems.

development scout: What are your core competencies?

Elmiger: Clearly the winding technology is a core competency. For coreless winding we are today five different winding technologies. Thus we control the motors without iron. Another competency is the micro-injection of plastics and the associated construction of precision injection molds. Also, the ceramic and metal syringes we master himself. For such small parts that are installed in the gearboxes and motors, one must know the details, otherwise you can not produce high-precision drive systems of the highest quality. The processes for assembling small parts one must know also. In addition, the sensor technology, magnetic, optical, inductive encoder or other innovations that we make in the future itself. The combination of all the above mentioned skills sensors, mechanics, electronics and software is behind the big buzzword mechatronics. We have a very high vertical integration, not only for products but also for our production.

development scout: What are unique characteristics and stand out from the market?

Elmiger: USPs are led by the ironless winding, high efficiency with up to 98 percent, the very simple control and controllability as well as the highly dynamic function thanks to the low weight. With the opportunity to express our intelligence products, we stand also on the market. And we provided, for example, not only with a sensor but make this configurable. You see, we offer maximum value to our customers at an affordable cost, including worldwide service.

development scout: Their strong commitment to the medical technology brings innovations that as said hand prosthesis, which are very expensive. In turn, the financial resources of the health insurance companies are always limited. Make high-tech medicine for upper 10.000 or who is in your opinion the pay once?

Elmiger: We're probably already in the beginnings drive systems for the high-tech medicine for upper 10.000. But it's only a matter of time in terms of numbers to this technology is affordable for all. This is similar to the automotive industry. While you pay today 30 percent more for an electric car, the numbers in a few years will qualify those prices. The prosthetic hand, however, was designed for the U.S. military. The soldiers, who lost in the front to get a leg or arm, such prostheses free of charge. Our goal, of course, our technology can be made available to all customers. Since we all are getting older, and the demand will rise by agents and thus increase the numbers. Today cost several assistants 10'000 euros, in twenty years, this award will, in my view perhaps will be 1000 or 2000 euros.

development scout: Their engines have been around for years on "Mars mission" in use. What happens if they ever fail?

Elmiger: Consider the last mission because 39 drives are installed in a Rover. So a rover has six wheels, one of which also times fail one / two / three wheels without it then remains standing. But it has not always redundant systems. Therefore, the motors must be checked at one hundred percent of the earth. The production process is monitored not only by us but also by NASA. To the best of my knowledge and belief, the motors are then installed. The times of failure can be allowed to happen not. The last mission was planned for three months now, the drives are already six years old and still running, with two / three of them already have a little age-related complaints. This proves that we have done a brilliant and flawless work.

development scout: Even more such extraterrestrial missions are planned?

Elmiger: Yes, we are working on various missions with ESA. There is the 'Exomars, for which we developed in collaboration with the space agency, drive systems. He is expected to be 2018 used. Even with NASA, we have developed projects that require special motors with special brake and are currently produced in the United States. We have the Japanese mission, Hayabusa "(MUSES-C) shaping that visited asteroids Itokawa in 2005. This summer, the return capsule with soil samples, but unfortunately without our engines has returned to Earth. We are also in Russia and India in space missions there.

development scout: This summer, you have established a subsidiary in India. How was the start, and what are your objectives for global future?

Elmiger: The launch in India was very good, even if we ignore the administrative burden. After about ten years since a distributor were there, we saw that the time is ripe now for the opening of a maxon motor branch. We found very good local employees. Even that was an adventure that you will find and select. Otherwise, we have not so many black holes' on Earth, so our further conquests will probably take place on other planets. Joking aside, we have our 30 distributors and Eastern Europe also will expand even more. Next target could be Russia towards Ukraine.

development scout: What innovations are you presenting at the autumn fairs electronica and SPS / IPC / Drives?

Elmiger: We present the development of the second generation of our free programmable Positioning, EPOS2'Ago. These were designed for use with brushless DC motors with encoder or brushless EC motors with Hall sensors and encoders. Including EPOS2 70 / 10 was developed specifically for commanding and controlling in the CANopen network, while the EPOS2 P24 / 5 also has a built-in processor and memory. Next we present the sterilizable 13 Motors EC and EC Size 5. Alone or as an engine / transmission combination, they offer high performance at low noise and low vibration, low heat generation and minimal size. These are particularly welcome features for power tools in the medical industry. A completely different field of application in the temperature range up 240 ° C, the EC 22 HD Heavy Duty engine. It has been developed, for example, for use in deep drilling tools for adjustment of the flaps.

Interview by Editor in Chief Angela Scheufler.


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