A motor controller is a device that regulates the operation of an electric motor. It is effectively a one stop shop, including motor hardware and software to effectively drive the application.
The device may include many features for controlling a motor, such as a manual or automatic means for starting/stopping the motor, operating forward/reverse rotation, along with selecting and regulating speed, and regulating or limiting torque. The controller may also provide protection in the event of an overload or electrical fault. A motor controller can also feature additional capabilities like data collection and logging, and application-specific control logic.
For the purposes of this article, we are going to refer to motor controllers used in laundry applications.
It is important to note that value is gained from directly integrating other signals such as sensors, not just motor control. This enables real-time action, data collection, and user interaction, etc.
Designing your own software
You could potentially hire the right talent to help you design and create the controller software yourself. Bearing in mind this option could be more time-consuming and you may need to go through several iterations of your program before reaching the ideal outcome.
Using a consultant to help design software
A design consultancy can head up the controller software design process for you. Ensuring you are very clear on the exact requirements for your application, this can be an ideal way to create exactly what you need.
Supplier to provide a solution
A supplier specialising in software design and development could provide something that might suit your needs.
Co-design with a company (e.g., FPT)
Like co-designing electric motor applications, controller software could also be created this way. FPT works with you to design software to your preferred specifications. With decades of experience in designing software, FPT can help you create your desired controller software.
Purchase off-the-shelf motor controller software
When choosing between an off-the-shelf or fully customised controller software, it will largely depend on the application for which it is required. For example, controller software for laundry applications could include software that controls sensors for early detection of drum balance and gaining a better understanding of how the motor and drum behave in real time. Real time response is advantageous to mitigate potential issues and avoid any damage or malfunction.
An off-the-shelf generic board can be bought from a manufacturer and a motor can be added to it reasonably easily. But it is important to remember that we are not just talking about the motor controller development work that has previously been done. There are a lot more features and additions that need to be added on top of an off-the-shelf generic board.
There is a strong case for building your own custom board, regardless of whether it starts off with a generic board or not. Therefore, having fully customised motor controller software can be a lot more beneficial in terms of achieving the specific requirements of the application.
Custom made. You’ll get precisely what you need, built to your specific requirements. This means you’ll get everything you need and nothing you don’t.
Add your own accessories. It is easier to add specific components or accessories to your project in order to have it perfectly customised to your needs. For example, the controller software may need specific software interfaces for IoT functions in your appliance or special data signals may need to be provided to the user Interface controller.
Save time and money. You may spend a lot of time looking for a solution that ultimately may not be exactly fit for your requirements. Also, having the controller pre-programmed can save time during set-up and testing. In terms of cost efficiency, some off-the-shelf controllers may contain features and functionality that are not required for your application. This means you could be paying more for a host of features you may not actually need.
Fully customisable. You may have special requirements such as restricted sizing or unusual shapes that can be created to suit your needs perfectly.
Energy efficiency. Using a lot of unnecessary components can use more energy, therefore a tailored solution containing the minimum componentry and optimised to your requirements can be more energy efficient overall.
There are clearly several options to consider when looking at designing and developing motor controller software for your application – some of which we have touched on. As with some other componentry, there is the option of selecting an off-the-shelf solution, or one that is fully customised to your needs. In terms of software, a customised solution provides a host of benefits including precise functionality, the option to add extras, and most importantly, can help you to save time and money.