Today’s drives can go much further than simply handing down commutation commands to a motor. The addition of onboard processing power and memory have dramatically increased functionality. Some drives can handle limited motion-control tasks. Other drives can act as master devices to a set of slave drives to create distributed control networks that reduce the need for wiring and control cabinets. In the case of so-called universal drives, the same device can be used to drive stepper motors, brushed motors, or servomotors.
Built-in functionality is another trend. Drives are available with embedded fieldbus capabilities that equip them to support a variety of protocols such as EtherCAT, Ethernet/IP, and CANopen. Safety-rated drives feature built-in redundancy and integrated safety functions like Safe Torque Off and Safe Limited Speed. They can also handle dozens of I/O points, with input from multiple types of sensors.