All electric motors in material handling applications stimulate the natural frequency of the loads they drive, resulting in unwanted motion. Unwanted motion comes in three varieties: vibration, oscillation or sway. Vibration is a huge problem in the semiconductor industry. Oscillation is always a challenge in robotic applications. And sway is a dangerous reality for the industrial crane industry.
Net-net, the cost of unwanted motion is probably unquantifiable. It undermines productivity, safety, reliability, accuracy, repeatability, quality and wastes energy across all material handling applications.
In 1996, Dr. William Singhose, then at MIT, was part of a team that NASA contracted to address unwanted oscillation in the Hubble telescope. Every time the Hubble’s solar array panels were repositioned to optimize energy collection, they would cause the satellite to oscillate, making picture taking of galaxies millions of miles virtually impossible. As a practical matter, the only option was to modify the control algorithms of the electric motors used to manipulate the solar panels. It was too late to add sensors or modify the satellite, and in any event, it was unlikely that after the fact remedies would work in a weightless environment.
After significant effort, Dr. Singhose and his team succeeded. 25 years later the Hubble telescope still explores the visible universe free from oscillation. And 25 years later, after significant additional research as a tenured faculty member at Georgia Tech, Dr. Singhose has refined the insights first gathered during his work for NASA and developed proprietary control algorithms that prevent the stimulation of unwanted motion in a wide variety of commercial applications.
We launched InVekTek to make these new algorithms available to the industrial markets. VFD manufacturers were our initial target, since our technology could be easily embedded in their source code. Each one we contacted acknowledged the problem of unwanted motion and was intrigued by our technology. But their engineers were very suspect of our “open loop” (no sensors) control. It soon became clear that we needed to create a product and prove the market potential.
The result is SwayMaster™, our proprietary control system for industrial cranes. We focused on cranes because everyone knows sway is a huge problem. OSHA reports over 100 fatalities annually from operator error (sway). But once again, we initially encountered significant market skepticism. We soon learned that there were a variety of sensor-based antisway products on the market that essentially didn’t work. We were dismissed as guilty by association. But seeing is believing, and persistence has paid off. Pre-pandemic, our business was ramping nicely. We had commitments and orders from leading suppliers in the primary metals industry as well as leading crane manufacturers. Everyone who has installed a SwayMaster™ has committed to buy more. Collectively, these accounts alone represent tens of thousands of installed cranes.
And despite the pandemic, we’re still getting orders and inquiries. In fact, we’re just getting started. While the crane industry is an enormous market, the market potential of expanding into robotics, packaging, palletizing, conveyance, assembly and many more applications is overwhelming. Ultimately, one or more of the global manufacturers of motor control products will license the technology and/or acquire InVekTek outright.
DR. BILL SINGHOSE, CTO
Bill Singhose is an acknowledged authority in the science of motion and command control, and the inventor of the underlying technology of SwayMaster™.
He is a tenured faculty member of the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, where his research has focused largely on the dynamics and control of flexible machines. He employs both know algorithms and simple models to predict and minimize the damaging effects of machine flexibility, including vibration, oscillation and sway. HIs research has resulted in 4 issued patents, 3 pending patents, and over 300 technical papers.
Bill received his PhD and BS in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Masters from Stanford.
ROB LOOMIS, CEO
Rob Loomis is a dynamic industrial automation executive with over 40 years experience with increasing responsibilities at Omron, Schneider Electric, Texas Instruments, Analogic and Modicon. Recently, Rob pivoted to lead as CEO two university-backed technology startups. InVekTek is his third and most promising endeavor.
Rob has a BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA with concentration in International Marketing.
RALPH LOOMIS, COO
Ralph Loomis is a seasoned utility executive and lawyer with broad industry exposure and experience. He is admitted to practice law in both Massachusetts and Illinois.