From Customer to Collaborator - How Nexperia and Synapticon's Relationship Evolved

Semiconductor supply chains are gradually returning to normal after the unprecedented bottlenecks caused by the global COVID19 pandemic. While this period significantly impacted the ability of electronic equipment manufacturers to meet customer demand, for some companies it inadvertently allowed them to discover alternative suppliers that could not only meet their short-term requirement for components for use in their existing products but also opened the door to what would become highly successful and ongoing collaborations. This blog looks at how Nexperia has become not only a trusted supplier, but a collaborative partner to Synapticon, in the design and development of its industry leading motor control solutions for collaborative robots (cobots) and robotic machines.

Synapticon enables software-defined robots and cobots

Servo drives and drive controllers are the gateway between the virtual and the real world and include the sensors and drives that turn a static computer into a moving robot. Synapticon distinguishes itself by embracing a "software-first" approach to servo drive development, resulting in an industry-leading portfolio of technologies and products for industrial electric drive control. Their focus lies on creating compact, highly integrated, efficient, and user-friendly high-performance servo drives ideal for diverse applications such as industrial robots, collaborative robots, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). Its technology platforms are based on the SOMANET Motion software stack which enables pioneering solutions for integrating motion controllers within the axes of motion of a robotic device.

Supply chain challenges forced Synapticon to think outside the box

During the supply chain crisis of 2022, Synapticon was forced to re-think some of its established practices when its regular suppliers were unable to fulfil its orders for electronic components due to a global shortage. This unexpected occurrence threatened to derail production of Synapticon’s SOMANET Circulo all-in-one servo drive for robots and cobots (Figure 1). Circulo is the world's first integrated motion device and sets the industry standard for collaborative robotic arms. It offers a unique value proposition – combining certified functional safety, a braking system and an encoder in a motion control solution for cobots, robots and intelligent actuators and can be used immediately without additional adjustments or additional components, saving customers cost-intensive development time.  

Synapticon's SOMANET Circulo servo controller solution for cobots
Figure 1 Synapticon's SOMANET Circulo servo controller solution for cobots

Facing the potential disruption of Circulo supplies and the risk of losing the contract, Synapticon needed to find a new supplier and turned to distributor EBV, who put them in touch with Nexperia, known for its reliable and high-volume supply of semiconductor components. Given the urgent need for various standard components such as multiplexers and diodes, Nexperia immediately fulfilled Synapticon's orders while confirming long-term stock availability. This timely intervention ensured the continuity of supply of Circulo servo regulators to Synapticon and has since established a direct, mutually beneficial partnership.

From engagement to collaboration

Having initially approached it as a potential source for standard components, Synapticon began to investigate Nexperia’s broader portfolio with a view to identifying other components which could be suitable for use in its latest product innovation SOMANET Integro, which promises to extend the integrated motion concept from cobots and AGV/AMRs to fixed machines. SOMANET Integro (Figure 2), which will be available to order later in 2024, delivers outstanding performance without any temperature-related reduction in motor power and with no requirement to increase motor size. It can also be run with zero derating (at up to 120 A peak rms).

Synapticon's SOMANET Integro enables highly integrated servo drive
Figure 2 Synapticon's SOMANET Integro enables highly integrated servo drive

Synapticon worked with Nexperia to identify a NextPower 100 V, 2.07 mOhm, 267 A, N-channel MOSFET in LFPAK88 package – the PSMN2R0-100SSF – as a component which could enable it to integrate an encoder, functional safety and a high-end inverter in device with a tiny form factor measuring only 40 x 60 x 60 mm – the amount of space that is typically consumed by only an encoder in today’s motors control solutions. The decision to use this MOSFET was based on a combination of factors including high operating temperature (175°C) and package type (which enabled long lifetime and reliability) and of course, Nexperia’s proven ability to supply the products on time in production volumes.

“It is somewhat ironical that if it wasn’t for the unfortunate global pandemic, we might never have approached Nexperia to become a potential supplier of power MOSFETs for our servo drive’s inverters”, Dr.Florian Kock, R&D Project Manager Integrated Motion Devices, at Synapticon. ”However, we are delighted that we opened our eyes to the opportunity which presented itself, because our relationship has progressed from Nexperia simply being one of our suppliers to that of it being a collaborative partner whose expertise in engineering and logistics we can fully rely on”.

Cobots/AGVs/AMRs are a target growth market for Nexperia and the combination of our proven supply chain and broad product portfolio enabled us to deliver on Synapticon’s requirements” Benedikt Keijer, Head of Sales Central Europe. ”This also provides our customers with the visibility they need to secure their own supply chains, allowing them to spend more time innovating, an activity we are well placed to assist them with”.

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