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Yaskawa Electric Corporation: AC Servo Motors and Inverters


“Mechatronics” is a word that we hear often as citizens of the 21st century. However, did you know that a Japanese company created the word in 1969?

The term mechatronics is a combination of the words mechanics and electronics, and it encompasses the concept of controlling intricate machines with electricity. The word was proposed by Yaskawa Electric, a multinational manufacturer of industrial robots. In January 1971, the company registered “mechatronics” as a trademark, but later released the trademark to the public domain; since then, the term has filtered into the public consciousness as the field has developed, expanded, and become a bigger part of our everyday lives. Today, many of the products which enhance our quality of life are powered and controlled by electricity, all of which have been made possible by mechatronics.

Yaskawa Electric, the birthplace of mechatronics, was founded in 1915 as a make-to-order manufacturer of electrical appliances for use in coal mines. At the time, most electrical appliances were imported from Europe or North America, and so the company’s aim of developing high-quality appliances designed and produced in Japan was a very forward-thinking strategy for the time. The company-wide attitude and desire to be internationally competitive lives on today as it strives to manufacture appliances which rank as the world's best, or to be the first to incorporate ground-breaking innovations into their products.

Servo Motors

Servo motors are to automated machines what hands and feet are to humans.

Around 1960, Yaskawa Electric began to focus on the development of servo motors, which would go on to become one of their core products. The company achieved much success during this time, propelling it into the position of being the world’s leading manufacturer of motion control products. Notably, the company is currently the worldwide market leader in AC servo motor production.  

While Yaskawa Electric started out by producing motors for mining equipment, they have since branched out into producing motors for a wide variety of applications. With the growth of semiconductor manufacturing industries came opportunities to motorize and automate manufacturing equipment, and as a result the demand for small, adaptable motors grew. In response, Yaskawa Electric created the Minertia and print motors, which are uniquely shaped servo motors born out of the creative ideas* of the company’s engineers and their tireless efforts in trial-and-error research. The slender Minertia motors and disk-shaped print motors found a home in a number of brand-new applications, such as in office automation appliances and automotive electronic components . While the shapes of these motors allowed them to be used in various new applications, their performance was also greatly improved compared to the other servo motors of the time, making them extremely popular with appliance manufacturers.

In order to further improve the speed and ease of maintenance of DC servo motors, Yaskawa Electric started to develop AC servo motors in 1982. In 1984, the company started selling AC servo drives—a package combining the motor and a control system—and in 1992, it released the Σ Series of these products. The Σ Series was smaller, faster, more precise, and easier to use than previous servo drives; unsurprisingly, they proved to be extremely popular, as evidenced by the significant increase in the company’s market share. Currently, AC servo motors are one of the core products of the company.

The latest Σ-7 Series of AC servo drives was released in 2013, and continues to enjoy growth in sales. This range of products was developed with the concept of achieving “the ultimate” in seven different areas (“seven ultimate e-motional solutions”).

*The idea for the Minertia motor was originally conceived when an engineer saw his daughter’s drawing of plum blossoms. By perceiving the center of the flower as the rotor and the petals as the conductor, he was inspired to place the conductor directly on the rotor—a revolutionary idea at the time. Consequently, the new motor possessed a rotor with a reduced diameter and was made from a smaller number of components, making it lighter and reducing its inertia. As a result, its response characteristics (i.e., controllability) improved 100-fold compared to other motors of the time.


Simply put, an inverter is a device which controls the rotational speed of a motor. As such, these components play an extremely important role in improving the productivity and energy efficiency of appliances. Therefore, the development of inverters must take into consideration not only the needs of the client, i.e. the improvement in production efficiency, but also external variables, such as changes in energy-related regulations and other societal demands. Inverters are required by clients in a diverse range of industries, and so their development typically must incorporate a strong degree of flexibility in their design, allowing them to be adapted in a number of different ways for different items of machinery.

In the years directly following its founding, Yaskawa Electric took on challenge after challenge, as it was determined to work on any major components of electrical appliances in order to grow the company. The company maintains and cherishes its attitude towards product development, believing that everything can be customized to meet the demands of customers, and this has undoubtedly driven the company to claim its position as a global leader in the inverter business. In addition, by facing these numerous challenges head-on, the company has successfully achieved a number of world firsts: 
1974    World’s first transistor inverter, VS-616T
1979    World’s first vector control transistor inverter, VS-626TV
1985    World’s first digital control, VS-616HII
1988    World’s first low noise inverter (made possible by the development of the world’s first insulated gate bipolar transistor), VS-616GIILN
1995    World’s first vector control inverter, VS-616G5
2007    World’s first matrix converter, Varispeed AC

In 2015, the company announced that it would revamp its inverter series, acknowledging the current rapid pace of technological change, and allowing it to address the needs of clients more effectively. The company will sequentially release general-purpose industrial inverters, alongside high value-added inverters which are specialized for specific applications. The new series of inverters are designed to be versatile, easy to use, and be manufactured to high safety standards. In April 2016, the company released the first of the new series, the GA700 industrial general-purpose inverters.

Establishing the World Standard of the Next Century

In 2015, Yaskawa Electric celebrated its 100th anniversary and announced its corporate vision, entitled “Vision 2025 ,” a 10-year plan of corporate development with a view to the next 100 years. The business areas of mechatronics, humatronics, and clean power constitute the three pillars of Vision 2025, signifying that the company aims to further strengthen its current core business of mechatronics through cutting edge products for industrial automation, while also expanding into the medical appliance, social welfare, and energy markets with new products and innovations.
In June of the same year, Yaskawa Electric opened its newly renovated headquarters campus, the Robot Village. The Robot Village consists of the head office building, factory facilities, a company museum, a park for relaxation, and a cafeteria, and parts of it are open to the public. It was built to convey the joy and wonder of creative manufacturing to the public, and represents how citizens and industries can work together to create a future which promotes the manufacture of robots and their integration with society, and a future in which creative manufacturing is highly valued.

From the introduction of mechatronics to the establishment of numerous international standards, Yaskawa Electric has played a part in changing how we live our daily lives for over a hundred years; a hundred years in the future, we expect that the company will continue to improve our descendants’ quality of life through the forward-thinking innovation that it is known for today.

26 September, 2016

About the author
Hiromi Jitsukata is a reporter for Japanest NIPPON
Σ-7 AC Servo Drive Series
“seven ultimate e-motional solutions”
1.Ultimate System Performance: improved
system performance and speed.
2.Ultimate Ease of Use: stable operation can
be achieved without tuning the servo, thanks
to an evolved form of Yaskawa’s original “tuning-
less function”.
3.Ultimate Environmental Performance:
ability to withstand harsh conditions, improved
waterproofing, and easy to set up in locations all over the world.
4.Ultimate Safety and Security: complies with
safety integrity level 3 of IEC 61508, a standard
set by the International Electrotechnical
5.Ultimate Support: easy to maintain and
obtain product management information through
a smartphone app, cloud-based data storage,
and QR codes.
6.Ultimate Lineup: highly customizable
through a wide variety of supported
communications networks and available
components, including those from partner
7.Ultimate Compatibility: easily
interchangeable with earlier models.
GA700 Inverters
•Can be used with various types of motors
without any loss of performance.
•The new maximum torque per ampere (MTPA)
control method, which follows the point
of minimum current corresponding to
different loads, maximizes motor
efficiency and contributes to greater
energy efficiency.
•Functions of peripheral appliances are
incorporated within the inverter which
helps to reduce the physical footprint
of the inverter, cable clutter, and the
required labor, and ultimately lowers the
initial investment costs.
•A wide range of network interface cards
for major industrial networks is
available, making the inverters
compatible with the Internet of Things
(IoT) and various data monitoring
•A programming tool is installed, allowing
for easy customization of the inverter
through drag-and-drop operations on a
Easy to use
•A completely redesigned keypad and a
conversational wizard help function
significantly reduce the setup time and
•Smartphone apps and computer-based support
tools allow for quick adjustments and
•Complies with international standards and is
designed for use in various countries and
•Several functions are installed which allow the
modules to respond appropriately to sudden
power failures.
•Built to last, and the units are installed with
a life expectancy prediction function which
accurately diagnoses when to service or replace
consumable components.
•Heat generation is kept to a minimum through
the effective use of regenerative energy.