LINcast U.S. Episode 4: Trends in Outdoor Power Equipment

What impact is electric linear motion having on the outdoor power equipment space? LINcast host Gabe Duverge is joined by Shaun Johnson, Engineering Manager at ELI Holdings Inc of Louisville, and Dave Moorman, Sales Manager for LINAK U.S. The group recorded live at GIE 2018, discussing the latest trends and advancements in outdoor power equipment.

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Full Transcript

Gabe:                  Hi, and welcome to another episode of The LINcast. I'm your host, Gabe Duverge. And I'm recording live to you from the GIE Expo in Louisville, Kentucky. On today's episode we have two guests, one who you've met before. Our first guest is Dave Moorman, who is the Off Highway Application Manager for LINAK US. Dave, thanks for coming in today.

Dave:               Thanks, Gabe, for having me.

Gabe:                  And our second guest is new to the LINcast. It's Shaun Johnson, and Shaun is the Engineering Manager for ELI Incorporated. Shaun, we appreciate you taking time out to appear on the podcast.

Shaun:                Gabe, I appreciate you having me here. Thank you very much.

Gabe:                  And Shaun, could you give us a little bit of your background, and let us know how you got into the outdoor power equipment industry?

Shaun:                Sure. We started all the way back in the 80s in industrial controls, and moved onto embedded systems that put is in the heavy truck industry and off-road, and slowly we moved into outdoor power equipment. We found out that the same requirements for the off-road stuff and the outdoor power equipment are similar. Same voltages, same conditions, and we've kind of been going forward from there as much as we can.

Gabe:                  That sounds great. It's awesome. We appreciate having you on yet again. So, as I mentioned, we're recording here live from the LINAK booth from the GIE Expo in Louisville, Kentucky. And, guys, this is day two of the show, so you've had a day to look around the show floor, take a look at what's new, the booths, et cetera. So give us sort of a breakdown for all the listeners who weren't able to come. What are three of the trends that you guys are noticing around this show floor?

Dave:               Gabe, one thing that Shaun and I discussed ... Really, it comes down to three points: Electrification, ergonomics, and control and data. That last one kind of goes together. We've noticed for the last three years at this show that electrification has become more and more accepted, and for a lot of reasons. We've also noticed that ergonomics are a key factor as it relates to demographics and the aging population in our country. And controls and data are another aspect. To be honest with you, Shaun has a little bit more influence on that than I do.

Shaun:                I've seen a lot of the electrification. A lot of people going to battery power. That allows them to be green, a little more user friendly, better serviceability, and once they have the battery power, they can add a lot of options and extra controls without any added expense.

Dave:               Some of the control aspects of this is we've typically run our actuators with just simple switches, but now there's displays on this equipment. Much of its going CAN bus, and we can do many things that hydraulic cylinder or manual control can't do. It also helps for repetitive injuries and so forth in some of these industries, because much of the lawn and garden industry, especially the commercial, have people on mowers many hours a day, and so anything that can make the job less stressful and less repetitive injury are things that people are interested in.

Gabe:                  That sounds great. That sounds really interesting. Are there any kind of specific applications, examples that you guys have noticed on the floor that really tie into these innovative trends?

Dave:               For one, we've seen applications for ... Some of them are on what we call rate and gate applications. These applications where people are wanting to spread fertilizers or seed, and LINAK's had a long history in that, both in Europe and here in the US. And we've seen that. Shaun's helped us with some controls on some of those.

Shaun:                Yeah. With the LINAK actuators, there's already feedback built in and positioning, and makes it easy to have process control to ... Different products that allow the end user to concentrate on the job and let some of other extraneous parts take place on their own, be more autonomous, and more consistent in what they're doing.

Dave:               Another aspect of this is control of lifting decks. Things such as lifting decks on mowers. This has been done manually on the ZTR market for many years. Shaun was very helpful in working with us with a customer here that just introduced to me a mower called the Mean Green, and their new ergo model was just introduced yesterday. And it has our LA36 and ELI controls on it for deck height. And it has some interesting features.

Shaun:                They get a quarter inch resolution and change the deck height by a quarter inch at a time, and if it's time to load the unit onto the trailer, they can lift the deck all the way up, and when they come back down, it automatically stops the previous mowing height. They can change mowing height between customers without any hassle, without moving, without wearing out a leg. Some of these decks weigh a couple hundred pounds, and it's difficult for people to move them.

Dave:               And that goes back to the demographic issue we've seen with both older operators and women, and as you walk through this show, you see a lot of women in this industry, especially in the United States. We mow a lot of grass, and many women are on ZTR mowers, and have a really tough time lifting some of these decks. So we see that as a trend that, going forward, LINAK can be a big help with. Our LA36, which is built right here in Louisville, we think is going to be a real flagship actuator for us in this market.

Gabe:                  Yeah, and I'm glad you brought up LINAK there, Dave, and specifically your two companies respectively. What are the kinds of solutions specifically that you guys think you could offer to kind of go along with these trends that you're noticing?

Dave:               One thing, we've had a full application staff here at the show, and we've had a number of customers come in, and asking about different applications. And mainly it's lifting, working away from repetitive injury, and better control because people are also wanting to understand the control and data aspect of that, from knowing what the duty cycle is, how many times it's gone up and down, how many hours it's operated.

Shaun:                Yeah, and then with the built in feedback systems, you can use the electronics and give precise control, repeatability, keep track of all that information. And the end user can go back to the machinery owner. They know how well things are being used, how often they're being used. Know that they get their money's worth out of their final product.

Gabe:                  That all sounds great. Really interesting stuff, guys. Before we go, is there any last things, anything we haven't talked about that you've noticed here on the show that you think would be interesting?

Dave:               One thing. That I think the internal combustion engine is under a little bit of stress, I would say. We see this industry going much greener in the next five years. We've seen lithium batteries. Shaun and I both believe that solid state storage will change this industry, and in a few years, we're going to see much smaller engines if you see an engine at all.

Shaun:                And we're seeing a lot of AI-type autonomous equipment this year. It used to be once in a while you'd see a Roomba-style lawn mower. Now I've seen four or five manufacturers with them out. There's remote control large mowers. It seems like they're trying to get the operator out of it as much as possible, and I think either way it's going, it's going to happen soon enough.

Dave:               I would agree with that. The other thing I should point out ... Here at LINAK, we're working diligently. Obviously, our actuators work at 12, 24, and 36 volt. We'll soon introduce full 48 volt CAN bus early next year, and we see a number of opportunities for that actuator. Shaun and I have been working and see a number of applications that will move that way.

Gabe:                  I want to thank both Dave and Shaun for joining us today. I appreciate it, guys.

Shaun:                Gabe, thanks for having me.

Dave:               Yeah, thank you, Gabe. It's been very helpful.

Gabe:                  As always, if you're interested in more topics related to linear motion, please listen to our other episodes of the LINcast, or you can visit our website at LINAK-US.com/podcasts. I want to thank everyone for listening in today, and have a good one.

 

About Shaun Johnson

Shaun Johnson is the Engineering Manager at ELI Holdings Inc of Louisville, KY., specializing in custom embedded solutions for process and motion control. After working in the family business wiring industrial control panels from the age of 14, he earned his BS in Electrical Engineering and Masters of Engineering from the University of Louisville. With 18 years of engineering experience designing custom controls for industrial applications, off-road heavy equipment, laboratory use and outdoor power equipment, he continues to help provide customers with turn-key solutions from development through manufacturing.   

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