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[Korean Startup Interview] Faraday Dynamics: “Becoming a Game Changer in the Robotics with High-Performance Servo Motors”

2024-04-04 7 min read


[Korean Startup Interview] Faraday Dynamics: “Becoming a Game Changer in the Robotics with High-Performance Servo Motors”

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Recently, a scene captured the attention of many as a robot developed by the American robotics startup FigureAI handed an apple to a person. The moment when the robot chose an apple from various items on a table in response to a request for food was startlingly innovative, signaling the approach of an era in which robots can understand nearly all human commands. However, one might wonder what is necessary to create robots that are not only intelligent and strong enough to perform tasks efficiently but also capable of controlling themselves in potentially hazardous situations involving humans. The key lies in the development of ‘serve motors,’ the driving force behind robots, which allow for both powerful output and precise control.

The term ‘servo motor’ comes from the Latin word ‘servus,’ which has the same origin as the English word ‘service.’ This implies a motor that dutifully follows commands, where both strong power and precise control are essential features. Nevertheless, most servo motors developed so far have been quick but lacked strength, leading to a design where the motor’s speed is gradually decreased through multiple gears, thereby increasing the power output at the final stage. For example, a motor making 100 rotations per second could be geared down with a 1:10 ratio gear twice, so that the final gear rotates just once but with significantly increased force. This necessitated the use of high-stiffness, high-friction gearboxes, a constant companion to servo motors, which resulted in heavier drive systems and posed risks when motors failed to stop promptly in emergencies, potentially causing harm to humans.

To tackle these challenges, Faraday Dynamics (Faraday), a startup founded in 2019 by Professor Jang Han-deuth from Incheon National University, has been focusing on developing high-density, high-torque servo motors. To boost a motor’s power, one could either increase the current input or enhance the motor’s internal magnetic field. However, increasing current not only drains the battery quickly but also reduces efficiency due to resistance and heat generated by high-voltage currents. Professor Jang chose to fortify the motor’s magnetic force. By using cobalt-iron instead of the usual silicon-iron magnets in the stator and specially arranging neodymium magnets in the rotor, the magnetic flux was significantly strengthened. As a result, Faraday’s servo motors have achieved torque performance that is 4 to 14 times higher than that of global motor companies.

With Faraday’s advancements in servo motor technology, there’s no longer a need for heavy gearboxes to increase force, allowing for lighter robots and longer operational times due to reduced power consumption. Faraday is at the forefront of making robots more accessible to the general public. After several years of servo motor research and development, Faraday attracted seed investments from Postech Holdings, Big Bang Angels, and Kingspring last year, gearing up for the mass production of their servo motors. Faraday was also selected for the Posco Idea Marketplace last year and Samsung Electronics C-Lab Outside in February this year, earning recognition for its technological capabilities.

Professor Jang Han-deuth, who ventured to Osaka University in Japan for his undergraduate and master’s studies immediately after high school, and later completed his Ph.D. in robotics at KAIST in Korea, has always been deeply committed to robot development. Believing that crafting servo motors with substantial torque is crucial for robotics innovation, he has dedicated the past few years to this pursuit with Faraday. As Faraday prepares to mass-produce even more powerful servo motors, the journey of Professor Jang and Faraday towards creating advanced robots is one to watch closely.

What issue is Faraday aiming to address?

Faraday Dynamics focuses on creating servo motors for robot joints, aimed at facilitating the safe coexistence of humans and robots. While many are familiar with motors in applications such as electric cars or blowers, which primarily control speed, motors for robot joint control fall into a special category known as servo motors. These are relatively high-cost, high-performance motors designed for precise control of position, or joint angles.

Traditionally, servo motors have been fitted into industrial robots for precise operations in factories. However, due to their weak strength and high speed, these motors have consistently required the use of a gearbox. Essentially, the gearbox uses its gears to slow down the motor’s speed, enabling it to produce substantial force.

The downside is that robots with gearboxes are more likely to cause injuries to humans in collisions due to the stiffness and friction of the gearboxes. The rigid appearance typically associated with robots is, in many cases, due to the gearboxes. Faraday posits that for robots to safely coexist with humans, they must not only possess flexible joints akin to those of humans but also be capable of generating considerable force. To achieve this, Faraday is dedicated to commercializing high-torque density servo motors that deliver significant force relative to their weight.

How does Faraday propose to solve this challenge?

The strength of a motor is measured in torque, denoted in Nm (Newton-meters), combining force (Newton) and length (meters). Servo motors are designed to produce torque in direct proportion to the electric (current) and magnetic (flux) fields. Consequently, achieving high torque necessitates substantial current and a strong flux. However, excessive current can cause overheating due to the resistance in wires, damaging the insulation and potentially leading to motor failure.

On the other hand, while using a large amount of flux does not cause overheating and is thus advantageous for achieving a stable increase in torque, it requires the enhancement of the magnetic material’s flux—a technically challenging and thus far difficult-to-commercialize process. Our company is poised to introduce and commercialize a new paradigm in servo motors by developing this advanced magnetic material technology.

What competitive edge and technological advantages does Faraday hold?

Faraday’s competitive edge is defined by its ability to produce a higher torque output per unit weight (kg) of the motor (Nm) compared to its competitors. This significant torque output allows for a reduction in the use of high-friction, high-stiffness gearboxes, facilitating the creation of safer robot joints. Moreover, Faraday’s motors are optimized for mobile robots, including wearable and walking robots, thanks to their lightweight design and efficiency.

What does Faraday offer and what is its current status?

Faraday has successfully developed motors across four sizes, ranging from 30mm to 90mm in diameter, and continues to evolve its product line to meet the diverse needs of its clients through sustained R&D investment. Our clientele primarily consists of governmental agencies, universities, and corporate research labs engaged in robot development. Often, these customers come to us after finding that existing products on the market do not meet their requirements in terms of performance or design.

When a pre-existing product does not fulfill a client’s specific needs, we offer customized high-torque density servo motors tailored to their requirements. We are now focused on ramping up production and reducing costs to make a mark in both the domestic and international servo motor markets.

Who are Faraday’s target markets and core customers?

The servo motor market, primarily dominated by developed countries, is valued at around KRW 20 trillion, with the robot market that depends on servo motors estimated at KRW 5 trillion domestically and KRW 70 trillion globally. The main clientele for servo motors includes large corporations and SMEs entering the robot market. Additionally, there’s growing demand for compact, high-torque density motors within the automotive electronics and home appliance sectors, prompting us to consider expanding into markets beyond robotics.

What is Faraday’s business model?

Our model revolves around supplying high-performance, high-torque servo motors to companies in the robotics, electronics, and appliances sectors. As the motor business is fundamentally a manufacturing operation, and because servo motors are intended for specific applications, our success hinges on our ability to produce superior products more cost-effectively, allowing us to offer them at competitive prices compared to existing solutions.

We’re making significant strides in reducing manufacturing costs through streamlined mass production processes, attracting investment for necessary facilities and funding. Our goal is to offer products that outperform expensive imported servo motors at competitive prices.

What achievements has the Faraday team made?

Last year, Faraday was selected for the Posco Idea Marketplace, and this year, we’ve been chosen for the 2024 Samsung Electronics C-Lab Outside, preparing us for collaboration across various sectors. We’ve recently secured seed funding from POSTECH Holdings, Kingspring, and BigBang Angels and plan to participate in the Deep Tech TIPS challenge this year to further develop and commercialize our technology.

Having matured our technology to a significant extent, we are now poised to aggressively market and sell our products to a wider array of research institutions and companies involved in robot development, aiming to expand our market share through proactive sales and marketing efforts.

What is Faraday’s Competitive Edge?

I serve as the CEO of the company while working as a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Incheon National University. It was through my research on robotic actuators that I developed high-torque density servo motors. Recognizing the market demand for such technology led me to venture into entrepreneurship.

My academic journey began at Osaka University in Japan, where I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, followed by a Ph.D. from KAIST in Korea. My research has always been centered around robotics, a focus that continues to this day. The decision to make servo motors for robotic actuation, our primary business offering, was largely influenced by my experiences in Japan. There, I realized the critical role of component industries in manufacturing, particularly after observing the dominance of Japanese companies in the bearings market, which is often seen as the cornerstone of the mechanical industry. This inspired me to position high-performance servo motors as an essential component in the robotics sector, aiming to establish Faraday as a leader in the global servo motor manufacturing landscape. Despite the growth of robotics companies domestically, I believe a strong foundational components industry is essential for producing high-quality products.

We are now nearing the completion of our motor-related technological developments and are actively recruiting for production and manufacturing roles.

Three Reasons Why Investment is Essential:

Firstly, our core business, the servo motor industry, is fundamental to the robotics industry’s future. This sector offers boundless opportunities for growth, making it an invaluable area for investment.

Secondly, Faraday has developed a technology that achieves the highest torque density globally. This capability positions us to take a leading role in the global servo motor market.

Thirdly, the development and manufacturing of servo motors involve highly proprietary technologies, with many aspects kept confidential due to concerns over technological leaks across nations. In a scenario where domestic capabilities to compete on a global scale are virtually nonexistent, the emergence of a servo motor manufacturing company with international-grade technology within Korea is critical. This is necessary not only to prevent technological dependency but also to foster the advancement of the domestic robotics industry.

We warmly welcome the interest and support of potential investors.

[Korean Startup Interview]

스타트업 투자의 숨은 말 '다코스'
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