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Made by Monkeys

Servo Woes Fired Up the Machine

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Cadman-LT
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Platinum
Fixing a mistake
Cadman-LT   11/5/2012 2:28:59 PM
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It always seems like no company wants to admit to, or even correct their mistake. Not a good thing.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Taking a year for a correction
Rob Spiegel   11/5/2012 2:30:35 PM
Given the potential liability that comes with a machine that catches fire, it's surprising that it took the drive company a year to deliver a complete solution. I would guess they lost some customers along the way.

Larry M
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Fixing a mistake
Larry M   11/5/2012 3:14:13 PM
Cadman-LT wrote: "It always seems like no company wants to admit to, or even correct their mistake. Not a good thing."

Well, stonewalling usually seems to occur on software and hardware products that have been in production for a long time. The original engineers and designers who understand the design have long since moved on, and the product engineering group is afraid to change anything. They will dig their heels in on the most trivial things to avoid making a change.

Notice that in this instance they wouldn't waive the unncessary resistor or accept the need for change when the multiple-button-press problem was found. Once you get attuned to looking for this behavior you will see it everywhere. <sigh>

Larry M
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Fixing a mistake
Larry M   11/5/2012 3:14:42 PM
Cadman-LT wrote: "It always seems like no company wants to admit to, or even correct their mistake. Not a good thing."

Well, stonewalling usually seems to occur on software and hardware products that have been in production for a long time. The original engineers and designers who understand the design have long since moved on, and the product engineering group is afraid to change anything. They will dig their heels in on the most trivial things to avoid making a change.

Notice that in this instance they wouldn't waive the unncessary resistor or accept the need for change when the multiple-button-press problem was found. Once you get attuned to looking for this behavior you will see it everywhere.

OLD_CURMUDGEON
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Taking a year for a correction
OLD_CURMUDGEON   11/5/2012 3:15:25 PM
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It's too bad that the folks who provide these tales don't mention offending companies by name so the rest of us out here in the real world will have some precautionary "ammunition" to avoid them.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Taking a year for a correction
Rob Spiegel   11/5/2012 4:33:32 PM
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Hi Old_Curmudgeon. Many of our Made by Monkeys and Sherlock Ohms postings do identify the offending companies. This is especially true with the postings about cars. Sometimes brands are not mentioned because the blogger is concerned about the posting being libelous.

warren@fourward.com
User Rank
Platinum
Putting off the fix
warren@fourward.com   11/5/2012 7:39:38 PM
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As we engineers all know, we hate to find out we did something stupid or sloppy- or that something just slipped past us.  But I bet when the design engineers at the company found out what had happened, they were sure anxious to fix it.  But management, who is mostly interested in bottom lines and not quality, probably just tried to sweep it under the rug by offering a few cheap parts as a solution.  It is shame to ruin a reputation over something that could potentially cause a fire or injury and REALLY cost money in the long or short run.  Shame on them taking a year!  (I'm a Texan so I have to add "Bless their hearts.")

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
The behavior is by design
TJ McDermott   11/6/2012 12:16:22 AM
If the capacitors do not discharge through the regen resistor, the drive stands a good chance of blowing those capacitors by overcharging them through too-rapid e-stop power-cycling.

A number of drive manufacturers state in their operations manuals that drives should not be power cycled more than once a minute.

Dumping the DC bus through the resistor is a good way to have numerous power cycles in a short period of time.  If the resistor got that hot, it might be undersized for drive, even if the packaging machine doesn't normally use it.  A large regen resistor is normally protected by a large perforated metal enclosure, not plastic.

 

GeorgeG
User Rank
Platinum
Re: The behavior is by design
GeorgeG   11/6/2012 9:40:59 AM
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Been there, done that. Often, the root cause of this problem is that the safety logic power of the drive is not separately powered from the control power - consequently, its safety logic is flawed. Quite a few drives have this particular feature but quite a few more don't even have an emergency stopping capability with or without an external braking resistor and some have an internal resistor which is adequate for normal operation but burns up during an E-Stop if a correctly sized external resistor is not connected. When you talk to drive manufacturers about functional safety issues, they will often tell you that they are only responsible for electrical safety and that the machine builder is responsible for functional safety, although there is only so much that you can do external to the drive. One big name vendor supplies an add-on  E-Stopping solution which overheats  motor windings necessitating a delayed restart to avoid cooking the motor. Even many drives with a certification, prove to be not certified to machinery or robotic standards, which is more than a little problem. While most machine safety standards require control voltages to be reduced to a nominally safe level after a brief period of time (see EN 60204-1 or NFPA 79), quite a few drives don't do this. In this case, which is not uncommon, the drive manufacturer implements a bargain basement solution. I'm sure most integrators are familiar with reset timers - this makes the servo drive happy ... the end user, not so much. Also, since everything in the control cabinet is supposed to have IP2x or IPxxb enclosure, it's surprising how many drive manufacturers do not supply properly enclosed resistors, as in this case. Obviously, a custom built enclosure is going to be questionable and more expensive than a commercial solution. But there are a few good guys in the business who manage category 1 stops sensibly and who provide properly sized and packaged regen and braking resistors. BTW, any power device should be packaged in materials with a good UL 94 or equivalent flammability rating (this should have been a routine design check).            

GeorgeG
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Taking a year for a correction
GeorgeG   11/6/2012 10:17:57 AM
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That's a prudent policy. Integrators frequently have to employ controls solutions imposed by their customers or even their own supply chain. One must tread very lightly. Also, major suppliers have a mix of good and not so good product. And it's not just drive manufacturers that can be delinquent. The fact that a certifying body will approve products that have functional safety deficiencies is also an issue. Ideally, integrators should be able to select approved product and have no worries assuming they follow the manufacturers instructions but, with servo drives, that is far from the case. One must always RTFM (at least twice). When the problem is systemic, few suppliers want to step up. Based on experience, I'd say truly safe stopping adds approximately $125 to the cost of a servo drive - seems expensive until OSHA catches up with you. However, users aren't entirely blameless: a careful reading of NFPA 70 & 79 and EN 60204-1 will provide good instruction in providing proper and sufficient protection for  motors and drives. Of course, in this specific instance, the user did not follow the supplier's instructions exactly (vis 45 second delay) and executed an incomplete risk analysis (vis prevention of restart and use of flammabile materials in controlgear).

Note, the use of transparent finger guards may be a necessary evil: it is a requirement that identification of devices and terminals by clearly visible and also a requirement that terminals and devices be touch safe. Metal covers typically require duplication of marking and must be polarized so that they can't be installed improperly and must be properly grounded.  Transparent materials have  obvious advantages; however, one must choose the correct material with adequate temperature tolerance and fire retardent properties (these should be standard check boxes in the annotated BOM).                                

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