Judging from last week’s IMTS Show, machine tool controllers have made strides not just in performance but also in their ease-of-use and flexibility. “Speed is always important, but there has also been big thrust around simplicity,” says J. Manjunathaiah, vice president and general manager of Infimatic, MAG Industrial Automation Systems’ controls subsidiary. That simplicity means a renewed focus on scaleability, modularity, operator interface design and ease-of-use functionality. Increasingly, it also means a reliance on distributed I/O and real-time control communications over Ethernet. As Manjunathaiah explains, Ethernet provides a single physical network for real-time and less critical communications data. “What we love about Ethernet is that it can save a significant amount of wiring and installation cost,” he says. Here’s a closer look some of the other modular, Ethernet-friendly control solutions from the show:
Siemens Launches Ethernet-capable Control Platform
The new SINUMERIK CNC platform from Siemens Energy & Automation features a network-centric, open architecture that eases communications between machine tools, drives and related manufacturing systems. The new platform consists of panel-based SINUMERIK 802D sl, the PC-based SINUMERIK 840Di sl and the flagship SINUMERIK 840D sl with panel- and PC-based versions. The platform supports real-time machine tool communications over industrial Ethernet, PROFINET in this case. For those who still prefer PROFIBUS, the system support that too. And for the first time in its machine tool controllers, Siemens has employed “thin client technology,” allowing the creation of many types of operator interface concepts on panel displays that have no hard disk, battery or fan. SINUMERIK also includes a drives communications system, called “DRIVE-CLiQ”, which provides fast recognition of drives and motors via the electronic name plate.
Infimatic Goes Modular
With a modular architecture that lets users match a variety of application needs and price points, Infimatic’s Freedom NC 200 offers a wide choice in control applications–from general milling and drilling to high-speed machining and data-intensive die/mold processing. “All are field upgradeable through the installation of modules as application requirements evolve,” says J. Manjunathaiah, vice president and general manager of Infimatic. Freedom NC 200 controls up to nine axes, five of which can be simultaneously interpolated. The system also marks Infimatic’s migration to Ethernet Powerlink, which not only boosts bandwidth and performance but also paves the way for integrated safety, Manjunathaiah reports. Freedom NC offers a variety of features intended to speed set-up and maintenance. Its ServoScan functionality, for example, automatically brings in critical servo control parameters and data upon power up. Other ease-of-use features include a color-coded NC editor called Vericode and control-resident shop-floor-programming via GibbsCAM SFP.
Bosch Rexroth’s Automation Controller
Bosch Rexroth Electric Drives & Controls used IMTS as an opportunity to roll out its most capable rack-based programmable automation controller to date. Called the IndraLogic L-65, this PAC ups the ante on speed and I/O capabilities. With a typical processing time of 20 µs per 1,000 instructions, it’s about twice fast as the company’s previous L-40 controller, reports Dan Throne, the company’s sales & marketing manager. What’s more, the L-65 supports a real-time, motion-capable Ethernet variants like SERCOS III and PROFINET as well as a variety of other communications protocols. In terms of its I/O range, the L-65 has has eight digital inputs and eight digital outputs onboard and support up to 512 local I/O. The system’s speed and I/O capabilities, and ability to integrate the company’s MLC motion logic functionality, make it well-suited to a variety of control applications in machine tools and other types of production equipment. Take robotics, for example. Like its predecessors, the L-65 can ship with 100 built-in robot kinematics, but can control more robots at a given time. According to Throne, a single L-65 can run up to 14 Delta-style, four-axis robots while the L-40 could control only one at a time. “The L-65 is a lot like our previous PACs, only a lot more powerful,” says Throne.