The editors of Design News recently held their editorial planning meeting for 2011. One of the important technology advances noted in our discussion was the trend toward what is often referred to as smart motion in systems design. In most references to smart motion, the integration of technologies usually involve some combination of drives, controllers, sensors, actuators and, of course, the networks that connect them.
So when I received notice of ABB’s recent combination of a PLC and robot controller, it certainly helped justify some of the decisions we made about editorial coverage planned for 2011.
In ABB’s announcement, the company notes the introduction of a single-unit integrated PLC and robot controller for robot cell applications. The unit combines ABB’s AC500 PLC with its IRC5 robot controller. According to ABB, this integrated unit eliminates the cost and space of a separate PLC cabinet and reduces the time associated with the set-up and operation of robotic production cells.
With the capability to contain up to three local I/O boards plus bus communications for remote I/Os, the integrated controller can reportedly provide a single point of control for a range of production cell functions, including peripheral production equipment such as grippers, feeders and ancillary machines. The unit was also designed with flexible communication options, as standards such as DeviceNet, Profibus DP, CANopen and Modbus TCP are supported, as well as wireless communications.
An added benefit for integrators or OEMs considering this integrated unit is its unified development environment which includes all six IEC61131-3 programming languages and tools for configuration, debugging and visualization.
With this unit now available, it will be interesting to see how other suppliers approach this trend toward smart motion control.