What are important trends in automation and motion control?
A key direction in machine design is modular machine concepts where OEMs are utilizing autonomous solutions and modules that can be configured to create custom automation solutions. Multi-functional controllers are providing comprehensive control solutions that handle and perform tasks from a drive perspective, motion controller, PLC and HMI. Advances in mechatronics is offering tighter control of motion while reducing wear and tear on the machine and providing greater flexibility in machine design.
What technologies are impacting applications?
Key technologies on the front edge include Ethernet-based architectures, embedded safety and bus configurations and designs for power modules that eliminate the fuse block or quick disconnect by integrating it into the drive package. Increases in processing performance and more sophisticated software advances are enabling the modular machine concepts and PLM software from CAD-assisted drawings is also being translated down to the mechatronics of the machine. But the biggest impact driving new designs is modular machine concepts which enable the OEM to take the flexibility in their code design to build reusable control modules.
What industries and machinery applications are targets for motion technologies?
Packaging and material handling are areas aiming to be more flexible and creative with motion control and medical devices are an important area of growth. High-speed packaging product assembly and post-printing/converting all demand high- speed controls and coordinated drives. Packaging OEMs are primarily using off-the-shelf technology to avoid islands of robotic control using a different control solution and architecture.
What are key concerns for OEMs?
Flexibility, ease of use and enhanced capabilities are concerns for machinery OEMs along with machine modularity, reusable design, safety, accessibility and IP protection. Ease of use is a key factor influencing time-to-market and creating solutions that are both high-performance and easy for engineers to learn. Application-specific solutions provide configuration wizards and auto-tuning tools that reduce design and commissioning time. OEMs are protecting intellectual property by encapsulating functions and coding expertise into software objects that can be used with ladder logic or sequential function charts.
What software trends are affecting applications?
User-defined function blocks, the ability for customers to use mixed programming environments and standard PLCopen programming instructions are software trends. Customers are using a single programming environment for the entire machine, with the same “look and feel” for multiple projects including tag databases, common instruction sets and HMI programming integrated with machine components. Built-in Web servers allow the machine to report critical drive data for remote monitoring and troubleshooting.
What potential technology developments will impact future applications?
If you look at Ethernet-based networking over the past few years, some OEMs have gained a significant speed advantage without redesigning their control systems. Ethernet will continue to expand its role in machine/motion networking. At this point, there are many ways to synchronize command information on these networks and some require more intelligence in the drive. New challenges will involve machine-centric design decisions that focus on motion controls and drives that also perform auxiliary logic. Strategic decisions on what approach to take for high-speed motion networking is important as OEMs move into the future.