The overriding trend in automation control is solutions that combine motion controllers, drives, PLCs and HMIs into more and more tightly integrated product offerings. The drive to lower cost solutions, smaller footprint products and reducing the system engineering content for motion applications is the fuel powering product innovation.
Development and introductions, including both integrated motors and bundled control solutions, is accelerating. Traditional lines between distinct hardware components for motion control, PLCs, HMIs and general purpose I/O are going away as new hardware/software solutions take center stage.
Robert Bigler, founder and CEO of Animatics, invented the integrated servo and his company holds a patent for closed loop integrated motor technology. “As recently as the late 1990s, integrated servos were rejected by the mainstream,” Bigler says. “There were insurmountable concerns about electrical heat and noise.”
He says when his company sold its first integrated servos, it could demonstrate the technology to engineers, but couldn't convince them on reliability issues. Even though integrated products offered significant cost advantages, doubts dampened acceptance and the product category moved ahead, but not at the pace it might have.
Bigler says as more and more players entered the market and people have used the products, growth has followed on an exponential curve. “Everyone knows someone who has had success with an integrated servo,” he says.
The products continued to improve but, after the first year, Bigler says reliability was never really an issue. Now, there is a move for a larger group of suppliers to provide a greater variety of solutions including IP-65 protection, higher resolution encoders, higher performance, torque density and lower cost solutions.
Power and Performance
“The trend for integrated motion is more power, performance, larger numbers of axes and scalable systems,” says Rami Al-Ashqar, product manager for Bosch-Rexroth Corp. He says there is a primary focus on cost, smaller footprint products and solutions that “put motion control in the HMI, motion control in drives and motion control into the motors themselves.”
Al-Ashqar says increases in processing power and distributed intelligence, which spreads software tasks throughout a system for processing rather than handling most functions at a centralized motion controller or PLC, has boosted system performance.
He says a big change in the last several years, and a continuing trend into the future, is the variety of available system configurations. Rack-based and drive-based control solutions continue to offer unique architectural advantages, but the overriding trend is toward “all-in-one” modular system solutions that address motion, logic control, HMI and factory networking needs.
“One area where we see interest is the PLC and motion control in the HMI,” Al-Ashqar says. One area where some engineers are still skeptical is the use of Soft PLCs in these systems, but the emergence of Flash technology in drive-based systems is causing customers to re-think these concerns.
What is certain is there will continue to be a rush of new products and software as companies seek solutions that best match up with their automation control needs.
All-in-One Motion Products
The trend toward integrated motion control solutions is resulting in a wide variety of products with one aim: simplifying creating motion applications. Products and software solutions come in many shapes and sizes and in an array of configurations that encompass motion controllers, drives, feedback, PLCs, I/O and HMIs. Below is a sampling of current product and technologies that offer integrated motion/automation control solutions.
New Ethernet Powerlink Motionbus System
Parker's Electromechanical Automation Division has released new Ethernet Powerlink-enabled products including a line of multi-axis controllers and three power levels of the Aries servo drives.
Powerlink is a high-speed, digital motion-bus solution for connecting a motion controller with multiple drives and I/O using standard Ethernet hardware. It combines the high performance of centralized motion control with the lower costs of decentralized machine architectures. Design and machine installation is simplified by utilizing readily available Ethernet cables to replace traditional analog control and feedback cables.
To support the release, Parker's ACR-View Software Development Kit has been upgraded into an integrated programming environment used to configure and program the entire EPL system including controller, drives and I/O. This project-development suite assists users with programming, debugging and commissioning applications.
The company plans to release additional EPL products, including the entire range of Compax3 servo drives, later this year.
Stepper Control in I/O Node
WAGO announced two new motion control modules for its I/O system family of products. The modules provide stepper motor control of two-phase stepper motors or stepper drives via pulse/direction interface.
“Integrating stepper motor control into the fieldbus node eliminates the need for stand-alone stepper controllers,” says Mark DeCramer, product manager for WAGO.
A 750-670 module provides universal pulse and direction output signals (RS422, 24V dc or 20 mA) to stepper drives from a variety of manufacturers. The 750-671 modules offer an embedded driver for stepper motors up to 1.5A at 24V dc. Both are packaged in a compact, 12 mm-wide, DIN rail mount housing and are compatible with the company's 750 and 753 Series bus-couplers, controllers and I/O modules.
Quick implementation is achieved using a function block and two configurable digital inputs. Other key features include LED status indication and adjustable acceleration profiles; as well as support for common stepper modes like positioning, referencing, jog/inch and profile sequencing.
Complete Machine Control in a Drive
SIMOTION D from Siemens Production Machines is a compact solution combining drive control, motion control and PLC logic in a single unit to control an entire machine.
In addition to drive control (servo, vector and VHz), coordinated motion and logic control, the SIMOTION D drives also handle other technology requirements like temperature, force and pressure control. With a flexible DRIVE-CliQ backplane, drive components may be separated (rectifier, inverter and encoder) by up to 100 yards. Users also get the advantages of plug-and-play functionality with automatic component recognition. SIMOTION D is ideal for the power and flexibility of Ethernet for engineering, motion control, distributed IO, plus HMI or open socket TCP/IP communication with PROFINET. It also uses a simple motion programming environment and can be effectively configured using a PLCOpen function block.
Applications range from single axes to high-performance multi-axis machines. SIMOTION D has two PROFIBUS interfaces with PROFIdrive, as well as two Ethernet interfaces. A PROFINET interface is available as an option.
Highly Integrated, 7 Amp Microstepping Driver
Intelligent Motion Systems has introduced a new microstepping driver delivering a high per-phase output current of 7 Amps Peak, 5 Amps RMS. An optional programmable motion controller or variable speed controller results in a compact, enclosed package with integrated heat sink and pluggable locking connectors.
MForce PowerDrive offers designers a solution with a broad input voltage range of +12 to +75V dc. The microstepping driver accepts up to 20 resolution settings from full to 256 microsteps per full step and CANopen communications is optional. The high 7 Amps Peak per phase output current of the MForce PowerDrive will control an array of motors from size 23 to 42 and an extended operating temperature range of –40 to +85C provides reliable service in demanding environments. Interface cables are available to speed prototyping, parameter setup and configuration.
Units used for motion control applications communicate over RS-422/485 which allows for point-to-point or multiple unit configurations utilizing one communication port.
SimplIQ Servo Technology in Duet Series Servo Motors
Elmo Motion Control Inc. announced the integration of its SimplIQ core servo technology with plug-and-play capabilities with its Duet series of brushless dc servo motors.
By incorporating the proprietary SimplIQ technology, the Duet supports resolver feedback, programming capabilities, communication protocols and creates a fully digital motion controller featuring current, velocity and position loops. CANopen support in the motor provides users with the flexibility to add axes to the system by using the company's Composer software. The Composer also allows for fast and easy configuration, testing and tuning by communicating via CANopen or RS-232.
Since the main components are built into the motor, the system is highly compact and provides a space-saving solution. The motor requires fewer and shorter cables and can be used to create simpler machine layouts. The Duet is available in six different models with power ranging from .16 Nm (22.7 oz-in) to 2.5 Nm (354 oz-in) within a voltage range of 10 to 96V dc.
EtherCAT Servo Drives Utilize Ultra-fast Network
Two new EtherCAT-compatible Accelnet servo drives from Copley Controls deliver 18A and 36A peak respectively, for centralized control of multi-axis automation.
The new drives, AEP-90-18 and AEP-90-36, drive brushless and brush motors and run on 20 - 90V dc power. Adding EtherCAT compatibility to Accelnet drives provides speed and operating modes including torque, velocity, trajectory tracking, point-to-point and homing. Multiple choices for encoder feedback include Endat 2.2, Hiperface, incremental and analog encoders.
Copley supports the drives with software tools that capitalize on the CAN-open DSP-402 device profile of EtherCAT. All network management is taken care of automatically by a few simple commands.
Two levels of development environments include Copley Motion Libraries (CML) that link into a C++ application program or Copley Motion Objects (CMO) which are COM compatible objects for use in Visual Basic, NET and LabVIEW. A Java-based drive configuration environment provides auto tuning and makes system setup and commissioning fast and simple.
Scalable Motion Control for Electrohydraulics
Bosch Rexroth's new HNC100-3x® scalable controller expands the range of application of its electrohydraulic control family. Controlling up to four electrohydraulic axes, increased computing power significantly shortens scan rates and users can simply transfer HNC programs to the new platform.
The HNC100-3x offers modularity, flexibility and offers a compact architecture that makes installation easier and saves control cabinet space. Bosch Rexroth has coupled this reduced size with improved performance to handle more complex tasks.
The unit offers true axis synchronization. Open- and closed-loop control algorithms specifically tailored for hydraulics improve the performance of electrohydraulic drives. In addition, increased computing power shortens scan rates. Up to 11 freely configurable digital I/Os increase flexibility because the user can program the sequence via a PC using the WIN-PED software.
Each HNC100 features CAN-bus, which can be used to link individual drives for general data exchange or for implementing synchronization controls, resulting in a scalable automation concept using modular principles.
EPOS 24/1 Position Controller
Maxon's EPOS 24/1 is a digital motion controller capable of position, velocity and current modes, and provides sophisticated control in a miniature package. Available in two versions for brushed or brushless motors, the small package provides an option for controlling small motors. Communication is via RS-232 or CANopen. Software for CANopen and Windows DLL's is complimentary.
Requiring a supply voltage of 9-24V dc, the controller is capable of 1A max continuous current and 2A peak current. Efficiency is up to 85 percent. A 50 kHz switching frequency and built-in choke insures compatibility with most low inductance motors, while sinusoidal commutation for brushless motors provides minimal torque ripple and low noise. Maximum motor speed is 25,000 rpm for 2-pole motors.
Multi-axis Motion Controllers with Integrated Digital Drives
SPiiPlus motion controllers and control modules from ACS Motion Control combine a programmable motion controller, power supply and up to three digital drives into a single standalone package. Each integrated digital drive is software configurable for ac servo/dc brushless or dc brush motors. By implementing an HSSI network, together with dc brush or external stepper (indexer) drives and motors, the number of controlled axes can be increased to eight.
The SPiiPlus CM can operate standalone or connect to a host computer. RS-232 and RS-232/422 are supported, as well as Ethernet 10/100 BaseT. The controller features a versatile implementation of general purpose I/Os. Digital inputs can be used for hardware-based position registration and digital outputs can trigger position-based events with sub-microsecond delays.
Compact Rotor Design Offers More Torque Same Package
The latest release of Animatics' OEM Series SmartMotors, the SM2315DT, features an innovated new 8-pole compact rotor design with higher copper filling factor compared to conventional techniques. The new design achieves a higher energy density, as well as better efficiency, which results in more torque capacity in the same physical package size.
Using the company's patented design, SmartMotors incorporate a servo motor, amplifier and motion controller into the same integral frame. The new unit is unique because it delivers as much as 112 oz-in of peak torque while maintaining as much as 57 oz-in of continuous torque with a maximum speed capability of 4,700 rpm.
SNAP PAC Motion Control Subsystem
The SNAP motion control subsystem from Opto 22 offers a development platform for applications that require motion control along with analog, digital and serial control.
By combining motion control with process control, sequential logic, string and data handling, math and networking in a single PAC system, the unit offers multi-domain functionality. By integrating motion control commands into the Opto 22 PAC Control™ programming environment, users can continue to use a single development environment to address control, motion, data acquisition and monitoring applications.
Integrated Motion and Machine Controllers
The BX-300 from Berkeley Process Control is the latest enhancement in a series of integrated motion and machine controllers employed in applications as diverse as semiconductor fabrication and nuclear medicine. Just 300 mm (12 inch) x 200 mm (8 inch) in size, the BX-300 is an all-in-one, pre-integrated hardware and software platform for motion and machine control.
One BX-300 provides eight axes of motion control and six internal servo drives. Built-in drives support brushed and brushless servo motors, including linear motors and supply up to 10 amps of continuous motor drive current.
A single cable provides both power and feedback motor connections for each axis. I/O is interfaced on a single connector to reduce point-to-point wiring and can be expanded via distributed Ethernet modules.