Bob Percell, president of CAMotion, wants to put motion control within the reach of manufacturing processes that involve repetitive operations, but don't need expensive robotics. The company is using software algorithms developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology as the foundation of a motion-control system that will help manufacturers reduce labor involved with routine-inspection and material-handling tasks. Two types of algorithms are used in the CAMotion software. The first is a vibration-control algorithm that plans the robotic-axis trajectory. By damping out vibration, it allows use of lighter and less-expensive components. A learning algorithm helps the equipment improve its own performance. "Once the machine makes the moves through about five iterations, it learns the open loop, gets more accurate, and reduces the dynamic error by a factor of ten," says Purcell. The software also combines machine vision, encoders, and accelerometers for helping the system know its own location relative to the work. Percell says that software combined with smaller components can reduce automation costs from 10 to 30% in many applications.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.