The new AX-50 and AX-100 motion controllers from Agile Planet can be used with a range of PLC or robotics platforms to provide motion control. Agile designed the controllers to be plug-and-play, and to allow flexibility for robotics and automation components that are installed in a system. (Source: Agile Planet)
This technology sounds very exciting - I particularly like the cross-platform concept if that is what Kapoor means by platform agnostic (sorry, haven't heard that term before). I am wondering about more details in how that is achieved and if there is an "easy-to-use" proprietary software involved that facilitates,
"[Agile controllers] make any hardware that is downstream look the same to the user. An end-user programming it can mix and match servo drives and robotics from different vendors, and they will come across the same."
Yes, Charles, I think that's the real value of this technology. I am surprised there hasn't been a solution before this, but I suppose it is in the best interest of the platform providers to keep everyone on a single system.
I think part of it is breaking out of the "proprietary" mindset. As a test engineer, I often used GPIB instrumentation and while the IEEE standard was the same - some manufacturers managed to make their controler cards proprietary so that in order to use their instrumentation, you had to use their card, and to use their card with other instrumentation - you had to purchase special drivers from them - IF they were available. I remember in one system, the only way I could work around two major competitors in the same test rack was to use two different controller cards. It was a software integration nightmare. I LOVE cross-platform products!!!!
I am sure you're not the only one, Nancy! Vendor lock-in and homegenity has its benefits, but it also has its frustrations, as you aptly described. It also paves the way for more best-in-breed design versus just using everything from one provider because it's more convenient. Could be the beginning of a trend!
Hopefully so - Elizabeth. I have seen some hardware/software companies go to extremes to get a larger market share. They would buy out a competitor with a solid product and then gradually have that product go away by phasing out support and not providing any upgrades - unfortunately that has made more than one quality product disappear. It would be great to see companies working together rather than stepping on each other!
I think the only thing that has reduced it if anything in recent years is not so much a change in mindset, but larger companies buying out smaller ones and then bringing all of their products under the same technology umbrella...I really appreciate software and hardware standing on their own merits rather than having to purchase them simply due to their availability.
I did a feature on automation disties about 1.5 years ago where they were all saying that open standards were increasing and vertical integration was decreasing. But those may be longer-term trends that won't show for awhile.
Yes, Nancy, forgive the confusing expression. I do mean cross-platform here. To my understanding from what Chetan told me, Agile Planet's controllers can be plugged into any system and automatically just work, kind of like when you plug a printer into your Windows PC and the computer knows what it is, finds the driver and it just works after a quick set-up. It's a handy concept for motion controllers.
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.