Good point, Chuck. Just yesterday, I spent some time on the phone with the GM of automatioin software at GE Intelligent Platforms. He described new tools for lean manufacturing that all have software as the backbone. The health of the plant is now read via a smartphone or tablet. No more walking around the plant to listen for bad sounds. The baby boomers don't trust the software, but the new engineers trust it more than they trust sounds. For one thing, the software will indicate that something is out of its normal range long before it starts making a bad sound.
At Medical Design & Manufacturing this week, a manufacturing expert discussed the difficulty of getting students to consider a career in manufacturing. Sure enough, one way to attract them these days seems to be to make a mental connection to video games.
We seem to be going in that direction, Chuck. Howvever, when I ask vendors and factory operators whether the smart machines, components, and systems havew relieved the need for integrators, I'm hearing that hasn't been the case yet. They do say, however, that day is apporoaching.
There is a broad group of motion controller products that are "configurable" vs. "programmable" to solve simpler motion applications without requiring programming. In most multi-axis applications, software usage is much more advanced and the focus among suppliers is on software development tools that make it easier to develop and deploy software solutions. Motion control is a very broad product category with a huge number of product offerings targeted at specific needs.
This post is interesting in that the title implies some degree of computational capabilities within the controller, but then the description does not address that assertion at all. The controlling schemes, with the PWM operation, are a good choice and will indeed allow independant control of both speed and torque, at least it seems like they would. But for truely coordinated motor operation, such as driving an X-Y table, for instance, it should then be possible to have the motors work togather and draw a circle, as an example. Working in unison to produce a curve is one of those benchmark tasks that can define how well a multimotor package can link motors.
But while these controllers may be very useful it does not appear that they have this capability.
I totally see your point, ttemple. I don't think that these products mean necessarily that "anyone" can do it, but I think they are taking some of the common complications out of some of these processes. There still needs to be some level of expertise involved.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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