With manufacturers squeezing every ounce of productivity out of the factory equipment they buy, the challenge of how to control motion has become a very hot topic. Recently, I asked several experts for their analysis of the most important trends. Their responses:
John Mazurkiewicz, motion control product manager, Baldor, says that manufacturers demand simplicity. "What's preferred is one setup method for all drive technologies. The future will bring one control that drives any motor--DC, vector, inverter, or servo."
Scott Hibbard, vice president of Machine Tool Industry Group, Indramat, cites the popularity of open-architecture controls, combined with intelligent servo drives as subsystems. "Machine control has gone from one central control to motion controllers, remote I/O, remote scanners, and even remote PLCs on the machine closer to the action."
Cosmo Mirra, general motion production manager, GE Fanuc, points to a proliferation of platforms: PLCs, CNCs, PCs, and Dedicated Computers. "There's also an explosion of high-performance motion products, driven by high-performance chips, both for control and power switching."
Richard Warzala, president, Motion Technologies Group, American Precision Industries, notes that trends in motion control parallel those in computers. "Perhaps the most significant development is the growing role of PCs as primary control devices in automation systems."
Gordon Presher, president, ORMEC, sees a future where a much more powerful and sophisticated computer system will integrate all elements of the automation subsystem. "You'll see phenomenal benefits from more elegant integration of motion control with sensors and programmable limit switches, machine I/O, human-machine interfaces, and factory networks."
Certainly, the motion control choices now available are staggering--ranging from hydraulics to high-precision servo controls. Engineers need to consider a whole palette of options, says Charles Bartel, a Moog engineer who is president of the American Institute of Motion Engineers (AIME). "No single technology will satisfy every application," explains Bartel. That's why his association focuses on giving engineers a broad knowledge of this field. To learn more about AIME, contact: Fred Sitkins, Kohrman Hall, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, 49008 or FAX him at: (616) 387-4024.