Rockwell Offers Integrated Mid-Range EtherNet/IP Motion Control

Rockwell Automation has integrated several aspects of motion control into one new, mid-range solution to help simplify system wiring for machine designers and builders, reducing design time and overall application footprint.

The company says it has combined three new products -- the Allen-Bradley Kinetix 5500 servo drive, the Kinetix VP low-inertia (VPL) servo motor, and single-cable technology -- into one EtherNet/IP solution for building motion-control systems.

The Kinetix 5500 is a mid-range servo drive; it's a new addition to the existing Kinetix servo-drive family, which also includes the low-cost Kinetix 350 for smaller machines and the Kinetix 6500 heavy-duty drive for large applications.

The new system is aimed at packaging, material handling, or converting systems with more than six axes, and does not require discrete power rail or additional accessories, allowing for the creation of scaleable machines, according to Rockwell.

Current manufacturing demand requires machine builders to develop smaller and more complex equipment more quickly and cheaply, Mike Schweiner, Rockwell's Kinetix product manager, explains in a press release. He says the new integrated system "will result in less design time and cabinet space with improved power density and efficiency."

Integrating motion control on EtherNet/IP eliminates the need for a dedicated motion network. Moreover, this integration reduces cabling by up to 60 percent, as well as removes the need to create gateways for transmitting information to and from secluded networks, according to the company.

Another benefit to the new system -- provided by the new Kinetix VPL motor and DSL encoder combined with smart cabling -- is to allow power transmission and feedback communication to and from the Kinetix 5500 drive to take place on a single cable. This further simplifies application design as well as limits points-of-failure, improving reliability and making for less complicated maintenance activity, the company said.

The Rockwell Software Studio 5000 integrated engineering environment supports design on the Kinetix 550 drive. Designers can use the development environment with the Integrated Motion Encoder on Ether Net/I P to provide a feedback-only axis solution for two Rockwell programmable automation controllers -- the Allen-Bradley Control Logix 5570 and Compact Logix 5370 programmable automation controllers. This type of axis allows motion applications and other portions of a machine or line to synchronize efforts, providing more efficient overall production, according to Rockwell.

The current trend in motion-control systems is to do less with more, such as combining more functionality into smaller components or in a single system to simplify the design of machine control.

Recently, another automation provider, STMicroelectronics, released a new, single-chip motion controller called cSPIN that includes similar features to controllers with a multi-chip architecture but with all the functionality on one chip. The single-chip architecture will allow engineers to design a variety of equipment with quieter, smaller, and lighter precision movement and position systems, the company said.

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