The Soft Side of Motion Control

November 5, 2007

5 Min Read
The Soft Side of Motion Control

The growing complexity of motion control systems, keen competition and other factors have made software an essential element of many companies' products. The “other factors” include doing it right the first time and reducing time to market. While systems have used software for several years to solve the other factors issues, almost every other aspect of motion control has become a target for software of some type.

“There is a growing demand for an easy to use tool that properly accounts for the complex geometry of motors and the nonlinear behavior of materials,” says James Hendershot, president, MotorSolver LLC.

With MotorSolve v1.0, a software tool for electric motor design, Infolytica Corp. expanded its electromagnetic design software to address this pent-up demand. The first module targets brushless dc motors, including interior permanent magnet, spoke and bread-loaf versions. The software combines automated finite element analysis (FEA) simulations with an easy-to-use and intuitive interface. A range of standard rotor and stator templates make changes to parameters simple and a design history feature allows tracking the changes. Based on design specifications, the software determines optimal coil winding layout. The software uses several analysis methods for various design stages and devices under study, including a hybrid of classical methods and automated electromagnetic FEA for machine design.

More Motor Software

Bosch Rexroth's Flying Shear solution provides an example of a full system implementation of software targeting specific applications. The simple configuration setup of the IndraDrive-based solution reduces integration, setup and operation time. Processors of sheet metal, plastic, paper or wood are among those that may benefit most from this approach that uses standard components of the Indra automation platform.

For some suppliers, there is no doubt about what customers expect in software support.

“I feel people are looking for software that has everything,” says Mohammad Fareeduddin, product development engineer, Lin Engineering. “They are also looking for something which will help them set up the main parameters quickly by using a step-by-step walk-through menu instead of going all over the place and setting up things out of order. This will help in not setting any important parameters accidentally.”

In addition to configurable 3-D models for stepper motors, Lin Engineering recently completed and released software in the form of a GUI that helps users from an overall perspective.

The Rest of the System

While motor and drive makers' use of software has been well-known for many years, other motion control suppliers have gotten into the act, as well.

With Model Selection Software Version 3.00, SMC Corp. of America allows users to define pneumatic system requirements and observe system output characteristics, including a recommended product series as well as the part number. The Version 3.00 application runs from the Web and handles complex models that can include simulating circuits with multiple cylinders and multiple valves. Dynamic system characteristics such as displacement, velocity, acceleration and system pressure are provided in the analysis.

“This software allows engineers to model and simulate a pneumatic circuit before they buy the parts,” says John Halvorsen, product manager, SMC. “Knowing how the system will respond before you physically build it is a tremendous advantage.” The software selects equipment that minimizes the total cost of the pneumatic system by considering both initial cost and operating costs.

A somewhat different approach is used with linear actuators. With Tolomatic's Your Motor Here software, customers can select a motor from hundreds of motor models, a motor mount and a linear actuator from a series of drop-down windows. The motor and mounting plate dimensions are verified after the actuator is selected.

While some industrial applications may require a fully automated system, many users continue to rely on checking and recording on clipboards. As an alternative, SIKO Products AP04 Absolute Position Indicator provides an electronic position indicator with a bus interface for target position values and programming parameter transmission. A two-line LCD on the through-hollow shaft indicator shows both the target and current position.

Motion control certainly is about the hardware, but software is increasingly important in both design and usage.

For vision systems, existing software architectures address the management of low-level development such as hardware interfaces, event synchronization and data visualization. This can detract from the resources required to create new algorithms and unique vision sensor geometries, those system items that provide product differentiation. LMI’s FireSync Studio is a vision engineering platform designed to change this approach. With a goal of simplifying and accelerating the entire vision system development process, from specification to final assembly, the platform provides high-performance, multi-channel video processing with precise microsecond time synchronization. Based on an object-oriented application program interface (API) for system control, data handling and image processing, the software supports algorithm development for host or sensor targets, timing configuration, network data routing, data visualization and system verification.

EyeSpector's Version 1.5 software technology targets machine vision sensing for generic measurement and gauging tasks. The most recent software version improves the existing feature set and adds 20 graphically programmable image processing functions. In addition, support for vision in robotic systems has been added, simplifying 2-D/3-D calibration and communication with robots. Using drag-and-drop techniques, users configure applications from a PC through a Microsoft Windows GUI interface without programming. Selecting and clicking functions and entering tolerances populate an application for use. The software also provides the ability to process rotated images and transmit classification results with sub-pixel accuracy.

A few more brief examples of additional software tools that show its pervasiveness include:

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