Wielding the Power

November 5, 2007

6 Min Read
Wielding the Power

The processing power available to automation controllers at reasonable prices has been steadily rising over the last decade, as Moore's Law continues to push computing performance forward. New controllers are leveraging these fundamental gains by offering more capable solutions for motion, logic, robot control and HMIs. Using unified hardware and software platforms, vendors are offering unprecedented options for complex automation control such as the intensive kinematics required for robotics applications.

There is also a major move to powerful distributed control systems that push processing to the field level, with the effect of either limiting or eliminating the need for control cabinets. Suppliers claim end users are able to realize major savings by using these kinds of architectures, even in processing-intensive applications where it might not have been achievable in the past. The emphasis and focus is on more compact hardware solutions that address motion, logic, robotics and HMI needs with integrated platforms.


The new SIMATIC® ET200pro CPU from Siemens offers cabinet-free, distributed intelligence available over Ethernet at the field level.

The ET200pro CPU's IP-65/67 rating allows the controller to be machine mounted anywhere in the field and relieves the central CPU by shifting intelligence to the field. The environmental rating allows the CPU to perform in washdown applications or where dirt and dust are present.

The controller is tested beneath 1m of water to achieve its IP67 rating and operates in a temperature range of -25 to 55C. The CPU includes multiple onboard networking capabilities: a combined MPI/PROFIBUS-DP connection and an Ethernet connection with a built-in three port switch.

The CPU is machine-mountable in the field together with the I/O, so there is no longer a need to buy a separate CPU housed in a cabinet to do the control. The CPU itself is part of the distributed system.


Bosch Rexroth offers its controller-based motion system IndraMotion MLC in a new version that combines motion and logic with robot control on a uniform platform. The MLC system offers expanded “robot control” and new functions for path interpolation in space. Ready-to-use kinematics for Delta, SCARA and Cartesian robots, with appropriate transformations and the integrated conveyor synchronization, allow implementation of corresponding applications.

In addition to PLC programming with Robot Control Language (RCL), which complies with IEC 61131-3 standards, the engineering framework Rexroth IndraWorks provides a text-based editor for sequential programming of robot control applications including compiler and debugger.

For complex motion requirements, cam disk functionality comprises more than 25 analytical motion laws and an extended library with function blocks has been expanded by the option of processing segmented motion profiles and operating master axes under time control. An expanded version of “CamBuilder,” which is integrated in IndraWorks, allows graphical configuration of these highly flexible motion profiles.


The CP72xx line of Intel® M-Class panel PCs from Beckhoff Automation offer industrial applications integrated controllers with robust and high-tech displays. These high-performance panel PCs are designed for simple mounting arm installation and integrate features for HMI and advanced PC-based machine control in a slimline housing.

Available in screen sizes of 12, 15 or 19 inches, the IP 65 protected water- and dust-proof units feature aluminum housings with high-end motherboards developed by Beckhoff. The housing depth is just 98 mm. The CP72xx is available with industrialized Intel® Core™ Duo or Core™ 2 Duo processors up to 2.16 GHz.

Up to five PC connections, with IP 65 connectors, are positioned in a large wiring space and are easily accessible. The connections can be accessed quickly without having to remove the device from the mounting arm. The CP72xx has two Ethernet interfaces, making it a compact central processing unit for an EtherCAT control system.


The Modicon M340 programmable automation controller (PAC) from Schneider Electric is a small, powerful and rugged midrange PLC. The new controller is a natural choice as a companion to Modicon Quantum™ and Premium™ PLCs.

Utilizing the same Unity™ application development software, the M340 PAC gives users the ability to quickly select, program and eliminates the need for multiple software packages used with different PLC platforms.

The new controller provides proven performance and functionality. No batteries required and Flash memory backup eliminates program loss and maintenance costs during power failure. The controller is compact (4 inch H x 3.7 inch D) and fits into a 6 inch enclosure. High density 64 point I/O cards are only 1.25 inch wide and provide the ability to pack I/O in a very compact space. The controller uses 4 MB of memory to enhance performance and expand application uses (with 16 MB data option) and execution speed of 7K instructions/msec.


B&R Automation has introduced a complete platform that combines anthropomorphic robots, complex CNC 3-D processing, multiple linked axis movements and single-axis positioning in one system. The solution includes drives, movement and path control, visualization and I/O handling. Path control with CNC functionality can be configured using a single software tool.

Using a real-time OS designed for high-precision positioning tasks, the system provides CNC cycle times of 400 µs that allow path precision in the sub-micron range. Predefined visualization components create complex machine functions. In addition to parameter configuration and motion programming, tools for simulation, logging and process diagnostics are also provided.

The system's Soft CNC has an extensive list of functions. Part programs and movement procedures are programmed according to DIN 66025. Division into main and sub-programs allows clear management of NC programs. Extended programming capabilities permit use of high level language techniques such as loops, conditional statements and branches.


The Durus controller from GE Fanuc Automation is a family of low-end controllers that integrate I/O, operator interface and control functions in one small package. The controllers provide a built-in operator interface, communications options, expansion slots and a slide-and-snap mechanical interlock for expansion modules.

The Durus Controls Software package provides a simulation mode that allows users to virtually run and test programs before loading them into the controller. The controllers are ideal for applications requiring less than 44 inputs and outputs such as vending machines, packaging lines, security and assembly. A real-time clock for timing, high-voltage output for control applications such as street light control and a built-in programmer and operator interface allow for easy field modifications. Targeted applications include conveyor and water level control where its rugged design allows for control in harsh environments. Two programming options are available: ladder logic or function block diagram.

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