Machines with greater intelligence have long been the hot new “trend” across industries. And there’s no change in that today, as the pace of adding intelligence continues. That intelligence can come in a number of forms, including in so-called smart motors as well as in drives and controls.
Along with the demand for smarter devices and machines comes the added demand for easy integration. As Bill Faber, Director of Industrial Automation Product Marketing in the Americas, at Delta Products Corporation says, “with the trend towards smarter machines, mature markets are demanding greater integration of components designed for specific applications to allow them to focus on the value that the machine offers to their customers – rather than efforts to integrate controls and mechanics.” What is driving this? According to Faber, “shortages in engineering staff, pressures to reduce overall machine costs, and the need to get to market quickly.”
As a result, Delta Products has responded to this market shift by offering products such as HMIs, VFDs and drives with higher levels of integrated control. The company’s A2 Series Servo Drives, for instance, come with higher-level pre-engineered application solutions. Pre-engineered and parameterized Motion MACROs can be sequenced internally to solve a complete rotary knife cutting or random rotary placer application. Setup is simple with software wizards and HMI integration to allow for machine setup and configuration. Notes Faber, “this all-inclusive operation is causing OEMs to rethink their system architecture to allow for a leaner control footprint, faster time to market, and simplified field maintenance.”
Along with the move to smarter machines is the ongoing trend for machines with smaller footprints. As Matt Wiese, Servo-Motion Product Manager at Delta Products notes, “adding floor space often involves a premium capital cost, so that the machines that OEMs are tasked with producing must become smaller and more feature-rich in order to stay competitive. New, innovative designs to not only save space, but to also increase product performance are required to support OEMs and end users alike.”
A new linear ballscrew actuator developed by Delta Products to integrate with their A2 and B2 Series drives addresses both space and integration issues. The new patented motor design means the carriage block can be directly controlled without adding a coupling. “This increases performance by reducing torsional backlash that results in a highly rigid design for reducing settling time by 20 mec and producing repeatability within +/- 3 micrometers,” says Wiese.
The new actuator “is fully integrated into the A2 and B2 Delta Servo Drives featuring plug-n-work commissioning and setup,” notes Wiese, adding that “with this type of high-value linear application solution, customers are able to increase performance while also reducing their footprint.”
A related trend is the interest in the IoT and its cousin the industrial IoT. Motion control companies are getting on board, offering components with built-in IoT functions. As Matt Prellwitz, Motion Product Specialist with Beckhoff Automation, notes, “there is certainly growing demand for integration of IoT concepts, as the data generated by a motion system provides valuable insight into the performance and efficiency of machinery.”
For Beckhoff, EtherCAT, the industrial Ethernet protocol, is a natural link with the IoT. “EtherCAT provides a simple, streamlined tie-in to IoT applications, given the flexibility and openness of the protocol to work with higher level communication standards such as OPC UA,” notes Prellwitz. In fact, the company is seeing increased interest in IoT across industries as manufacturers look to gain insight into their operations promised by IoT connectivity. “Generally, we’ve seen that the larger the end user manufacturers and OEMs are, the more likely they are to benefit from benefits offered by IoT,” adds Prellwitz. “These concepts are easily implemented in an industrial PC-based control system because of the open flexibility of the platform. Any application that uses an industrial PC has the inherent ability to adapt to changes in connectivity demands from the market.”
Prellwitz adds “as is the case with EtherCAT industrial Ethernet technology, the close association of IT standards with PC-based motion control technologies plays well with IoT developments.” And this system-integrated approach as championed by Beckhoff leads to industrial systems that are far less complex and easier to manage.