As machines become more complex, designers are looking for more integrated solutions to simplify overall machine design. So engineers are becoming more savvy about their automation choices, and are seeking solutions that offer better precision and performance all in one package.
And controls manufacturers have heard the message. For instance, Lenze just recently introduced a new safety controller, the c250–S. With the safety controller Lenze brings the whole safety solution into the machine. In combination with the Lenze controller family, the safety controller completes the total solution by adding required safety functions like the safe bus coupler and safe I/O.
The controller follows Lenze’s easy toolchain approach where the safety controller is part of the engineering toolchain for the whole Lenze system. The safety controller is integrated in the PLC Designer, the Lenze engineering tool for PLC programming, and requires no additional software. This makes it easy for machine builders to program the safety functions together with the whole machine application.
Other manufacturers are integrating components and functions while also shrinking their product footprints, another ongoing trend. AMK has developed MultiServo, four axes of motor control and an integrated motion control in the space (and cost) of two drives. With MultiServo, machine builders can make the control of servo axes even more multifunctional, precise, and cost-effective and up to 60 % more compact. The single module is only 130 mm wide, 320 mm high and 230 mm deep.
The MultiServo module also has application in robots. Specifically, it is an IP20-based drive bank that has a robotic/motion controller integrated inside. It can control four servo axes configured to match the mechanical system being controlled. The compact design allows a cascade of robots to fit into a single small cabinet. The integrated controller means the robots can be standardized quickly regardless of the mechanical system, providing robust control from any supervising system.
As the AMK MultiServo example shows, robots and other automated vehicles are a growing area for controllers. These automated vehicles are at the front lines of full-automated operation, and many come in the form of mobile robots.
“Omron offers a variety of mobile robots – or Autonomous Intelligent Vehicles (AIV), that are able to carry different functions to help customers in manufacturing as well as warehousing and distribution,” says Greg Dieck, Motion Product Manager at Omron. “For example, in hospitality, they are used to deliver incidentals to guests’ rooms; in food and beverage packaging, they are used to carry raw material inputs to various lines for integration into the final product; and in manufacturing, they are often used to carry sub components to the production line for final assembly. We’ve even seen them used to deliver mail to different departments in large companies.”
Dieck adds that these AIVs are also used in many different facets of warehousing and distribution. The AIVs can be easily called from different locations to pick up and transport products to different locations within a warehouse.
Software developments also play a big role in controller developments. For instance, Omron has been adding software-based capabilities to its controllers that mean an array of applications can be serviced easily. Specifically, this affects the IIoT and the increasingly networked world of manufacturing.
“Omron launched IO-Link to help monitor and maintain the highest level of production integrity and accuracy,” adds Dieck. “Combined with Omron InduSoft, the company offers a predictive maintenance solution to prevent downtime or costly production stops before they occur.”
They’re also expanding into safe motion over EtherCAT, which will allow control and safety over one wire. Using the latest technologies, Omron offers advanced motion at a high safety level (SIL3), which helps designers with faster set-up time as well as better throughput, all while running in a safe mode.
Other software capabilities include the ability to use the company’s programming software to auto-tune and set-up servos. The software can also simulate the program performance and timing which allows users to calculate throughput on their machine while still in the designing stages and ensure that they are getting the best performance possible.
The company has also created their own sizing software, which lets them account for complex mechanical systems. Customers can export a file from the sizing software and use it to create hardware configurations in the company’s programming software.