In today’s advanced manufacturing environment, you’d have a difficult time finding a production facility that has not implemented a robotic system into their process. Robotics have had a tremendous impact on the ability for manufacturers to gain higher repeatability, higher precision, and higher throughput, as well as a safer working environment, while at the same time reducing overall cost to produce the same products.
Although these benefits are clear from the outset, a new level of robotics in the integration of complex automation is happening today.
With advancement of better microchips that have vastly improved processing power at lower costs, builders are implementing robotic kinematic structures at the motion-control level for seamless integration of robotics into overall machine systems.
Coupled with more efficient and simpler to use serial buses such as EtherCAT, the performance of robotics is making a giant leap forward in the manufacturing process.
Currently, the most common systems utilize a master PLC that communicates through a serial bus to the robot controller, passing variables at a fixed interval (Request Packet Interval or RPI) which is commonly 20 msec or more, while communicating to multiple other devices at irregular intervals so as to properly utilize the bandwidth of the communication protocol. This results in obvious limitations for high speed systems while synchronization is limited to the RPI timing and the processing time of the various controllers.
What if that wasn’t the case?
What if the entire machine operated on a single communication bus with a predetermined up-rate speed … regardless of I/O, servo drives, or even robots on the system?
That is the direction that motion controllers are taking. With the ability to employ multiple and various kinematic structures onto a single motion controller — while simultaneously controlling and synchronizing auxiliary axes and handling the I/O of the machine — motion controllers are spurring large efficiency improvements in manufacturing environments.
Traditional machine design necessitates complex calculations to determine bandwidth utilization of the serial communications, sophisticated integration of multiple control platforms, and timely programming of different programming languages.
With the new breed of motion controllers available today, this process can be vastly expedited with large gains on the overall machine efficiency. Now the programming can be accomplished entirely within one environment, including seamless integration to the HMI. By configuring the kinematics into the motion controller, synchronization of robots and auxiliary axes now become more precise including the ability for time based registration control.
Overall repeatability, precision and throughput have taken another leap forward. As added benefits, machine builders can now utilize a single control platform for ease of integration, increased flexibility of machine design, and shorter start-up times. For the end user, having all control on a single platform allows for better error handling, easier trouble-shooting, and more thorough diagnostics.
With the advancement of open-source real-time serial communications, the world of automation has become even larger, and yet easier to understand and integrate.
So, what can kinematics in your motion-control system do for your manufacturing environment? It’s an important question to answer.