Rockwell Automation recently had it’s Automation Fair during which a number of new product announcement were made. The company has announced a collaboration with Dassault Software Systems to create a suite of tools that deal with various applications of industrial automation and manufacturing on the plant floor. Of particular interest to the mechatronics world is coordination between Solidworks modeling software and Rockwell’s Motion Analyzer. In addition, Rockwell has made an important ease-of-use connection between the Motion Analyzer which has traditionally been used for sizing motors, and the control system software.
As an experienced user of early version of the Motion Analyzer, I used the software as a tool to analyze tradeoffs between time, torque and inertia to optimize customer machinery and processes in motion control applications. Good motion control starts with good mechanical design, and there are so many variables and tradeoffs, that it’s often difficult to navigate your way to the best solution. A good motion analysis tool automates the process so that you can examine an axis requirement and explore several options for how the axis can be optimized.
The results of the Motion Analyzer can be directly integrated into the PLC editor RSLogix. This is usually an area where there is a major duplication of effort, since everything that you have to program in the control system is data that you have worked with in the Motion Analyzer. So kudos to the Rockwell team for getting this feature added to the RSLogix suite.
The Motion Analyzer uses information about the Rockwell Automation motors and amplifiers to match inertias to loads and duty cycle requirements to the thermal capability of the equipment. This is an often overlooked subltety of the equipment, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the amount of heat you can get rid of. And the duty cycle contains all the critical information about how much energy you need, when you need it, and how long you have to dissipate it. In addition, I have found that everyone’s idea of thermal modeling is different. So it pays to do the simulation work at the front end of the design.
But, we always used to joke that we were doing solid modeling anyway. Everything was a cylindrical object of a certain diameter, length, material density, etc. So it stands to reason that integration with a 3D modeling system would make sense. After all, a little step up in capability could lead to a lot better design work from the start. And the ability to link mechanical design at the earliest part of the design cycle, directly to the output at the motor and control system, makes for better outcomes every time.