by Mark Huebner, PBC Linear
The latest trend in machinery design is to take advantage of the Internet of Things benefits, which are seen throughout a machine’s life cycle.
Internet connected “smart” technology has become intertwined with almost every aspect of our daily life. The smartphone we all carry keeps us connected to people and lets us automate notifications or responses based on personal preferences. Automobiles are outfitted with increasing capabilities to automatically adjust, producing higher fuel efficiency and increased safety based on driving habits and surrounding conditions. The smart house can be programmed for tighter security, maximized electrical efficiency in lighting and HVAC, and greater comfort driven by an array of ergonomic sensors.
Similar technology in connectivity, control and automation are found throughout industrial applications, including motion. Internet enabled machines can deliver new levels of flexibility, performance and cost advantages.
The old way of addressing machine integration and motion control focused on basic engineering disciplines—mechanical and electrical—and each dedicated engineering group worked independently. In the end, somehow the two had to be brought together and made to operate. The typical result would be a functional, but far from optimized, machine that was cumbersome to build, wire and connect, and difficult to monitor, change or adjust.
In the old paradigm specifically, mechanical engineering would work on the physical motion created. Things like the bearings, rails, leadscrew, belt or other drive mechanism, and how to connect to a motor. Electrical engineering would select the sensors, attach the I/O, driver, PLC, controller, amplifier and power supply. The motor would fall somewhere in between, most often with the electricians because it had to be connected to power and controlled.
A new model has emerged that simplifies the machine design and build process while easily enabling Internet integration. This model involves the use of “smart robot modules.” These modules are the marriage of mechanical and electrical optimized motion elements components, including smart stepper or step-servo motor technology with integrated controls. They can easily be applied to single-axis, multiple-axis or XYZ Cartesian configurations.
Here are the top 10 advantages machine builders and users gain when combining these enhanced mechanical components with smart motor technology and control strategies.
Top 10 benefits of Internet enabled mechatronics
1. Lower cost and better function
Each component must have a positive impact on the financial bottom line. Less wiring and connectors, fewer components and sensors, less labor invested, reduced time spent in setup and maintenance and maximized operational uptime all substantially reduce the overall cost of ownership and operation.
2. Less space
By building the driver, controller and amplifier into a smart motor, less panel space is needed, which saves material, time, labor and overall cost.
3. Simplified wiring
Combining the driver, controller and amplifier means fewer sensors are needed, especially when an encoder is used, fewer I/O connections, and a less complicated wiring schemes.
4. Reduced troubleshooting
With fewer components and less wire connections, the job of tracing down problems that may arise is greatly reduced.
5. Streamlined commissioning
Machine installation and start up is made easier with pre-programmed homing routines and with the ability to make changes at an individual axis without working through the PLC. This distributed control model frees the installation team to work on multiple axes simultaneously, and report progress through Internet connectivity. It also allows an operator to make in-process adjustments at an individual axis without affecting the PLC or entire production line.
6. Modular integration
Standardized smart robot modules make integration into multiple axes or multiple machines a natural and easy process.
7. Automated adjustment
Switching a packaging or assembly line to a different size or part can become automated and “recipe driven,” increasing manufacturing flexibility and speed. Such adjustments eliminate time consuming manual changes.
8. Maximized uptime
Real-time monitoring of temperatures, friction, motor torque and other performance related data can be routed to a mobile device allowing operators, maintenance or engineers to proactively handle issues related to maximizing machine uptime.
9. Preventative maintenance
Established time frames for periodic maintenance based on cycles, number of pieces run or other dynamic conditions can easily be monitored and reported to any IoT connected device, such as a work station, tablet or mobile phone, allowing teams to proactively keep equipment running at peak efficiency.
10. Increased output
All of these things are working together in an IoT connected motion system, driving greater flexibility, less downtime, increased performance and greater bottom line output for manufacturers, assembly lines, packaging equipment and production equipment.
With today’s integration of IoT processes and equipment, traditional disciplines are merging and the benefits are seen throughout the machine life cycle. The design phase is shortened with cross discipline communication, design development and project management tools. Procurement and build cycles are shortened due to the need for fewer components along with the use of online configuration and purchasing tools. With IoT connected programming and real-time analytics, ease of use, maintenance and overall life are increased for the user. All of these things combine adding to the bottom line, creating more opportunity and increasing financial returns.
Closed-loop integrated motors
A critical component of the smart robot module is the closed-loop integrated motor used to drive the axis. Integrated motors that combine motor, feedback, amplifier, controller and communications into a single device offer great flexibility to the machine designer, with the controller and communications elements being the biggest enablers of smart technology. Closed-loop performance means more torque, higher acceleration rates, increased efficiency, better machine throughput, cooler operation and less audible noise than traditional open-loop systems. Simple point-to-point motion of a single axis or complex coordinated motion of multiple axes, along with an expanding menu of industrial Ethernet options—including Ethernet/IP, EtherCAT and Modbus TCP—contribute heavily to the long term success of smart technology.
Eric Rice, National Marketing Director
Applied Motion Products, Inc.
Designing for the IoT-enabled operator
by Matt Newton, Director of Technical Marketing, Opto 22
Modern operators no longer simply sit in a control room while waiting for something to happen on the plant or factory floor. In today’s world of doing more with less, operators perform many additional tasks within their plant or factory to maximize efficiency and ensure optimum output. And as a result, operators have become mobile.
Today’s design engineers in the OEM and machine builder markets must address this newfound requirement for mobile monitoring, notification, and control of the modern plant or factory. Machine designers must develop their systems with the intent of providing operators with situational awareness no matter where they are in the plant or factory. Machines with these capabilities will open the door for OEMs and machine builders to offer their customers a new competitive advantage—the IoT-enabled operator.
IoT-enabled operators use a common and familiar platform, such as a browser or app on a smartphone or tablet, to obtain visualization into remote systems from wherever they are. IoT-enabled operators maintain situational awareness at all times through email and text message notifications sent to their mobile devices; these notifications are automatically generated through their IoT-enabled machines. Predictive maintenance through IoT-connected systems offers the ability to literally fix a problem before it occurs. Information on system health and performance is available anywhere IoT-connected operators find themselves, without having to be in front of their traditional HMIs.
Moving data from machines on the plant and factory floor directly into the hands of the IoT-enabled operator through the use of industry standard protocols and familiar platforms will greatly increase productivity and ensure optimum output.