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Complete Ethernet motion control solution lets machine builders take giant step forward

* Ethernet Powerlink compatible hardware/software provides new platform for machine control

Real-Time Ethernet SolutionApril 11 , 2005 --- Baldor launches an innovative solution for implementing machinery and motion control systems using the industry-standard Ethernet Powerlink protocol. Consisting of servo motor drives, a full-function machine controller that will also manage over 200 axes of motion, and a license-free software environment, the range provides machine builders with the platform to make radical progress.

Among a very broad range of gains made possible by this new Ethernet-friendly machine control architecture are the means to provide end users with machinery that will link seamlessly into local and wide area networks, and simpler system building and commissioning. These are complemented by the possibility of making major hardware bill-of-materials savings from reduced wiring, the ability to use a single controller for almost every application - even those requiring very large numbers of motion axes - the freedom to choose the most economic hardware from an open marketplace, and the elimination of software license fees for systems.

The software benefits stem from Baldor's popular Mint language which provides systems builders with a programming environment that can truly exploit the new wave of Ethernet-compatible machine control hardware. Offering comprehensive facilities for machine control combined with an incredibly rich language for implementing motion that incorporates over 100 man-years of code development, Mint comes free with all Baldor NextMove controllers and includes its own license-free multi-tasking real-time operating system, as well as programming support for use with Windows hosts and the C language in embedded form.

At the heart of Baldor's new offering is the new NextMove e100 control platform. This compact panel-mounting box offers a real-time core that can control over 200 Ethernet Powerlink devices such as drives, encoders, I/O, gateways etc - up to 16 of which can be interpolated axes - and also an extensive complement of general machine control and connectivity features. These include onboard analogue and digital I/O and a USB port for simple connection to PC hosts - with free ActiveX support tools. The controller additionally includes support for three traditional analogue-controlled servo axes and four stepper or open loop axes for maximum system design flexibility, giving OEMs the freedom to remain with conventional control technology if Ethernet is not yet available. There is also a CANopen interface to provide a low-cost means of adding local or remote I/O or other components into the machine control system; this is supported by the decision of the Ethernet Powerlink group to use CANopen device profiles. Users have the option of controlling any loosely coordinated axes using the CiA DS402 positioning drive profile.

For precision motion applications, Baldor supports the controller with a range of Ethernet Powerlink compatible single-phase servo motor drives based on the company's successful single-axis drive concept, a lean-and-smart drive that is now installed in hundreds of systems around the globe. Called MicroFlex e100, the drives provide a dual-port Ethernet hub interface to support simple daisy-chain connection, plus a CANopen interface for I/O expansion. At launch, the range offers users a choice of drives capable of delivering continuous output currents of 3, 6 or 9A. The CiA DS402 positioning drive profile is supported by MicroFlex e100 drives. This provides system builders with an elegant means of offloading the host motion controller, allowing simple commands to activate remote functions such as absolute or incremental moves, changing target positions on the fly, and performing homing sequences.

"We are implementing Ethernet Powerlink in such a way that users can implement hybrid systems with a mix of digital and analogue drives if they wish, and continue to exploit low-cost technologies such as CANopen for cost-sensitive parts of the machine control system. This gives OEMs the freedom to exploit Ethernet immediately with migration-friendly technology", says David Greensmith of Baldor.

He goes on to estimate the hardware savings possible by the reduced wiring requirements of Ethernet Powerlink to be as much as 100 Euros per axis, along with the potential for a further 1000-2000 Euros for any system requiring large numbers of axes, typically above 6 to 8 - the kind of levels available on conventional high-end motion controllers.

However, system level gains are where the main benefits lie, and in this arena Greensmith points to Baldor's unique Mint language as a fundamental tool for progress: "As with everyday speech, the degree of articulation that a language offers determines how elegantly and efficiently problems can be solved. I believe the incredible richness of motion control functions available in Mint compared with ‘open’ industry software, gives engineers a real edge in the new Ethernet compatible machine automation development."

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