As the market for general motion control products nears a projected $7 billion annually, new developments in machine control software are allowing machine builders to interface with more different hardware devices. At the heart of this increase (the market was more than $5 billion last year and is projected to reach nearly $7 billion in 2010) is the demand for control software for Ethernet-based networks.
According to a recent report by ARC Advisory Group, Ethernet-based networks tuned for motion control are opening the door to high-end application performance by enabling levels of speed, capacity, and determinism unthinkable just a few years ago.
"The growing tendency to use motion control software has created a demand for platforms that include features such as human machine interface, logic and motion control, and communications," states ARC's report. It notes that the advent of PC-based motion control systems that rely on software has made users aware of the need for open architectures.
Our roundup shows the emergence of a new generation of motion control software products that merge the best features of PLC and PC-based controllers. Many PC-based software platforms in our round-up offer functions that are more convenient than those in legacy systems, but transition costs can be very high, the study adds. This has been a major deterrent to users in the industrial automation sector because so many are already heavily invested in older technology.
However, proprietary control systems that are less vulnerable to virus breakdowns and have reduced dependence on hardware are gaining in market share as the recent trend toward integrating vision and motion systems software increases its adoption in applications requiring high-level precision.
Several new improvements include soft-CNC solutions that offer a complete environment with HMI, multiple-axis motion control, and PLC tasks on one platform without dedicated motion-control boards. Other advances include adding modularized instructions that perform simple to complex ladder logic, which reduces processes to a simple programming block with fill-in-the-blank parameters.
More of the automation suites below enable redundancy, tunneling, recipe management, SNMP, UA, and SAP connectivity. Machine builders now use newer motion software technology to increase machinery throughput by servicing machinery modules offline without process interruption. Motors, drives and I/O modules can be removed and reinstalled to the live network individually or in groups for off-line service or upgrades.
Integration and Collaboration
FactoryTalk Integrator and FactoryTalk Portal incorporate WebSphere middleware technology for increased application-to-application connectivity. Scalable software applications are designed for tight integration with the Logix control platform, as well as connectivity to third-party and legacy systems. Integrator simplifies integration with corporate IT systems by supporting open-industry communications and links to commonly used ERP applications. Portal consolidates web-based interfaces into one manageable and configurable launch point. Rockwell Automation; 800/223-5354; www.ra.rockwell.com
MoviTools MotionStudio software platform programs drives and other motion devices, configures communication parameters, and interfaces with a controller. It includes a library of application modules that can be configured for a range of applications, as well as an editor for creating custom visualizations and application-specific diagnostics. Capabilities include a choice of communication paths, central data storage, decentralized and application-specific diagnostics and remote maintenance.
Leave It to a Professional
ioControl Professional is a self-documenting, flowchart-based programming and debugging tool that includes an extensive, plain-English command set, as well as a powerful scripting language. It offers commands for analog and digital control, complex math, conditional branching, string handling, serial device control, subroutines, PID loop control, data arrays, and other complex functions. It configures the Snap PAC's dual-Ethernet interfaces for segmented controller/input-output networking or Ethernet link redundancy.
ISaGRAF Version 5.0 software adheres to the IEC 61499 standard, allowing users to build traditional control systems, including embedded controllers, DCS, PLCs, RTUs, CNCs and motion controllers where the interactions between devices will automatically be regulated and synchronized by function block diagrams, rather than by manually implemented algorithms. Features include a toolkit to adapt it to any hardware platform and operating system, and an IEC 61131 and IEC 61499 programming environment.