Mechatronics still moving forward

A report on software and hardware advances that enhance the design and performance of a multitude of machines

Recent software advances are greatly improving both the design and commissioning of complex automation systems.

The enhanced integration between SolidWorks Pro and Rockwell Automation's Motion Analyser software allows the import of 3D mechanism models and analysis of their behaviour.
The results of the analysis can then be incorporated in to the control software.

If this integrated software is then coupled with new linear and rotary actuator hardware, and using the ability to embed robotic joint functionality in firmware, the result is an unprecedented set of tools that can quickly get things up and running with maximum performance.

At a recent Rockwell Automation event in Southampton, Rockwell commercial engineer Derek Powell demonstrated that users can either create a mechanism or import one in the form of a 3D model from SolidWorks.

Powell took the example of a Weiss indexing turntable. The ADAMS analyser within SolidWorks is used to generate torque and velocity profiles, and Motion Analyser can then be used to select an appropriate motor, amplifier and gearbox and conduct a virtual test to discover how the system will function.

The end results of the process includes features such as prediction of seal life and other components, vital to meet the requirements of the latest version of the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC. Having selected motor, amplifier, and motion profile, the profile can then be exported to RS Logix in order to program the controller to make the application do what is required. To accompany, Rockwell is offering direct drive linear motor products and firmware to allow the construction of faster and more precise automated handling machines.

Another recent release, a rotary direct drive motor, has a high pole count and high torque relative to a conventional directly coupled motor. The motors are being brought to market in three stages.

First is a motor without bearings, designated RDB, for designers to incorporate in machines with bearings external to the motor. The second, designated RDH, will have bearings; both these are complete motors that bolt on to a machine.

However, the third release is a frameless set of motor parts, designated RDF. This permits designers to build and assemble a motor into a machine assembly, essentially fully integrating the motor within a machine. And this can deliver torques from 5Nm to 10,000Nm that designers will be able to build into machines.

Both these software packages come as part of the Kinetix 6000 software for the company's Logix controllers and Kinetix Servo Drives. This is soon to be upgraded to 6200 and then 6500 versions, which allows Category IV safety from the controller.

This is further being enhanced with the ability to integrate control of individual robots within production line controllers. Rockwell commercial engineer Bradley McEwan says: "We are not the only people who have integrated robotics into machine controllers, but we have embedded joint functionality into firmware."

Special software includes the ability to incorporate three axis delta robots. And as McEwan adds: "It's free! We give it away with training."

Tom Shelley

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