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3 Primary Benefits of Software Motion Control
by Jerry Leitz, Director of Field Engineering, Motion Control
IntervalZero Posted 03/19/2018
Software motion control is defined as PC-based motion control that utilizes the modern x86 CPU to reduce hardware requirements. This means that software motion control is not tied down to the hardware ASIC limitations and does not require complicated cabling.
The KINGSTAR Platform is based on the innovative open standard network technology known as EtherCAT. It is an open and industry standards-based technology that allows engineers to streamline motion control automation effectively. Additionally, it allows customers to develop products without relying on proprietary black box technology offered by most motion control providers.
Software motion control operates on PCs to fully utilize the fast, accurate computation PC power without requiring additional devices. Hence, the ideal software motion technology should be developed on hard-real kernel windows. This is because it harnesses the ever-changing modern computer CPUs; software motion control power and speed increase as their power and speed increase. The host CPU is required to simultaneously execute all real-time motion tasks such as multi-axis coordination, data processing, file management, graphical user interface, acceleration, and deceleration.
PCs support wired and wireless Ethernet connections which facilitate sharing that is not supported by dedicated hardware systems. As a result, PC-based software motion systems support cost-effective, easy, flexible and remote sharing of information. For instance, if a business encounters a problem with their remote machine, it can rely on Windows or similar technologies to control the remote machine from their head office regardless of its location.
Unlike traditional controls whose hardware system is expensive and difficult to control, PCs can be mass produced, making them highly cost-effective. Though some experts argue that industrial PCs and their required application sizes do not always amount to low-cost solutions, other software motion experts point out software motion system characteristics that make them cost-effective.
For instance, some traditional motion control systems use PCs and motion cards. This is like having two CPUs running under one computer, which is not cost effective since you will be using more power. Software motion control utilizes a plug-in card for communication. The card is less expensive, and when utilized fully, it triggers the CPUs composition power to perform all available algorithms. For this reason and more, the new software motion control systems are a more cost-effective solution.
Flexible and reliable
The software development cycle is much shorter than that of hardware. With software, if you want to change certain features, you simply alter a few code lines and you are good to go. This makes software motion control inherently more flexible. Also, since software motion control uses less hardware, there are fewer core components that could break. This boosts its reliability.
Due to these benefits and more, software motion control solutions are currently popular in laboratory equipment, CNC machines communications, and semiconductor markets. Industry experts expect soft motion to gain popularity among intense data manipulation applications and in general purpose and common motion control applications.
Jerry has over 25 years of experience developing high performance motion control and vision systems, as well as developing real time software to control automation equipment. Prior to joining IntervalZero, Jerry was the Software Development Manager at Pitney Bowes, where he helped develop very large scale mailing and sorting machines. He was brought there in 1999 to help develop a purely software based motion control system. These systems used custom ethernet based servo amplifiers and could have over eighty servo motors on one machine.