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Last Updated July 20, 2021

FAQ

Get answers to your most common Automation1 questions. Can’t find what you need here? Try the Automation1 help files or Contact Sales for more support.

Platform Overview

What is the Automation1 Control Platform?

The Automation1 precision machine and motion control platform is a set of products and solutions that are combined to configure, develop and deploy precision automation and motion control systems. Automation1 is the most user-friendly platform available for precision motion control. The set of required products for any given Automation1 system depends upon the requirements of each application. The platform consists of:

  • Software for developing your application.
  • A controller for motion control and machine functionality.
  • Motor drives for servo motors, galvo scan heads and piezo nanopositioners.
  • A high-speed communication bus for connecting the controller and drives.
  • Several pieces of advanced automation technology available only from Aerotech.

 

Who uses the Automation1 platform?

Automation1 is used by anybody who requires precision motion control and automation -- machine builders, researchers, process developers, manufacturers of all types, educators and even artists. Also, Automation1 is used in many many different industries. For this reason, Automation1 is built on a set of tools and technologies that can be applied creatively to address a wide variety of applications.

 

How do I build a motion control solution with Automation1?

Typically an Automation1 solution starts with picking the right motor drive or drives. This depends on the type of mechanical device you are controlling. Then the Automation1 controller is configured to meet the needs of the application. Most users begin by working with the software tools provided with the Automation1 Motion Development Kit (MDK). Automation1 can also be configured and programmed using one of Aerotech’s application programming interfaces.

 

How do I learn more about Automation1?

Aerotech.com provides information about Automation1. Here are some helpful links:

 

Which PC operating systems work with Automation1?

The Automation1 MDK and Automation1 iSMC work with Windows 10. The Automation1 .NET API is built on .NET Core, enabling users to build custom applications for both Windows and Linux operating systems. However, currently there is no Linux compiler for Automation1 AeroScript™ programs, so the Linux use case is limited.

 

Which industrial bus does Automation1 support?

For more information, please refer to the Motion Controller Selection Guide.

 

How do I try Automation1?

Aerotech offers a complementary basic installation of the Automation1 MDK. Find your local field sales engineer to get access to Automation1.

 

How do I install and activate Automation1 on My PC?

Please see the Automation1 help files for more information.


How does installing Automation1 affect My PC?

Installing the Automation1 MDK is like installing other Windows-based applications on your computer. The iSMC installation requires an installation of a real-time operating system (RTOS), which enables your PC with the extremely high deterministic behavior required for precision motion control. Please see the Automation1 help files for more information.

Software

What is Automation1 software and what does it do?

The most user-friendly interface available for precision motion control, Automation1 software is referred to as the Automation1 Machine & Motion Development Kit (MDK). In many cases, using the Automation1 MDK reduces your setup time from days to minutes. The MDK software tools include a studio application, status utility, console application, help files, and .NET API. For more information, please refer to the Automation1 MDK website.

 

Can I start using Automation1 software before I have the hardware?

Yes. The Automation1 studio application includes a development mode called ‘virtual mode’. You are able to set up and configure virtual axes. These virtual axes are treated like connected servo motor drives, allowing programmers to develop their application code, compile and run this code, and even visualize simulated feedback from the actual commanded motion. For more information, please refer to the Automation1 MDK and the Automation1 iSMC websites.

 

What are the PC requirements for installing the Automation1 MDK controller?

See the Automation1 - Get The Right PC User Guide.

Controller

What is the Automation1 controller?

The Automation1 Intelligent Software-Based Motion Controller (iSMC) converts commands programmed in the AeroScript language or the Automation1 APIs into commands that can be executed upon by Automation1 drive hardware. For more information, please refer to the Automation1 iSMC website.

 

Does the Automation1 controller have the features my system requires?

Please see the Motion Controller Selection Guide for a detailed feature comparison between Automation1 and Aerotech’s other controller platforms. If a feature you are interested in does not exist on that page, please contact us with your question and we will respond quickly with an answer.

 

How do I program the Automation1 iSMC controller?

The controller can be programmed using the AeroScript programming language, which includes RS-274 G-Code support (see below), or one of Aerotech’s APIs. For more information, please refer to the Automation1 iSMC website.

 

How do I connect Automation1 drives and drive racks to my controller?

Automation1 drives and drive racks are connected via the HyperWire communication network. For more information, please refer to the Automation1 HyperWire website.

Drives & Drive Racks

What are Automation1 drives and drive racks and what do they do?

Automation1 drives and drive racks are electronic devices containing digital controllers, power amplifiers and input/output (I/O) connection points. They are designed for controlling one or several servo motors, precision stages, galvo scan heads, piezo nanopositioners or hexapods.

 

Which drives and drive racks are available with Automation1?

A complete listing of available and future drives and drive racks can be found on the Motion Controller Selection Guide.

 

What is safe torque off (STO) and which Automation1 drives have this safety feature?

STO is an integrated servo drive safety feature. The STO function ensures that no torque can act upon the motor. It does this by blocking electrical signals from the drive to the motor. The STO circuit consists of two identical channels, each of which must be energized for the servo drive to produce motion. Each STO input is opto-isolated and accepts 24V levels directly without the need for external current limiting resistors. Aerotech’s STO implementation allows maximum achievable safety ratings of safety integrity level (SIL) 3 and category four performance level (PL) e.

Most Automation1 servo motor drives include this feature. Please refer to each drive’s respective hardware manual for more information.

 

Do Automation1 drives have additional safety features?

Most Automation1 servo motor drives include a fail-safe brake output and the option for an external shunt resistor. Each drive communicates faults, including E-stop conditions to the Automation1 controller, enabling the controller to manage system level safety.

Additionally, each drive can be programmed to respond to “safe zones” specified by the Automation1 controller. Safe zones prevent motion either into or out of one or multi-dimensional regions. You can have a maximum of 32 safe zones.

 

Do Automation1 drives support absolute encoders?

Yes. All Automation1 servo motor drives support absolute encoder feedback with their base configuration. Please refer to each drive’s respective hardware manual for more information.

 

Which certifications exist for the drive hardware?

All Aerotech drive hardware is CE approved, holds Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) safety certification and is EU 2015/863 RoHS 3 compliant.

For more information, please refer to Aerotech’s drives and drive racks page.

Communication Bus

Which communication bus does Automation1 use?

Automation1 motion control systems use HyperWire, a fiber-optic, light-based motion control bus that is the fastest, highest-throughput communication bus in motion control. It enables 20 times the throughput that was possible with 100BASE-T Ethernet. For more information, please refer to the HyperWire website.

 

Is special hardware required for HyperWire?

Aerotech’s HyperWire bus requires the HyperWire PCIe card and HyperWire fiber-optic cable. HyperWire cables are active-optical, glass-optical-fiber cables with small form-factor pluggable (SFP) connectors on each end.

 

How do Automation1 drives and drive racks connect with HyperWire?

Drives and drive racks are connected to the HyperWire network via HyperWire cables (see above). The connection is a line-style connection. The HyperWire-PCIe card has an A and a B port, each supporting 16 axes for a total of 32 axes on an Automation1 motion control network.

 

Does Automation1 support other communication buses?

The Motion Controller Selection Guide identifies the ways you can communicate with an Automation1 control system.

Programming

Which programming languages does Automation1 support?

Automation1 supports the new AeroScript programming language for directly programming the controller from the Automation1 studio application. You can also choose to use one of our Automation1 APIs. See the Motion Controller Selection Guide for more information on Automation1 APIs.

 

What is AeroScript and how is it different from AeroBasic?

AeroScript is Aerotech’s new programming language, available with the Automation1 motion control platform. It offers dramatic improvements in accessibility and functionality. Developers will enjoy modern programming language features such as syntax autocompletion and code snippets. They will also enjoy improved readability and portability of their programs. Refer to the AeroScript Equivalents of AeroBasic Commands help file for more information.

Migrating From Other Aerotech Controllers

Do I need to migrate my controller from A3200 to Automation1?

For an existing system, probably not. Aerotech will support existing products well into the future. For new system deployments, we recommend an upgrade to the Automation1 motion control platform. This ensures that your control architecture has the newest technology and can be supported for decades to come.

 

What is the process for migrating from A3200 to Automation1?

Each machine or automated system being controlled by the A3200 motion controller will have a unique set of considerations when migrating to the Automation1 motion controller. Here is a brief overview of a suggested process for migrating a single system from A3200 to Automation1. Again, each system is unique.

 

Step 1 | Get Familiar with Automation1

Go to our Contact Sales page let your local Field Sales Engineer know you are interested in getting familiar with Automation1. Your Field Sales Engineer with discuss Autoamtion1 with you and get you a quote for the Automation1 Motion Development Kit (MDK) and (likely) the Automation1 intelligent Software-Based Machine Controller (iSMC).

 

The Automation1 MDK a tool which is similar to the A3200 Motion Composer Suite. The Automation1 iSMC is similar to the A3200 software-based machine controller. The Automation1 platform is different in that the MDK can be installed and used separately from the controller. Also, because the MDK can connect to any Automation1 iSMC controller, every member of your team can install the MDK, which enables building AeroScript program and library files. You can then connect to an Automation1 iSMC controller to load and run these program and library files.

 

Step 2 | Migrate Parameters and Programs Plus Upload Calibration Files
In order to expedite your migration process, Aerotech has created two simple tools.

The first tool migrates A3200 parameter file (.prma) to an Automation1 machine controller definition (.mcd) file. Download the zip file A3200ParametersToAutomation1.zip. Then unzip the zip file’s contents. Open the folder and locate the executable file "A3200ParametersToAutomation1.exe". Drag and drop your A3200 parameter file onto the executable and an Automation1 MCD file will appear in the same folder as the A3200 parameter file.

 

Next, use the Automation1 Studio application to open the MCD file. Inside of Studio, go to the Configure workspace, Controller, Administration, Upload MCD. Click “Select File” and navigate to location of your new MCD file to upload it to your Automation1 software/controller. Upon uploading the MCD file, the parameters it contains will become the ‘live’ parameters on the controller to which you are connected. Next, use the Machine Setup tool and the Configure workspace to complete your system configuration.

 

The second tool migrates an A3200 AeroBasic program file (.pgm) to an Automation1 AeroScript program file (.ascript). Download the zip file AeroBasicToAeroScript.zip. Then unzip the zip file’s contents. Open the folder and locate the executable file "AeroBasicToAeroScript64.exe" or "AeroBasicToAeroScript.exe". Drag and drop your A3200 program file onto the executable and an Automation1 AeroScript file will appear in the same folder as the A3200 *.pgm file.

 

Next, use the Automation1 Studio application to open the *.ascript file. Inside of Studio, go to the Configure workspace, Controller, Controller Files, and right click File Listing display, choosing “Upload File/Folder”. Then, navigate to the location of your new *.ascript program file to your Windows file system. Highlight the file you want to upload and click “open”.

 

Finally, to open this file in the Automation1 Studio application, go to the Develop workspace, Programming module where you can build, load, run, and debug your program.

 

When the AeroBasicToAeroScript tool fails to convert lines of code, the conversion tool creates a *.txt file and save it in the same directory as the original AeroBasic program file. This text file lists the lines of code that were not successfully converted to AeroScript. You can then use the Automation1 help files to quickly convert those lines of code, as well.

 

Use the Studio application to upload existing A3200 calibration files. A3200 calibration files are directly compatible with the Automation1 controller. Inside of Studio, go to the Configure workspace, Controller, Calibration, Configure Calibration. Click the "Upload" button for the specific type of calibration file you wish to upload.   Select the file and click "Open". Then click "Save" to save your Calibration Configuration. You must reset the controller before the calibration files are applied to your controller.

 

Step 3 | Migrate to Automation1 APIs (Not always required)
If your A3200 system incorporates any of the A3200 programming libraries, those programs will need to be updated to use the new Automation1 APIs. Automation1 APIs have been designed to resemble the structure and syntax of the AeroScript language. This makes it easier for developers to work at both the .NET and real-time layer for machine development.

 

The first step is to get familiar with the various Automation1 APIs, listed under the Develop Your Process Help File.

 

Step 4 | Migrate to Automation1 Hardware
Now that you are familiar with the new Automation1 MDK software tools - the Automation1 iSMC controller, and have developed a full set of controller parameters, AeroScript program files, and potentially even used the Automation1 APIs – it is now time to get the hardware side of your control system migrated to Automation1! To do so, you will need to check a few items:

 

First, make sure that the PC you will be using for your ‘production’ machine meets the required performance requirements. Aerotech recommends the Automation1-iPC. We also have instructions for purchasing a PC on the Automation1 iSMC website. Whatever PC you choose, a hard requirement is that it contains at least one (1) open PCIe slot for the required HyperWire-PCIe card. Also, the A3200 User Guide to Windows® 10 Updates also applies the PC-based Automation1 iSMC controller. Please use this guide to optimize your PC.

 

Now that your PC has been specified and validated, migrate to the HyperWire motion bus. Aerotech’s new HyperWire motion bus is a fiber-optic communication network that connects Automation1 drive hardware to the Automation1 iSMC controller. It requires the use of the HyperWire-PCIe card (available only from Aerotech) and HyperWire cables. There is no PCI card option – only PCIe. FireWire hardware and cables from A3200 systems cannot be reused for Automation1 systems.

 

Next, Migrate to Automation1 hardware. Pick and choose from a variety of drive products in the Automation1 platform. A3200 FireWire-based drive hardware will not work with the new Automation1 controller.

 

Note: when migrating Automation1 drive hardware, including the HyperWire card, from an A3200 motion controller to an Automation1 Motion Controller, the firmware for all of these devices must be migrated to Automation1 firmware. Please refer to the instructions below titled, “Convert HyperWire & Drive Hardware from A3200 to Automation1” for instructions on how to migrate your drive firmware.

 

Step 5 | Commission Your New Automation1 Control System
Now that you have migrated to the Automation1 software, controller, drives, and the HyperWire motion bus – you are ready to start running your process and commanding actual motion to real hardware. Follow the instructions in the Automation1 help files to learn about Configuring your system, Developing Your Process, and Visualizing data from your control system.

 

Will my AeroBasic programs work with Automation1?

AeroBasic programs are not directly supported by Automation1. Automation1 includes a new programming language called AeroScript. AeroScript includes G-Code support, so motion commands programmed in G-Code syntax will be supported in Automation1. However, the AeroBasic syntax in many A3200, Ensemble and Soloist program files will not compile in Automation1.

 

How do I convert my programs from AeroBasic to Automation1?

To assist in migrating your AeroBasic programs to AeroScript, use the AeroBasic To AeroScript Tool. For instructions, see the question above, "What is the process for migrating from A3200 to Automation1?" For more help, the Automation1 help file includes the topic AeroScrip Equivalents to AeroBasic Commands.

 

Does Automation1 have drives and drive racks that are equivalent to my A3200 products?

Yes. Most A3200 products have “drop-in replacements” in Automation1. You get the benefit of improved performance without the hassle of redesigning your machine layout. Please refer to the following table:

Product Type A3200 Drive Product Known Non-Current Date(1) Automation1 Equivalent Supported in A3200 Version 6.04-Current
Drive Racks Npaq December 31, 2020 Automation1 XR3 Yes
Npaq MR None
Npaq 6U December 31, 2020
PWM Servo Drives Ndrive HPe (50/75/100/150/200 Amp) None Automation1 XC6e No A3200 Support
Ndrive HPe (10/20/30 Amp) August 31, 2021 Automation1 XC4e Yes
Ndrive CP August 31, 2021 Automation1 XC4 Yes
Ndrive MP None Automation1 XC2e No A3200 Support
Automation1 XC2 Yes
Linear Servo Drives Ndrive HLe None Automation1 XL5e No A3200 Support
Ndrive ML None Automation1 XL2e(2) No A3200 Support
Galvo Scan Head Drives Nmark GCL None Automation1 GL4 Yes
Nmark CLS June 3, 2016
Multi-Axis Robotic Controller HEX RC None Automation1 XR3 Yes
Piezo Nanopositioner Drives Ndrive QLe None Automation1 QL4e(2) No A3200 Support
Ndrive QL None Automation1 QL4(2) No A3200 Support
Clock & Direction (Stepper) Interface Nstep None Automation1 SI4 No A3200 Support
Analog Command (Servo) Interface Nservo December 31, 2021 Automation1 XI4(2) No A3200 Support
Galvo Scan Head XY2-100 Interface Nmark SSaM None Automation1 GI4(2) No A3200 Support

(1) Non-current products are discontinued and are no longer sold and marketed through normal Aerotech channels. The product may be available for purchase through our Global Technical Support Group but availability may be unreliable. A product moves to obsolete status once we are no longer able to manufacture the product.
(2) Not yet available.

 

What HyperWire parts should I be ordering to replace my FireWire bus?

See the table below.

Product Type A3200 Product Automation1 Equivalent
PCI Card NFIRE PCI n/a<sup?>(1)
PCIe Card NFIRE PCIe HyperWire PCIe
Communication Cables NCONNECT 6P6P-xx(2) HyperWire AO10-xx(2)
HyperWire Network Repeater NFIRE RPTR-1394A-1394A Not required

(1) Currently there is no PCI version of the HyperWire card.
(2) Whereas “xx” designates the length in decimeters.

Is there a way to connect A3200 drive hardware to an Automation1 controller?

Automation1 does not support the FireWire-based motion bus used by A3200 drives. Automation1 uses a new fiber-optic bus called HyperWire. There is no FireWire-to-HyperWire conversion tool or product, so A3200 drives cannot connect to a HyperWire network or Automation1 controller.

Legacy Control Systems

What is the plan moving forward for the A3200 motion control platform?

  1. The A3200 software and controller will continue to be sold and supported by Aerotech for many years to come.  A3200 software and controller support is tied to the support of the Windows 10 OS.  Windows 10 Professional has planned support from Microsoft until October 2025 and Windows 10 Long-Term Service Channel has planned suport from Microsoft until January 2029.
  2. A3200 drive products will be manufactured and serviced so long as Aerotech can source components.  See the table above to see which Automation1 drives are supported in A3200 version 6.04 and also which A3200 drives have known "non-current" dates.

What happens if a legacy drive or drive rack product fails and is no longer available?

  1. If an A3200 drive product fails and cannot be repaired or replaced by our Global Technical Support team, Aerotech will still support your needs.  First, we can evaluate if another A3200 drive product can be used in its place.
  2. If not, it is possible that an Automation1 drive product replacement will work to replace your A3200 drive.  A subset of Automation1 drives also works with the 6.x version of the A3200 controller.   All drives in your control system would then need to be Automation1 drives for this solution to work, as the FireWire and HyperWire networks cannot be used together.
  3. Finally, your entire control systems - drives, motion bus, and controller - can be upgraded to Automation1.

How long will I be able to purchase legacy drive hardware?

  1. Aerotech will sell and service all A3200 drive products as long as we can source components to make these products.

 

Will Aerotech continue to offer phone and email support for legacy products?

Yes. Even as Automation1 becomes the preferred option, the A3200, Ensemble and Soloist motion control platforms will be supported by Aerotech’s Global Technical Support team.

 

How does Microsoft’s support of Windows 10 affect Aerotech’s support of A3200?

When Microsoft drops support for an operating system (OS), that OS will stop getting critical security upgrades. Our users must identify and plan for any risks that result from maintaining an industrial control system on a PC with an insecure OS. This will be a critical aspect of each user’s evaluation when determining a timeline to maintain and operate A3200 motion control systems. This is because the A3200 will not support the next Microsoft operating system. A positive note is that, as of now, Windows 10 Professional has planned support until October 2025. The Windows 10 Long-Term Service Channel version that Aerotech installs on the A3200 iPC product has planned support into 2029.

 

Convert HyperWire & Drive Hardware from A3200 to Automation1

The following instructions assume that you are starting with a motion system based on: 

  1. A PC with the A3200 software-based machine controller installed.
  2. The PC has a HyperWire card installed with A3200 firmware on the HyperWire card.
  3. The drives on your system are Automation1 drives with A3200 drive firmware installed, enabling
    those Automation1 drives to communicate to the A3200 controller over HyperWire.

Follow the following steps to convert the HyperWire card and Automation1 drives to Automation1 firmware.

  1. Connect and power the drives that you wish to convert from A3200 to Automation1. Using the A3200 firmware loader, make sure that the HyperWire card and Automation1 drives have the same firmware on them.
  2. Download the A3200toAutomation1.zip file and save the "A3200-to-Automation1-1.2.0.loda" and "Load Automation1 Firmware.bat" files to your PC.
  3. Open A3200 Firmware Loader and ensure that all of the drives that you want to convert are listed.
  4. Use A3200 Firmware Loader to load A3200-to-Automation1-1.2.0.loda onto the drives. Verify that no error messages are printed in A3200 Firmware Loader.
  5. Completely uninstall the A3200 from your computer.
  6. Install the Automation1 MDK and Automation1 iSMC versions 2.0.0 or later.
  7. Download Load Automation1 Firmware.bat to your Desktop.
  8. Double-click Load Automation1 Firmware.bat. Follow the instructions in the window that pops up. Here is the output that you should see when you run Load Automation1 Firmware.bat:

 

Convert HyperWire and Drive Hardware from Automation1 to A3200

  1. Connect and power the drives that you wish to convert from Automation1 to A3200.
  2. If the current version of Automation1 is not 2.0.0 or later, install that version. The following steps will not succeed if a version prior to 2.0.0 is used.
  3. Using the Machine Setup tool in the Automation1 Studio application, ensure that HyperWire and drive firmware has been updated to match the version of the Automation1 iSMC controller.
  4. Download Automation1toA3200.zip and extract "Automation1-2.0.0-to-A3200-6.04.005.a1update" and "Convert to A3200 Firmware.bat" to your PC.
  5. Double-click Convert to A3200 Firmware.bat on your Desktop. Follow the instructions in
    the window that pops up. Here is the output that you should see when you run Convert toA3200 Firmware.bat:
  6. Completely uninstall the Automation1 MDK and Automation1 iSMC from your computer.
  7. Install the A3200. Refer to the A3200 Help Files located at Manuals, Help Files, & Cable Drawings page.
  8. Open the A3200 Firmware Loader and ensure that all of the drives that you want to convert are listed.
  9. Use A3200 Firmware Loader to load the default firmware on to the drives. Verify that no error messages are printed in A3200 Firmware Loader.

Turn your precision and automation challenges into process success.