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White Paper

Improving Automation Performance

Matt Davis
Support Service Manager, Peak Metrology

At some point automation hardware inevitably becomes obsolete. It’s hard to know exactly when to retrofit or redesign, but there are indications that cannot be ignored. Quite simply, when the system’s tolerances and throughput can no longer meet market demand, it is time to upgrade. If the tolerances of the previous generation system can only reach thousandths of an inch, and the market is requiring ten-thousandths, an upgrade will be required. When the machine’s throughput is being compromised due to higher tolerances or because of a high failure rate, an upgrade will be required. In both of these cases, the servo-drive technology used will have a significant impact on the success of the new system. Servo drives provide motion where human interaction is not possible. This drive technology must be carefully selected to ensure the automation process does what is intended. It is even possible to select servo hardware to increase the performance value which allows the price to be less of a concern. In the markets of today, with technology advancing by leaps and bounds, this upgrade cycle seems to happen faster and faster.

Everyone’s goal for the next generation product is to align the market’s performance requirements and price points. As a project manager, you must thread the needle between your engineer’s desire to work with a proven and known (but possibly outdated) technology and your marketer’s desire to include the latest advancements from the marketplace (which may not yet be widely accepted). You must choose components wisely while mitigating the risk of using new and untested technology. When redesigning a successful machine, you are building upon a solid foundation. All changes made should increase performance, capabilities, or ease of use. You would never redesign to make a system slower, harder to use, and with less functionality.

At Aerotech, we followed the same approach when designing our next generation of servo drives, the X-Series. We built upon a technology that was able to run multiple motor types (brush, brushless, and stepper) from the same drive with only parameter changes, a drive that has 20 digital and 4 analog I/O points per drive, and a drive that accepts more than one encoder per axis, and we improved it. We took an already reliable product and made it more reliable by creating a bus that is faster and immune to electrical interference. We took a drive that has low in-position jitter and made it lower. We took a drive that has high encoder sampling rates and made them faster. In the following sections, we will discuss why these changes were made and how by utilizing them you can increase your system’s performance through the use of tested and proven technology.

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