Automation1 Frequently Asked Questions

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?
Who uses the Automation1 platform?
How do I build a motion control solution with Automation1?
How do I learn more about Automation1?
Which PC operating systems work with Automation1?
Which industrial bus does Automation1 support?
How do I try Automation1?
How do I install and activate Automation1 on My PC?
How does installing Automation1 affect My PC?
Software
What is Automation1 software and what does it do?
Can I start using Automation1 software before I have the hardware?
What are the PC requirements for installing the Automation1 MDK controller?
Controller
What is the Automation1 controller?
Does the Automation1 controller have the features my system requires?
How do I program the Automation1 iSMC controller?
How do I connect Automation1 drives and drive racks to my controller?
Drives & Drive Racks
What are Automation1 drives and drive racks and what do they do?    
Which drives and drive racks are available with Automation1?    
What is safe torque off (STO) and which Automation1 drives have this safety feature?    
Do Automation1 drives have additional safety features?    
Do Automation1 drives support absolute encoders?    
Which certifications exist for the drive hardware?
Communication Bus
Which communication bus does Automation1 use?    
Is special hardware required for HyperWire?    
How do Automation1 drives and drive racks connect with HyperWire?    
Does Automation1 support other communication buses?   
Programming
Which programming languages does Automation1 support?    
What is AeroScript and how is it different from AeroBasic?
Migrating From Other Aerotech Controllers
Do I need to migrate my controller from A3200 to Automation1?    
What is the process for migrating from A3200 to Automation1?    
Will my AeroBasic programs work with Automation1?    
How do I convert my programs from AeroBasic to Automation1?
Does Automation1 have drives and drive racks that are equivalent to my A3200 products?    
What HyperWire parts should I be ordering to replace my FireWire bus?    
Is there a way to connect A3200 drive hardware to an Automation1 controller?   
Legacy Control Systems
What is the plan moving forward for the A3200 motion control platform?    
What happens if a legacy drive or drive rack product fails and is no longer available?    
How long will I be able to purchase legacy drive hardware?
Will Aerotech continue to offer phone and email support for legacy products?    
How does Microsoft’s support of Windows 10 affect Aerotech’s support of A3200?   


Platform Overview

Top

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:
  1. Software for developing your application.
  2. A controller for motion control and machine functionality.
  3. Motor drives for servo motors, galvo scan heads and piezo nanopositioners.
  4. A high-speed communication bus for connecting the controller and drives.
  5. 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

Top

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 the the Automation1 iSMC websites.

What are the PC requirements for installing the Automation1 MDK controller?
The PC specifications for the Automation1-MDK are the same as for the Automation1-iSMC.  The specifications can be found on the Automation1 iSMC website.

Controller

Top

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

Top

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

Top

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

Top

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, which includes a .NET API and .NET CLR languages (C#, VB.NET, C++/CLI).  

AeroScript gives you access to the Automation1 motion engine and the power of the Automation1 compiler. Please see the Motion Controller Platform Selection Guide for more information.

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.  

Migrating From Other Aerotech Controllers

Top

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?
Aerotech has taken several steps to make migrating to Automation1 a seamless transition for our customers. Here’s a brief overview of the process:

  1. Migrate to the Automation1 MDK from the A3200 Motion Composer Suite.  The MDK includes a user-friendly studio application for configuring and developing a precision automation solution. It also contains a powerful digital oscilloscope visualization of data from your drives and controller.  
  2. Migrate to the Automation1 iSMC from the A3200 software-based machine controller. The Automation1 controller generates higher resolution motion trajectories and compiles programs up to 50 times faster.
  3. Migrate to Automation1 machine controller definition file from A3200 parameter and calibration files. A simple parameter file migration utility can be downloaded on our software downloads page. Most parameters will migrate using this tool. Many that do not are quickly configured with the Automation1 studio application’s Machine Setup utility. See the Automation1 MDK page for more details. A3200 calibration files can be used in their current format.
  4. Migrate existing programs to AeroScript from AeroBasic. The new AeroScript language builds on many of the concepts of AeroBasic.  New and modern syntax and features enable the development of more powerful programs. For simple motion programs, migration will be simple. A3200 users with G-code support will be happy to know that G-code is supported natively in AeroScript. AeroBasic features AeroBasic motion, I/O and program flow control will need to be updated to AeroScript syntax.  
  5. Migrate existing programs to Automation1 APIs from A3200 libraries. 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.  
  6. Double check your PC solution for Automation1 compatibility. Please refer to the Automation1 iSMC website for more details.
  7. Migrate to the HyperWire fiber-optic bus from FireWire. The HyperWire motion control bus is a proprietary bus from Aerotech. The HyperWire PCIe card is only available from Aerotech and, unlike the FIreWire network, a PCI option is not available. HyperWire cables are ‘active optical’ glass-optical fiber cables. FireWire hardware and cables from A3200 systems cannot be reused for Automation1 systems. New equipment must be purchased.
  8. Build your system around Automation1 drive technology. Drive hardware designed to operate on the FireWire communication bus will not be able to communicate with the Automation1 controller. Therefore, systems built on the Automation1 controller must use new Automation1 drive hardware.  
    
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?
The Automation1 help documentation includes detailed instructions on migrating your programs, including command cross-reference listings.  

Please see the Automation1 help files for more information.  

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 Automation1 Equivalent
Drive Racks Npaq Automation1 XR3
Npaq MR
Npaq 6U
PWM Servo Drives Ndrive HPe Automation1 XC4e
Ndrive CP Automation1 XC4
Ndrive MP Automation1 XC2
Automation1 XC2e
Linear Servo Drives  Ndrive HLe Automation1 XL5e
Ndrive ML Automation1 XL2e(1)
Galvo Scan Head Drives  Nmark GCL Automation1 GL4
 
Nmark CLS
Multi-Axis Robotic Controller HEX RC Automation1 XR3
Piezo Nanopositioner Drives
 
Ndrive QLe Automation1 QL4e(1)
Ndrive QL Automation1 QL4(1)
Clock & Direction (Stepper) Interface Nstep Automation1 SI4(1)
Analog Command (Servo) Interface Nservo Automation1 XI4(1)
Galvo Scan Head XY2-100 Interface Nmark SSaM Automation1 GI4(1)
(1) Pending - 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(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

Top

What is the plan moving forward for the A3200 motion control platform?  
Even though Automation1 is recommended for new designs, the A3200 software, controller and drives will continue to be sold and supported by Aerotech for many years to come. In fact, we still support legacy controller products that are nearly 30 years old.  

What happens if a legacy drive or drive rack product fails and is no longer available?  
In the unlikely occurrence that your drive product cannot be repaired or replaced by our Global Technical Support team, Aerotech will still support your needs.  

If you are using the A3200 controller, several of our new and equivalent A3200 drives and drive racks are supported by it. You may also need to upgrade your controller if you are using an older version.

Alternatively, upgrading your controller, communication network and drive hardware to Automation1 will always be an option.  

How long will I be able to purchase legacy drive hardware?
Aerotech has no plans to stop selling A3200, Ensemble or Soloist drive products unless we can no longer source components to make these products. We plan to actively sell these products through our direct sales channels for the next several years and will continue to sell them through Global Technical Support for the foreseeable future.

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.