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Software tie-ups bombard the motion control market
Published:  01 February, 2001

Software tie-ups bombard the motion control market

A flurry of recent announcements demonstrates the growing inter-dependence of motion control hardware and software. In the past few months:

• servo drive specialist Kollmorgen Seidel has announced plans to integrate motion control technology from the Dutch developer Nyquist into its products;

• soft motion and CNC developer Manufacturing Data Systems Inc (MDSI) has announced a joint technology partnership with the Taiwanese PC-based automation manufacturer, Advantech; and

• the German automation software developer Softing has been working with Inmotion (formerly Atlas Copco) to develop a motion control system based on its 4Control software.

The deal between Danaher subsidiary Kollmorgen Seidel and Nyquist brings open PC-based motion control to OEM machine manufacturers. Nyquist has developed a module that combines its NYCe3000 motion controller with Seidel`s Servostar 600 digital servo amplifiers.

The module plugs into the Servostar to create a "smart" drive. It takes care of real-time synchronisation and interpolation activities for multiple-axis applications. A high-speed FireWire network links the drive to a Windows NT PC which performs the I/O processing, machine sequencing, path planning, and display functions.

The tie-up between Seidel and Nyquist came about because the Dutch company was seeking a supplier of digital servo amplifiers for its OEM customers at the same time as Seidel was searching for a supplier of PC-based synchronised motion control technology.

Twan Smetsers, Nyquist`s marketing manager, says that the partners will focus initially on OEM customers in Europe, and expresses "high confidence" that the relationship will grow rapidly.

The deal between MDSI and Advantech will allow the $140m Taiwanese company to incorporate MDSI`s soft motion controls into PC-based products for the general motion control and industrial automation markets. MDSI`s software not only provides motion control without needing hardware controls or cards, but it can be customised for use on almost any type of machine tool. It also allows factory-floor equipment to be integrated with enterprise-wide data systems.

Details about the tie-up between Softing and Inmotion are sketchy. For Softing, which is perhaps best known for its IEC 61131-3 software for discrete controls, the move into motion controls represents a new venture. It is thought that Inmotion will not have exclusive rights to the motion control applications.

Sal Spada, senior analyst with the ARC Advisory Group, remarks that "machine builders are real beneficiaries from these types of partnerships as they enable the technology providers to continue to focus on their core competencies while using networked automation architectures to provide an optimal integration platform".

Spada believes that the Seidel-Nyquist decision to adopt the FireWire protocol is wise because it solves synchronisation problems at a low cost. Although the market is being "flooded" with FireWire products from suppliers including Yaskawa, Mitsubishi and Adept, there is no likelihood of creating a standard messaging protocol this way, he says. "By developing a plug-in FireWire card for servo drives, Nyquist has the possibility of creating a de facto messaging standard for FireWire drives," Spada suggests.

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