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Mechatronics portfolio aims to cut machine-building costs

15 December, 2009

Rockwell Automation has assembled a portfolio of hardware and software products which, it says, will cut machine-building costs and development times, and boost machine efficiencies.

The portfolio is based on mechatronics – the idea that bringing together mechanical, electrical and control engineers can optimise machine designs. Although this concept is well-established, its high costs and the lack of easy-to-use tools have limited its appeal to machine-builders to date, says Rockwell.

“Engineers from each group typically design their machine components separately and combine everything for the first time in a physical prototype,” explains John Pritchard, global marketing manager for Rockwell’s Kinetix motion control products. “This approach can be costly and time-consuming, and any changes to the design require creation of a modified physical prototype.

The new mechatronics portfolio will allow machine-builders to create any number of virtual prototypes, cutting design time and prototype costs and allowing them to identify potential design improvements much earlier in the design process. “Machine-builders can then select only the most promising designs – perhaps two or three instead of the 20 original concepts – for physical prototyping,” Pritchard says.

Rockwell’s mechatronics portfolio includes:
• direct-drive rotary servomotors that minimise the need for power transmission components and can help to simplify machines;
linear servomotors that avoid wear-prone components such as bearings, gears and belts;
electric cylinders that offer a quiet, clean, efficient alternative to pneumatics and hydraulics for linear actuation; and
integrated linear stages in single- and multi-axis configurations that simplify machine designs.

Key to the portfolio is an updated version of Rockwell’s Motion Analyzer software (above) which helps designers to select drive, motor and actuator combinations. It can now import mechanical CAD designs from SolidWorks’ 3D CAD software and animate them. It provides a graphical environment for designing machines and sophisticated motion profiles, and should help to cut lead times, according to Rockwell. Motion profiles can be transferred into Rockwell’s RSLogix 5000 software.

Motion Analyzer offers other functions such as: efficiency analyses, which show where energy is being used in a machine; estimates of lifetime; move profile editors; gearbox thermal modelling; and analyses of supply voltage tolerances. The software supports non-Rockwell gearboxes and custom motors.

Pritchard says that Rockwell is committed to investing further in the mechatronics portfolio, and “will continue to add new technology to help engineers build more innovative machines”.




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