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Siemens targets the motion control middle ground

01 November, 2001

Siemens targets the motion control middle ground

Siemens is entering a new sector of the motion control market - the middle ground between general-purpose controls and precision CNC systems - with a major new family of products called Simotion. It claims that the products, which combine intelligent motion control with simple functionality, could cut machine building costs by up to 20%.

Siemens estimates that the market it is targeting is worth €5.1bn and is growing by about 5% a year as a whole, and by more than 10% in some sectors. At present, it reckons that it has around 7.4% of this market through customers who use either its Simatic general-purpose control products, or its Sinumerik CNC offering. Siemens hopes to boost this share with the purpose-designed Simotion family.

"Neither our Sinumerik or Simatic cover this segment fully," say Helmut Gierse, president of Siemens` automation and drives (A&D) group. Although around 30,000 Sinumerik systems are sold each year, they are best suited to the CNC duties for which they were designed.

The new system, which includes software and three different hardware platforms, is aimed particularly at builders of series machines. "No longer do machine builders have to try and integrate drives and controls of different makes or to overcome excessive technological hurdles," says Gierse. "With Simotion, the integration is built into the system."

Georg Trummer, development manager for production machines in the A&D motion control division, contends that the system is the first that "fully implements the mechatronics concept", resulting in greater flexibility, reduced wear and maintenance, and shortened design, commissioning and changeover times. Mechatronics involves the inetgration of mechanical, electrical and software engineering and allows traditional mechanical components such as gears and cams to be replaced by software.

"The main advantages of mechatronic solutions are associated with time savings," says Trummer. "Product changes can be made simply by pushing a button rather than modifying the mechanical system."

The three key elements of the Simotion system are:

  • a Windows-based engineering system called Simotion Scout, designed for use by project planners working on motion control tasks;
  • a scalable, multi-tasking run-time software package including PLC functions; and
  • three different hardware platforms - a dedicated controller called Simotion C, an industrial PC called Simotion P, and an integrated smart-drive version, Simotion D, which Siemens expects to be the biggest seller.

Once an application has been designed, it will run on any of the three platforms without alteration. The C and P versions will be launched at the SPS/IPC/Drives show in Nuremberg this month, with the drive-based version following in the second half of 2002.

Trummer sees the main competitors as being companies such as Rockwell, Elau, Beckhoff and B&R. He does not expect sales of the Simatic and Sinumerik families to be affected adversely by the new range.




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