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Rockwell targets emerging `integrated motion` market

01 May, 2002

Rockwell Automation has set it sights on becoming a leading player in what it sees as an emerging market for integrated motion and sequential controls. At the recent Hanover Fair, it unveiled the first members in a new generation of motion equipment which it hopes will help to create this market and give it pole position.

"Rockwell was a second-tier supplier in motion controls," admits Brian Casey, director of global marketing for Rockwell`s motion controls business, "but we have invested heavily to become first-tier".

Integrated machine controls bring together the traditionally separate worlds of sequential and motion control. Casey points out that all but the simplest machines need both types of control, but the conventional approach of mixing and matching separate components is complicated, time-consuming and expensive.

One reason that motion control has been regarded as a separate discipline is that it requires engineers with an expertise in both mechanical and electronic controls. To outsiders, it is often regarded as "black magic", according to Casey.

In developing its new family, called Kinetix, Rockwell has attempted to break down these barriers. The first elements in the family were on show in Hanover - the result of more than two years of development by teams in the US, Japan and the UK.

A central element is a new servo drive designed to speed up the wiring, programming, operation and diagnostics of servo installations. The Kinetix 6000 drive has been developed from scratch to overcome many of the traditional drawbacks of servo technology and to appeal, in particular, to OEM users serving markets such as packaging, materials handling and assembly.

For example, the bookshelf format drives are 25-68% smaller than most of competition, according to Randy Holterman, product manager for the new range. For a typical eight-axis system, it can halve the cabinet space required and save OEMs $2,000-3,000, he reckons.

Wiring is reduced significantly by using fibre-optic Sercos communications between the drive and its controller. One fibre can eliminate up to 18 wires per axis and avoids the phasing and electrical noise problems associated with wiring.

Further time is saved by mounting the drives on a backplane which replaces traditional DC busbars, DIN rails, auxiliary power cabling and inter-module wiring. This "Power Rail" system can carry up to eight servo modules and support up to eight axes of motion. A good earth connection is created automatically when a module is attached to the rail.

Nine normally separate components - such as circuit-breakers, filters, and power supplies - are combined in an optional "line interface" module. Holterman says that this module helps to reduce panel space further, and eliminates up to 72 wire terminations.

The Kinetix 6000 has a velocity bandwidth of more than 400Hz, and a current loop bandwidth of more than 1,300Hz. Holterman claims this is twice as good as rival products and is approaching the mechanical limitations of motors.

Rockwell is also offering a matching range of "smart" servo motors. The new drives can identify these machines and configure themselves to match them automatically, thus eliminating the need for an initial homing sequence and minimising commissioning time, according to Rockwell.

Volume shipments of the new drive are due to start in September. Pilot users have included Gillette, Kimberly-Clark and Procter & Gamble. The Kinetix family will be extended later to include items such as actuators, gearmotors and linear stages.

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