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Rockwell gears up for mechanical extensions

01 July, 2002

Rockwell Automation has revealed that it is planning to move into new fields including geared servomotors and linear slides as part of its Kinetix motion engineering initiative. The new products, developed in collaboration with specialists in the fields of gearing and linear motion, will start to emerge at the end of this year.

John Pritchard, marketing manager for Rockwell`s industrial motion control products in the UK, describes Kinetix as "an attempt to wrap our arms around all aspects of motion control". The initiative will encompass elements such as combined sequential and motion controls, Sercos communications, servo drives and motors, and actuators.

The various elements are designed to work with each other so, for example, the drives will "recognise" the servomotors and the linear motion devices, and tune themselves automatically to work with them.

A core member of the portfolio is the Kinetix 6000 multi-axis servo drive which arrives in the UK next month, following its preview at the Hanover Fair earlier this year. The drive integrates motion and logic control and has been designed to make motion systems easier to install, commission and use.

It is assembled using a PLC-like racking system, which means that an eight-axis system needs just five mounting points. Further time and space is saved by using Sercos communications, with a single optical fibre replacing about 20 wires per axis. Rockwell claims that, in some installations, the new design will halve the panel space required.

Pritchard says that the new approach reflects changes happening in the industry. Traditionally, motion control has been regarded as a "black art" with specialist motion control suppliers shopping around to mix and match the best components for each project. Now, says Pritchard, people want simple, easy-to-install systems from a single supplier.

One of the first potential UK customers to look at the new technology is Bristol-based Bradman Lake, which specialises in designing and building carton-making machines for food industry installations worldwide. The company`s Ben Cann estimates that the Kinetix approach will reduce panel space by 38% compared to its traditional approach of using separate servo drives for each axis.

He reckons that the new system will cut the time taken to assemble controls from around 120 hours per machine to 80 hours. For example, a single fibre optic cable will replace 160 discrete wires used on previous machines. Commissioning engineers, who previously had to use two different software packages and nine separate programming points, will now be able to configure an entire installation from one point using a single software package.

Details of the mechanical components of the Kinetix system are still sketchy. But the linear slides will probably offer a choice of belt ballscrew or linear motor drives, with the motors coming from Rockwell`s Anorad subsidiary. More details will be revealed later in the year.

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