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All-in-one machine platform adds safety and nanosecond I/O

19 November, 2012

A year after Omron announced its Sysmac all-in-one machine control platform, it is extending the system to include a safety controller and a modular I/O system that uses EtherCat’s distributed clock function to deliver deterministic control with nanosecond resolution. In the year since Sysmac made its debut at the 2011 SPS/IPC/Drives show, Omron reports it has sold more than 5,000 CPUs.

The company says that the new extensions, to be unveiled at this year’s SPS show, mark a milestone on its path to achieving the complete integration of various automation disciplines – including logic, motion, safety and vision – using one control system (the Sysmac NJ), one network (EtherCat), and one software package (Sysmac Studio). In the past year, the company has also halved the cycle time for 32 axes from 1ms to 0.5ms and added the ability for the system to control up to eight delta robots.

The new NX safety controller and the modular I/O system can be placed anywhere on an EtherCat network. The safety controller uses the FailSafe over EtherCat (FSoE) safety communication layer to transport safety data between the distributed devices and is designed to operate to PLe / SIL3. It is programmed in accordance with IEC 61131-3 using the same development environment as the rest of Sysmac, and uses the PLCopen safety library.

The safety controller can control safe logic in its local NX backplane, or remotely using backplanes connected to EtherCat nodes. Functional safety data and non-safety data are combined on one EtherCat channel using a mechanism that is claimed to have a probability of producing only one undetected error in more than 100,000 years. The main NJ controller acts as the EtherCat network master and is responsible for “hosting” the safe and non-safe communications, as well as managing non-safe logic. The safety controller is 30mm wide and the safety I/O are 12mm wide.

By using EtherCat’s distributed clock function, the new modular I/O system ensures the accuracy and repeatability of timing in the control loop. Individual I/O modules compensate for signal delays depending on their location, so inputs can be latched and outputs set anywhere in the control system with sub-microsecond accuracy. This is said to result in improved production quality and throughput.

The I/O system can be used not only with Omron controllers, but also with a wide range of open networks.

Omron has developed a new I/O interconnection bus, with a far larger data throughput than the field network. The bus sends the EtherCat distributed clock to individual I/O modules, allowing them to synchronise with the Sysmac machine controller`s primary task cycle. And, because each I/O station counts as a single network node, the network cycle times are short.

The new bus system support special inputs with a time-stamp function, which can be used to determine a sequence of events accurately. Complementary time-stamped outputs will allow users to control the timing of digital output sequences precisely. The timing accuracy from inputs to outputs is expected to be well under 1µs.

The digital I/Os provide 4–16 input or output points. Versions are available with high-speed response and safety I/O. The analogue I/O each handle 2–8 current, voltage, thermocouple or RTD signals. High-performance models offer 10µs conversion time per channel and a 1:30,000 resolution. The range includes I/O for encoder inputs and pulse outputs which can be assigned to motion axes in the controller.

The 100mm-high Sysmac I/O modules have detachable terminal blocks. Their standard width is 12mm – or 24mm for some special modules. For 16 digital and four analogue I/O points, the new modules are about 70% narrower than Omron`s previous GX series remote I/O for EtherCat with terminal blocks.

The first Sysmac I/O modules, due during the first quarter of 2013, will include about 70 I/O types, as well as system modules such as power feeds, earthing terminals and an EtherCat network interface. Interfaces for other networks, including Profinet and DeviceNet, and extra I/O, will be released later in 2013.

Also in the pipeline are higher-speed and lower-cost versions of the NJ controllers, as well as versions for specific markets such as CNC.

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