23 Jul 2024


Servo-inverter merges drive- and controller-based automation

The German automation and drives manufacturer Lenze is launching an industrial controller which, it claims, removes the boundaries between controller-based and drive-based automation. It says that users of its new i950 servo-inverter will no longer need to choose between a centralised automation topology, a decentralised one, or a combination of the two. And from the software engineering point-of-view, it will not matter whether a servo-inverter is integrated into a machine’s topology as a simple actuator, as a parameterisable axis, or as a freely programmable axis.

The new servo-inverter – which will make its public debut at the SPS IPC Drives show in Germany later this month – incorporates a controller-based automation platform. Machine-builders will be able to use the standardised technology modules of Lenze’s Fast application software toolbox with the i950. They will be able to adapt the modules to suit their needs, or use their own IEC 61131-3 based software. This will cut development times and reduce time-to-market, Lenze predicts.

Automation can no longer be restricted to shopfloor networking, it adds. Digital transformation is inextricably linked to cloud computing, with data from machines and systems being collected in the cloud, analysed there, and linked to other information when necessary.

Lenze predicts that cloud connections will become a standard feature of the field level in the next few years – as fieldbus communications are today. The use of standard protocols such as OPC UA or MQTT will guarantee that components are future-proof, even in the age of cloud computing. Working with cloud services providers, Lenze is thus creating a way of generating information from data to increase the productivity and reliability of machines and systems.

The company has traditionally supported both drive-based automation with a decentralised intelligence distributed in the drive technology, and controller-based automation based on centralised PLC intelligence. Users have had to choose which of these two concepts they want to use, based on the needs of a project.

But the two automation concepts are increasingly coming together as a result of machines and systems becoming modularised. It makes sense to control some parts of a production system with a centralised intelligence, while other machine modules can be seen as cyber-physical systems (CPS) and are equipped with their own distributed intelligence, Lenze argues. It is therefore vital to have a uniform scalability throughout automation systems to make applications future-proof, it adds.

OEMs will be able to develop their machines and modules in the same way and – with little expense and a lot of investment security – to build up a store of expertise in the form of application software, both for machine modules with decentralised intelligence for each axis, and for modules with powerful central controls for complex multi-axis movements.

Lenze says that its new platform will offer a complete automation system that extends from the sensor/actuator level to the control level, combines centralised and decentralised intelligence, and supports connections to cloud applications on the basis of common standards. It will allow machine-builders to bring flexible, intelligent, and individually tailored machines rapidly to market.