Switching to PC Based Motion Control
PC motion control is becoming popular due to the regular improvements in expendability and productivity. As such, they are gradually doing away with stand-alone controllers by placing all functionalities by the controllers on control boards that are mounted in PC’s ISA/PCI slots. Controller boards handle data from limit switches and encoders to generate motion profiles required by motor drives. Sometime back, proprietary hardware and programmable logic controllers (PLC) were the only motion control system choices available. However, machine builders have resulted to using off-the-shelf design components to leverage PC architecture for numerical and motion control. But, such equipment requires custom software for the systems to work effectively. Fortunately, the growing demand for user-friendly software is making control of PC based machine easier.
Why switch to PC based motion control
Some of the reasons to adopt PC motion control include; reduced system costs, it is easy to integrate with other PC components, flexibility, and continuous PC technology improvement. Replacing proprietary and custom components with off the shelf hardware that is flexible reduces system costs. On the other hand, proprietary and closed architecture hardware is hard to modify to suit different requirements. In rapidly growing industries like the fiber optics industry, closed architecture machines that are in line with present industry requirements may not meet the flexibility requirement by future demands. Open architecture machine components are ideal because they eliminate such shortcomings.
PC motion control also integrates with other system components like data acquisition and PC based machine vision easily. Notably, a single platform can synchronize each of the pieces to one another in a bid to open up new automated inspection possibilities. Moreover, PC processing power and speed improves as the costs reduce. It is possible to upgrade specific components as more powerful and more effective options are introduced to the market. With closed architecture systems, you may have to replace the entire machine in order to improve on performance.
The effectiveness of a PC motion control is determined by its components such as; the actuator or motor, the controller, mechanical fixtures, the controller interface software, and the amplifier or driver. Note that, the PC motion control components selection begins with mechanical fixtures and ends with the controller because machine functions determine the actuators and mechanical fixtures to be used while limiting the motor selection parameters. Modern and off-the-shelf PC motion controllers replace low level and custom design programming with microcontrollers, DSPs and firmware. Such devices are programmed using high level, graphical and visual programming languages. High level languages speed up the development time placing emphasis on the application specifics.