Advances in Motion Control Support Modern Manufacturing

Widely used in production lines, robotics, and other automated equipment, motion control technologies help boost efficiency, increase product quality, and offset the effects of a shrinking workforce. As more industries begin to embrace automated solutions, the use of motion control technology is growing and advancing to meet the needs of modern manufacturing. Here we will explore the latest trends in motion control, including developments that reduce time to market, simplify programming, shrink components for smaller system footprints, and support the advancement of Industry 4.0. 

What’s Included in a Motion Control System? 

Before talking about new motion control trends, it is important to establish a basic understanding of motion control. Considered a sub-field of automation, motion control is a system of components that work together to achieve precise control of the position, velocity, acceleration, and torque of each axis of a machine. The essential components of a motion control system include: 

  • Motion Controller: As the “brains” of the motion control system, the function of the motion controller is to control motor drives based on a target position, a feedback device (typically), and a programmed motion profile. 
  • Motor Drive: The function of the motor drive is to receive the command signal from the controller, interpret the command, and supply the corresponding amount and frequency of electrical power to the motor. 
  • Motor: The motor functions as the muscle in a motion control system. Its role is to receive the electrical power from the motor drive and convert it into mechanical power (motion). 
  • Feedback Devices: Feedback devices are used in closed-loop motion control systems. Encoders are the most common feedback device and are used to measure and report the position and direction of rotation to the motion controller over time so that it can derive velocity and acceleration and adjust its commands to the motor drive as needed. Closed-loop motion control systems perform complex, precise motions that open-loop motion control systems cannot accomplish. 
Bosch Rexroth’s ctrlX motion control system starting up

Motion control systems are advancing to keep up with the needs of industry and manufacturing. 

  • Decreasing time to market: By integrating motion control software into more devices, such as PLCs and machine vision systems, the control system becomes more of a “plug-and-play” deliverable, giving developers the flexibility to use components from a variety of manufacturers and build machines quicker, thus reducing time to market. For end users, the move from hardware-based motion control to software-based motion control reduces equipment and installation costs. 
  • Simplified programming: Motion control vendors are creating platforms that allow programmers to use whatever language they are most comfortable with or the one most suitable to the task. They are also simplifying the programming process by developing apps and templates for common types of automated machines. For instance, Bosch Rexroth offers its ctrlX Automation family of motion controllers, PLCs, and HMIs, which support numerous programming languages for low-code engineering, can use pre-built app templates for a variety of applications, have web-based HMIs that work with consumer devices, and provide security, data analytics, and connection to the Internet of Things. Together these simplified tools increase ease of use and simplify programming, allowing OEMs and end users to become more agile, flexible, and cost-effective. 
  • Smaller footprints: To save valuable floor space at industrial facilities, motion control vendors are reducing the size of their systems and making their components field-mountable and motor-integrated to reduce cabinet sizes. Multi-axis and decentralized servo drives are gaining popularity because they can be paired with any servo motor, and servo motors featuring one-cable technology save costs and space by reducing wiring within the machine. 
  • Advanced sensors for Industry 4.0: Sensors are becoming more advanced as end users demand more data from their machines. Today’s sensors provide internet-enabled functionality, advanced communication capabilities, and increased processing power to collect data and perform calculations in situ. The ability to collect and analyze data allows end users to trend machine behaviors to conduct predictive maintenance and other activities, which reduces unplanned shutdowns and increases the availability of equipment to meet production and quality goals. 

While motion control has been around for many years, it is advancing to keep up with modern industrial needs so that users can continue to rely on motion control to increase productivity and quality in their facilities. 

For more information on the latest motion control trends or to learn more about Bosch Rexroth’s crtlX portfolio, please contact a representative at JHFOSTER