Motion Control & Drives

Smart machines provide more power

August 2010 Motion Control & Drives

Information enabled machines arm manufacturers with a valuable resource for gaining the critical operational insight they need in today’s knowledge based business environment. As manufacturing data converges between the shop floor and business offices, machines that leverage the power of these domains have become a competitive advantage for machine builders.

Machines with embedded intelligence offer an innovative way to wring more productivity out of the manufacturing operation. That is because these machines generate data and diagnostics that lead to meaningful analysis. This analysis then helps control engineers to identify how the processes can best be improved.

Industry standards help

Fortunately for machine builders, industry standards such as Ethernet/IP have made building these sophisticated machines easier than ever. The Ethernet/IP protocol allows users to control, configure and collect information over the same network, while still having the ability to support standard Ethernet functions such as e-mail, web browsing and data sharing. With such broad capabilities and performance, Ethernet/IP can serve the functions of multiple network levels. This converged network infrastructure simplifies a machine’s design, and in turn helps machine builders lower their design costs.

The savings are even greater when Ethernet/IP capabilities are paired with controllers that have advanced text string handling abilities. With supporting hardware, Ethernet/IP-enabled controllers can initiate e-mails to multiple addresses to deliver reports that maintenance personnel can use. For example, check alarms, provide manufacturing proficiency data to management or deliver machine diagnostic data to the OEM.

This deeper understanding, along with remote access capabilities, helps keep machines running better. Embedding intelligence gathering devices into machines provides self diagnostic equipment that can predict and prevent failures, improving productivity and reducing repair costs.

Savings beyond the machine

Machine builders traditionally designed equipment with a focus on meeting the needs of the controls engineer. Now, however, they also need to consider the needs of IT professionals. Fortunately, tools, technologies and resources exist to help OEMs both address and facilitate this top floor to shop floor integration. The Rockwell Automation Stratix portfolio of Industrial Ethernet switches helps manage this real-time information flow by reducing network latency and jitter. The Stratix 8000 modular-managed switch addresses the network convergence activities by offering features for both IT professionals and control engineers. The Stratix 6000 fixed managed switch gives users cost effective control over their Ethernet/IP network. It is ideal for applications with small or highly distributed networked devices, or devices connecting to the controller.

Standards help streamline communications

Without standards and the flexibility they provide, it can take significant time and money to enable machines to communicate at even the most basic levels. Also, any need to make changes may require another arduous process. Machine builders can leverage standardised tools and modular programming concepts in the design process to reduce costs associated with creating sophisticated equipment.

To help OEMs clearly identify specifications, use more efficient programming approaches and meet various industry standards, Rockwell Automation created a new version of Power Programming (v.4). This provides an integrated, modular approach to application development and includes S88 and PackML execution methods and data structures.

As market demand grows, users can implement other industry standards in Power Programming to support more industry segments. Power Programming gives pre-tested modules of code based on standardised programming methods and best practices acquired through years of experience. This helps programmers save time and money during the design, implementation and maintenance.

Also, OEMs can use and reuse this code, which reduces design time and, consequently, costs for machine projects. Power Programming’s specifications, HMI templates, and pre-written basic and fault code are designed around current, open standards and industry guidelines. This helps to improve programming speed, flexibility and accuracy.

Get best practices for machine design

IT-ready machines call for new design considerations. That is why Rockwell and Cisco will release Converged Plant-Wide Ethernet Architectures. These will include the latest Design and Implementation Guide that provides best practices and guidance for helping machine builders design information enabled machines.

These resources will provide design guidance to help machines integrate seamlessly with a customer’s network infrastructure. Built on technology and manufacturing standards common between IT and manufacturing, these tools provide the foundation for success when deploying machines with the latest, innovative technologies.

For more information contact Sean Homan, Rockwell Automation, +27 (0)11 654 9700,,


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