System Integration & Control Systems Design

Business unusual

May 2020 System Integration & Control Systems Design

System integrator Autotronix is mindful of the fact that this is a difficult time for many of its customers. “For many, they have been running legacy control hardware that is now more than two generations old,” says company managing director, Sudarshan Chetty. “Furthermore, there are often no spares available from the OEM, nor are there direct replacement parts available that are compatible with the existing hardware. This is complicated by legacy software that makes use of older communication ports that are no longer present on modern laptops.”

The challenge is extreme in the manufacturing sector, where legacy hardware is inherited from an already ageing machine that had already seen the end of its service life overseas, even before it was installed locally.

Chetty adds that for servo hardware this is certainly no exception, no matter how well the PCB hardware is designed. The PCB or some component on it will eventually fail. This can be attributed to ageing, voltage/current spikes, contamination, corrosion and the harsh environment under which these drives operate[1]. “For these customers, we face an enormous challenge,” he explains. “How do we continue to support them technically without compromising their production, in the full knowledge that they have a ticking time bomb on their hands? We start by evaluating their maintenance strategy. For many of our clients, maintenance strategy involves servicing the mechanical hardware and keeping spare electronic components. Unfortunately, for complex hardware such as drives and motion controllers, these often require additional programming. In such cases, we recommend backing up the software and configuration files so that the spare boards will have software that can be loaded when required. This reduces repair and maintenance time.”

For customers that do not have these backups available, the challenge is enormous. Should the hardware fail, programming can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the number of servo axes and the complexity of the motion. Add

to this the migration of the new servo hardware with the ageing motion controllers and PLC CPU.

“As a mitigation strategy, we do recommend that these software backups be done at least every six months, or after any field changes have occurred,” says Chetty. “Whilst there are several challenges when contemplating legacy hardware migration, it all boils down to cost and mean time to repair. Depending on the complexity of the machine, we can offer migration onto new platforms in less than 8 hours per axis.”

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic constraints the industry will most certainly face, we want to offer all our Mitsubishi users who want to migrate to the new servo platforms a 90-day payment holiday starting from 1 May 2020,” concludes Chetty. “This will be subject to credit approval and terms and conditions, and limited to a 2-axis servo system under R200 000 excluding VAT.”


[1]. J. York, ‘How Aging Components Impact Your Servo Amplifier or Drive,’ 18 December 2017,

For more information contact Sudarshan Chetty, Autotronix, +27 31 705 0400,,


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