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Better connected automation

03 September 2018

Connectivity is now a major consideration for the world of industrial automation. The rise of the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 has led to greater understanding of the importance of communication between equipment and systems that make up a complete automation solution.

This isn’t an issue for traditional industrial automation equipment, which has been designed from its inception to provide robust, stable operation as part of a PLC-controlled integrated network. In contrast, micropositioning systems have generally been highly specialised standalone units, with different operating principles and control requirements. Overcoming this historical distinction requires machine builders to match the disparate control requirements of these systems – in terms of language, parameters and capabilities – to develop integrated solutions capable of meeting today’s precision and throughput requirements. 

One area where this issue comes to the fore is laser machining. High speed laser galvanometer scanners are increasingly being used to provide high throughput, accurate and flexible laser machining for a wide range of processes. However, the limited field of view (FoV) of these galvanometer scanners requires them to be used in combination with machine tooling platforms or XY-stages to provide sufficient range of movement for high throughput applications such as cutting, welding, marking or drilling. The challenge with this set-up is that the different operating principles of the galvanometer scanner and the machine tooling table – very high speed, short travel motions versus variable speed, longer travel movements – mean that these devices generally need to be controlled in isolation, using a ‘step and scan’ approach to coordinate operation of the two separate systems. 

Read the full article in the September issue of DPA

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