The manufacturing industry requires machines that adapt to different products with little to no downtime or retooling. With today's automation technology, the dream of having one machine able to manufacture many different products is becoming a reality.
When it comes to innovative industrial machinery, the key word is flexibility. For manufacturing companies, much of their success depends on being able to react quickly to changing market requirements and bring new products to market in a short time. The perfect machine would adapt with the same speed and ease that we see when Hollywood transforms an ordinary car into a futuristic robot. More adaptive machines mean shorter time-to-market and more profitable production of small batch sizes and personalized products.
These days, a social media post can cause a sudden spike in demand that fades again just as quickly.
Conventional machines are usually designed to produce one specific product. If demand for a certain product goes up, the manufacturer needs new machines to produce it. Even if they were able to obtain new equipment fast enough to meet the rapid fluctuations in consumer demand, continually retooling is a costly and time consuming approach and occupies valuable floor space with machines that will soon be obsolete.
The solution: flexible machines that adapt to accommodate new products. For that to be possible, the machines must be constructed of modules – self-contained mechatronic units – that can be connected or removed at any time with minimal impact on the control cabinet.
"To enable rapid changeover from one product to another, each machine module needs to have its own integrated motion control solution. In other words: compact servo drives are an essential requirement for modular machines," says Wilfried Guerry, B&R product manager for drive technology. This drive solution is mounted directly to the frame of the machine, in effect distributing the automation throughout the machine rather than concentrating it in the control cabinet.
This decentralized approach for modular machines reduces the amount of hardware needed in the control cabinet and saves space. "That allows you to use a much smaller control cabinet, and greatly simplifies cabling. What you get is a machine with a much smaller footprint," emphasizes Guerry. You can also cut back on the complex cabinet cooling system or eliminate it entirely.
B&R's ACOPOSmotor is a distributed drive technology solution that makes machines more flexible. "With the ACOPOS series' extremely compact new servo drives, we're perfectly equipped to meet machine builders' demands for greater flexibility," emphasizes Guerry. At just 60 x 90 mm, the IP65-rated motor-drive combinations are perfectly suited for installation on the frame of the machine. They cover a performance range up to 350 watts and have an integrated servo drive that enables control loops as fast as 50 µs. "ACOPOSmotor helps build machines the can easily adapt to different products," says Guerry.
Modern manufacturing equipment needs to be not only flexible but also quick to set up and put into operation. "Even with entire machines, we're seeing increasing demand for basically plug-and-play levels of operational readiness immediately after delivery," reports Guerry. That's no simple task, since the machines have to be disassembled for transport and reassembled on site.
The small ACOPOSmotor drives are connected via a hybrid cable that provides both the power supply and network communication with POWERLINK. That's only one cable that needs to be run to the control cabinet. "The B&R products offer two connections for the hybrid cables. What's special about them is that they swivel with 300° of freedom. That's a huge help during installation," says Guerry.
The simplified startup using the single-cable solution of the ACOPOSmotor results in significant cost savings. "The amount of cabling can be reduced by up to 90% compared to conventional servo drives," says Guerry. Additional ACOPOSmotor units can easily be connected with daisy chaining. "This cuts back on both the time and the manpower needed for cabling," notes Guerry. What's more, simplifying the cabling also makes is much less prone to errors.
To implement continuous improvement for machines and production processes, you first need to collect all the available data from the machine. "With ACOPOSmotor, it's possible to query motor data like speed, torque and voltage in real time and collect it in the cloud," explains Guerry. The servo drive sends the data to the cloud via an edge device using a communication protocol such as OPC UA. Once processed, the data can be used to optimize product quality or to reduce energy consumption.
Such a comparatively small component can make an enormous difference: "The smallest ACOPOSmotor has roughly the same dimensions as a credit card," says Guerry. The devices are ideally suited for modular designs, help to streamline commissioning, allow process data acquisition and contribute to more compact and adaptive machinery.
Author: Carola Schwankner, Corporate Communications Editor, B&R
With its extremely compact new ACOPOSmotor units, B&R offers an integrated motor-drive solution that delivers up to 335 W with a motor flange size of only 60 mm. The drives operate over a wide voltage range from 24 to 60 VDC and have the STO safety function integrated as standard. In addition, the devices do not require a fan or heat sink and are therefore low-maintenance and easy to clean.