Guest Editorial
Improve machine productivity, lower life-cycle costs with motion control upgrades

anufacturers are bombarded with challenges daily: supply chain disruptions for both raw materials and required components, finding and retaining a qualified workforce, and pressure for increased productivity at higher profitability. These economic conditions usually mean delaying new equipment investment to save money. Retrofitting existing equipment with contemporary electronic controls can significantly increase performance while preserving the existing mechanical and power components that may have many decades of useful life ahead.

Forward motion
Electronic machine control and automation technology have reaped benefits from the boom in consumer electronics. Motion control problems were theoretically solved as far back as the 1940s and 1950s, but the solutions weren’t useful in practice because there wasn’t a way to calculate the equations fast enough to provide results that could be used to guide machines, especially those powered by hydraulics or pneumatics.

Current microprocessors offer so much computing power in small packages that today’s automation controls can sense, compute and command multiple motion axes thousands of times per second. This is more than fast enough to repeatably position cylinders to better than 0.001 in., day in and day out.

A precisely controlled machine starts paying off immediately in a few critical ways. Axes can move and stabilize at required positions faster, and multiple axes can coordinate and move simultaneously instead of sequentially, adding up to dramatic cycle time savings. This results in productivity gains immediately.

Axes can also accelerate and decelerate smoothly in control, instead of slamming into mechanical stops or tooling. This means less wear and tear, longer uptime, and less time spent on periodic maintenance.

Peter Nachtwey Headshot
A precisely controlled machine starts paying off immediately.
With electronic motion controls, changeovers speed up because “recipes” of motion sequences and settings are saved in memory, ready for the next run of parts or change in material. Electronic motion controllers also can provide a detailed record of machine performance over time, allowing engineers to analyze and continuously improve operations.

Motion controllers, such as Delta Computer Systems’ RMC series, bring multiple machine control features to the table. Precisely controlling position or velocity is just the starting point; with the right feedback, the pressure or force exerted on the work can be accurately controlled. Switching between position control and force control can be done seamlessly every cycle. Multi-axis motion synchronization and coordination produce consistent results and quality, cycle after cycle.

Easy-to-learn software accesses powerful control algorithms, motion commands, and troubleshooting tools and wizards with a logical user interface. A broad range of communications and transducer connectivity support mean that a new motion controller can be integrated with legacy equipment, which means the upgrade is less expensive.

Proactive problem-solving
Delta Computer Systems has decades of applications experience and machine control expertise and numerous successful retrofit cases. One user had a pressing application installing a bearing into a cast base. The casting can’t be damaged in the process because it is difficult to detect, the risk of failure is high and correcting damage afterward is expensive. But small imperfections crop up in the bearing seat periodically. By adding an RMC motion controller, the press is programmed to seat the bearing to a specified depth, while constantly monitoring the applied force. A spike in force indicates resistance in the bearing seat, the pressing operation stops and the casting can be salvaged.

In a four-corner press application, the RMC controller synchronizes the motion of the pressing cylinders, ensuring that the platen stays level through the pressing cycle. This eliminates the need to mechanically eliminate skew. A cushioning system can easily be integrated so that the workpiece and the platen motion are tightly coordinated. The resulting parts are consistent to within a few thousandths of an inch, cycle after cycle, and the amount of exerted force is easily tuned for different materials and thicknesses.

Economic pressures on manufacturers are a way of life, but a relatively small investment in motion control automation can pay huge dividends in productivity and lower operating costs. When assessing the machines in any plant, shop floor managers might consider that a retrofit makes financial sense.

Delta Computer Systems
Battle Ground, Washington, 360/254-8688,