Microprocessors make CNC machines faster, smarter

CNC technology follows mass-market computing trends, so advances in general-purpose computing engines make more capable controllers available for CNC systems. Link to tutorial.

02/13/2009


Oak Brook, IL — That general-purpose-computing needs drive microprocessor trends is a fact of life. Simple semiconductor-fabrication economics makes mass-marketable designs very inexpensive, while making designs aimed at smaller market segments, such as CNC, cost prohibitive. The good news is that rapid development of advanced computer chips for consumer products provides CNC machine developers with a steady supply of high-performing control processors at relatively low prices. The bad news is that sometimes there is a disconnect between what CNC machine technology needs and what general-purpose computing provides.

Serial or parallel processing?


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Tutorial: Microprocessor advances translate into more CNC machine capability

,” a newly published online tutorial article (www.controleng.com/article/CA6634377.html) by Control Engineering , explores how semiconductor device advances affect CNC controller trends. The article looks at how semiconductor trends, including multicore processors, system on chip technology, Flash memory, and reduced power dissipation, dovetail with CNC controller needs.
“Overall, positives outweigh negatives,” says C.G.Masi for Control Engineering . “Following the path of semiconductor device advances provides CNC controllers with capabilities only dreamed of before. Where CNC needs do not align well with consumer electronics trends, OEMs developing new CNC products have to find work-arounds to make the available parts do CNC jobs adequately.”
An example is in the area of non-volatile solid-state disks (SSDs). Mobile consumer devices have a short life span, so limitations on how many times a Flash memory cell can be rewritten are not a problem there. For CNC, however, limited write-erase cycles is a major problem. In CNC applications, system developers want to keep a real-time record of the entire machine’s current state as a safety feature in case of unexpected system shutdown, such as during a power failure. That means updating the SSD data in real time, which can rapidly exhaust Flash memory cells.
Learn more about this rapidly developing technology area here: “

Microprocessor advances translate into more CNC machine capability

.”
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