Product advice: Smart mechatronics platforms offer new handling solutions

Intelligent mechatronics components, such as linear motion products, controllers, servo drives and operator software with easy-to-use configuration tools, are necessary to build complete, high-performance mechatronics solutions, according to a company with a Control Engineering Engineers’ Choice Award product.

By Richard Hansen February 9, 2022
Courtesy: Bosch Rexroth

 

Learning Objectives

  • Explore intelligent plug-and-produce mechatronics.
  • Learn how mechatronics can be smarter, with simpler operational control.
  • Understand how smart mechatronics can be applied to various applications.

Many manufacturers are implementing innovative smart mechatronic platforms to build production systems such as compact assembly tools and handling systems. These solutions combine modular components, user-friendly controls and online engineering/commissioning tools that make it easier to specify, order and deploy mechatronics, enhancing their value to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end users.

Through smart, well-engineered integration of linear components and electronic motors, controls and sensors, smart mechatronics provide complete solutions that make it easier for machine builders to build complex manufacturing systems.

The smart mechatronics concept provides a newer, faster approach to creating robotic handling systems like Cartesian robots. Handling robots put together from linear axes are an elementary part of factory automation. They can be found everywhere in the value stream: From incoming goods, production and assembly to packaging applications. They are integrated into individual machines, serve as pick-and-place units and work in semi- or fully automated lines.

Smart mechatronics offer a new approach to creating handling systems that incorporate new features such as advanced sensors and operator-friendly controller platforms that yield real-time data for system performance and manufacturing quality.

The advent of plug-and-produce mechatronics

One of the best advantages smart mechatronics solutions can offer is faster, easier system design and commissioning. Engineers want to streamline how they specify, purchase and commission mechatronics components, using online tools that deliver plug-and-produce systems ready to operate “out of the box” with minimal or no machine programming.

Companies pioneering smart mechatronics solutions are deploying a new generation of online configuration tools that address these challenges. These tools are designed to make it easier for engineers that have just a basic understanding of linear motion and controls requirements to create a complete solution.

This makes it possible to obtain a complete smart mechatronics solution from one supplier that can deliver all the mechatronics — linear modules, controller, electric drives and smart sensors — as an integrated system shipped with preprogrammed motion sequences ready for plug-and-produce implementation.

Mechatronics: Smarter, simpler operational control

Next-level mechatronics handling systems are now able to support transparent production processes with features that enable real-time condition monitoring and predictive maintenance.

These systems are delivered with preinstalled operating software and automatic parameterization of the servo drive, so no motion control programming knowledge is needed to bring it online. It features a drag-and-drop graphical user interface that lets operators intuitively build production sequences.

To set up the handling process, the user selects suitable functional modules from a library via the web-based software, moves them to the correct place in the sequence via drag and drop and completes the parameters. Everything is carried out visually and requires no programming knowledge. The software checks the information entered, as it does during the configuration process, to avoid invalid inputs.

In addition, the data can also be exported via system interfaces to plantwide or cloud-based manufacturing analytics systems, making the smart mechatronics system an integral component of a company’s i4.0 platform.

Bosch Rexroth’s Smart Function Kit for Handling uses online configuration tools to size and specify all the linear modules, actuators and end effectors, cabling, sensors, electric drives and controller necessary for a complete handling system, delivered and ready to operate. Courtesy: Bosch Rexroth

Bosch Rexroth’s Smart Function Kit for Handling uses online configuration tools to size and specify all the linear modules, actuators and end effectors, cabling, sensors, electric drives and controller necessary for a complete handling system, delivered and ready to operate. Courtesy: Bosch Rexroth

Smart mechatronics applications in action

Smart mechatronics demonstrate how sophisticated technology can solve complex engineering issues in a simpler way. It’s important to work with mechatronics suppliers whose portfolios and engineering expertise encompass the full range of components — linear motion products, controllers, servo drives and operator software — necessary to build complete, high-performance mechatronics solutions. It’s also important to assess the quality and ease of use of configuration tools. Mechatronics configuration tools can ensure the ease of use promised by the smart mechatronics movements is delivered.

Richard Hansen is senior automation engineer, Bosch Rexroth Corp. Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: Mechatronics advice, Engineers’ Choice Awards

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Author Bio: Richard Hansen is senior automation engineer, Bosch Rexroth Corp.