Tools for Complex Machine Design
At its Automation Fair conference in November, Rockwell Automation announced an expanded mechatronic solutions portfolio consisting of software tools, motion control products, and support. The portfolio enables better collaboration among machine builders by providing a common forum where design input from mechanical, controls, software, and electrical engineers can be more easily gathered and evaluated.
Mechatronics is a collaborative venture between mechanical, electrical, and control design engineers to optimize machine design. “However, due to high costs and lack of easy-to-use tools associated with virtual prototyping, mechatronics has traditionally proven challenging for machine builders to integrate into their design processes,” said John Pritchard, global product marketing manager for Rockwell’s Kinetix Motion Control.
“Engineers from each group typically design their machine component separately and combine everything for the first time in a physical prototype,” said Pritchard. “This approach can be costly and time consuming, and any changes to the design require creation of a modified physical prototype.”
Rockwell’s offering lets machine builders create any number of virtual prototypes, and leverage analysis tools to identify potential design improvements much earlier in the process. “Machine builders can then select only the most promising designs—perhaps two or three instead of the 20 original concepts—for physical prototyping,” said Pritchard.
The new mechatronic solutions portfolio encompasses updated motion analyzer software, Allen-Bradley direct drive rotary and linear servo motors, electric cylinders, and integrated linear stages.
The motion analyzer software, for example, helps machine builders select the best-suited drive-motor-actuator combination for their application. It now also provides interoperability with SolidWorks 3D CAD software, which delivers a highly graphical environment for designing machines and sophisticated motion profiles. Also, the Motion Analyzer software is now capable of transferring motion profiles directly into Rockwell Software RSLogix 5000 software, helping to reduce programming time.
“This portfolio leverages many tools engineers already have on hand and are comfortable using. It was developed to help machine builders do more with less: less time, less energy, less raw material and less cost,” said Pritchard. “The Motion Analyzer software tool helps reduce design time, improve machine efficiency and reduce the need for physical prototypes. The hardware solutions offer tighter coupling between the control and machine function, and help eliminate many of the undesirable traits associated with powertrain components, such as backlash, compliance, noise and energy losses.”
Rockwell Automation said one customer recently used the Rockwell Automation mechatronic solutions portfolio to identify stability and throughput improvement opportunities on a rotary saw used in its packaging machine. By replacing the motor, gearbox, and timing belt used to drive the saw with direct drive technology, the machine was more stable, met their parts per minute needs, and saved eight hours of assembly time.
“For machine builders designing sophisticated equipment with high flexibility, efficiency and throughput requirements, such as packaging, converting, printing and web or automation applications, mechatronics is an excellent starting point,” said Pritchard.