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Introducing a whole new drives family aimed at manufacturing automation

02 January 2013

Control Techniques launched its Unidrive M range at the SPS/IPC/Drives 2012 event. This new family has been designed according to feedback from customers to meet the specific needs of manufacturing automation customers.

A global market research and engineering and design programme has resulted in a family of seven drives, with different levels of performance and functionality. Every drive has been designed to meet the requirements of, and improve productivity in, a specific area of the manufacturing market.

At the top of the range is the Unidrive M800, which integrates a high performance MCi machine controller to enhance machine throughput by providing comprehensive control across complete customer machines.

The drives are configured using the CODESYS programming environment, with standard IEC 61131-3 programming languages and standard Ethernet for communication across drives, I/O, HMIs, PLCs and other industrial devices.

Onboard real-time Ethernet (using IEEE 1588 V2) gives fast and flexible communications, achieving synchronisation rates across the network of below 1 µs, update rates as low as 250 µs and a virtually unlimited node count.

Control Techniques’ new Real Time Machine Control Protocol uses standard Ethernet TCP/IP and UDP to provide an efficient and compact message structure which frees up Ethernet network bandwidth and minimises network loading. This allows Unidrive M models to talk directly to each other instead of having to route all communications through the traditional machine controller. Each Ethernet-enabled drive incorporates a dual-port Ethernet switch with standard RJ45 connectors, simplifying the task of networking machines.

Certain applications, such as electronic line shafts, can also now be set up without having to write any programming code. The drives start to communicate with one another automatically, synchronising their control loops so that they can operate in seamless coordination. Standard Ethernet allows Control Techniques’ protocols to work alongside others, such as PROFINET RT, Ethernet/IP and Modbus TCP/IP.

Commenting on the new range, Tom Alexander, vice president of technology at Control Techniques, said: “Control Techniques’ highly advanced new Ethernet protocol has been designed with the factories of the future in mind. The ability of drives in the Unidrive M family to talk directly to each other using this protocol is particularly exciting and will undoubtedly assist all our manufacturing customers on the essential journey towards smarter production methods.”

The range also comes with new software tools. Unidrive M Connect, for example, is a drive configuration and monitoring software tool, designed to make it easy to access the products’ full feature sets. It allows users to optimise drive tuning, back up the configuration set and troubleshoot more quickly.

Machine Control Studio software supports the integrated MCi machine control functionality, providing a full function automation development environment that uses open industry standard IEC 61131-3 programming languages and is powered by CODESYS.

Unidrive M Connect and Machine Control Studio both use the same communications components, allowing them to run simultaneously using numerous communication protocols.

Tom Alexander explains the rationale behind the new tools: “Rather than just updating our existing software suite to fit the new product, we developed our new PC tools using the results of a human-centred design programme that took user requirements into account right from the beginning of the design process.

“Additionally, commissioning and maintenance tasks have been simplified through a user interface that prioritises the most commonly performed tasks, simplifying the experience for all users, while advanced users will benefit from the fact that dynamic drive logic diagrams and enhanced searchable listings are present. Meanwhile, the drive and motor performance can be optimised with minimal specialised drive knowledge.”


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