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System-integrated measurement technology – also for high-end requirements

09 September 2019

PC-based control provides measurement technology that can be integrated seamlessly into the control technology. Martin Podrouschek, product manager at Beckhoff Automation, explains its advantages and wide range of uses extending up to high-end applications.

With the EtherCAT measurement modules, Beckhoff offers a new generation of high-precision measurement I/Os with a robust metal housing.
With the EtherCAT measurement modules, Beckhoff offers a new generation of high-precision measurement I/Os with a robust metal housing.

What characterizes measurement technology from Beckhoff that is integrated directly in the control technology and what benefits does it offer in the field of testing technology?
Martin Podrouschek: Two areas of application should be mentioned here. First of all, there are the conventional production machines, where developers, design engineers, programmers and users wish to know more details about running processes. These include the quality of the manufactured parts, consumption of operating resources and cycle times. Control technology usually already exists in such machines, and the addition of a separate measurement and data logging system often fails due to financial or organizational hurdles. Conversely, with PC-based control or at least an EtherCAT-based I/O system, the EtherCAT measurement terminals from Beckhoff offer a simple way to supplement the control system with measurement technology that even supports the fast and highly precise acquisition of analog values, as well as the transmission of large analog data quantities over 100 Mbit/s EtherCAT. The big advantage of this is that the additional process knowledge gained makes it possible for the post-process measurement technician to carry out extensive rework. In fact, the control system programmer can now influence a machine’s control loop better on the basis of high-quality data and can optimize the control process. The second area of application primarily concerns measurement applications in testing technology. Through the Beckhoff-typical combination of measurement and control technology, users are also capable of actively intervening and automating test applications. And it is precisely the extensive range of drives and switches, input and output modules, analog and digital technology, position-detecting and feedback terminals from the industrial environment combined with the unlimited programming flexibility of TwinCAT software – with libraries, wizards and data connectivity options – that makes completely new concepts for automated test benches possible for these users. Due to the openness of PC-based control technology, users still remain flexible in the integration of special devices and industry-specific software.

What special properties benefit users of the ELM3xxx analog measurement modules?
Martin Podrouschek: Users who integrate measurement technology in their 24/7 production machines expect that the measuring components will work just as smoothly and as long as the control system itself. In particular, the measurement technology must do what it is supposed to do over the entire period and even under adverse conditions if necessary: it must measure precisely. And that is exactly where the focal point of Beckhoff measurement technology resides. Due to a wide range of internal functions and a correspondingly aligned production approach, the measurement solutions fulfill these customer expectations. Examples of this are extensive integrated self-tests, which ensure that the measurement modules work perfectly, as well as thorough pre-treatment of the modules during production and optional factory and DakkS-compliant certificates, through to Beckhoff recalibration services.

What are the typical fields of application for the system integrated Beckhoff measurement technology and how has this range been extended over the years?
Martin Podrouschek: Traditional production machines are increasingly equipped with integrated measurement technology. User interest is increasing not only in energy measurement and consumption data acquisition, but also in inline parts measurement on the manufactured object. In this environment, the 12/16/24-bit analog inputs in the 12-mm plastic housings have long since become accepted. These include the EL3751 EtherCAT Terminal presented in the application report as the first precision measurement terminal from the new generation with 100 ppm accuracy. The ELM3xxx measurement modules with 30-mm metal housings introduced in 2016 open up an even wider range of applications, especially in the high-end segment. Above all the testing market in general is reacting very positively to these developments and the EtherCAT modules can be used not only via TwinCAT, but also operated on every EtherCAT master. The increasing requirement for automation in test applications benefits in ideal fashion from the system-integrated Beckhoff approach, which also enables the integration of safety, vision, cloud connectivity and motion control on a single platform.

What characterizes the new EtherCAT measurement modules for high-end applications?
Martin Podrouschek: From a technical point of view, the processing of analog data can take place either locally in the measurement module or centrally in the TwinCAT-based controller in the I&C world. Depending on the system concept, one or the other will be more useful and the Beckhoff analog inputs have always supported both. Temperature-stable, precise measurements with an oversampling function with currently up to 50 ksamples/s are advantageous for both applications. In particular for local processing, the modules offer a wide range of analog functions such as multi-stage, freely preset filtering, true RMS calculation and drag indicator. In addition, some terminals feature special technologies for sensor connection: specialties such as tare, bridge extensions and shunt calibration are integrated in the ELM350x measurement modules for weighing and strain applications, while TEDS and AC/DC coupling are usable in the ELM360x IEPE terminals for vibration measurement. The integrated measurement technology from Beckhoff imposes virtually no limits on technically oriented users in the installation of established measurement technology methods in production and test machines and market-leading applications.

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