Two disciplines – one device

27 April 2020

The integration of a fail-safe motion control system, multi-axis drive control and powerful communication interfaces and technology I/Os in one device saves valuable control cabinet space and facilitates the implementation of particularly challenging machine concepts extremely efficiently – including modularisation and optimum scalability.

Control cabinets in the machine bed. Space-saving solutions for the control and drive technology are indispensable in this regard.
Control cabinets in the machine bed. Space-saving solutions for the control and drive technology are indispensable in this regard.

The requirements for automation and drive technology in today’s production machines are demanding: In addition to the ‘classic’ control technology, they are predominantly equipped with a multitude of highly dynamic servo drives, which must be operated energy-efficiently in perfect synchronisation with one another, by way of cam and gear synchronous operations, for example.

Complementing the typical functions of a PLC (e.g. logic processing), elaborate motion control functions are crucial – such as for positioning, synchronism and cam discs, through to path interpolation with transformations for handlings kinematics. Technological I/Os are also required for position-related acquisition and issuing of binary signals.  

Flexible scalable solutions, which permit the simple implementation even of modular machine concepts, are essential for rapid reactions to changes in the market. Moreover, this includes integrated safety concepts as protection for the machine and personnel, powerful communication interfaces for the incorporation of drive, I/O and HMI systems, as well as integration in system networks, MES systems, and cloud services.

In addition to classic PLCs and PC-based automation solutions, drive-based control platforms in particular have also established themselves for production machines which are reliant on motion control. The automation and drive technology of many production machines often have to make do with cramped recesses in the machine bed – therefore, particularly compact and space-saving control cabinet solutions are required.

With the Simatic Drive Controller, Siemens AG has expanded the product portfolio of the Simatic S7-1500 Advanced Controller to include a drive-based version. The new controller optimises the integration of the Simatic S7-1500 control system and the Sinamics S120 drive system. It integrates motion control, technology, PLC and safety functionalities directly in the modular and highly dynamic multi-axis drive system – without the need for any additional space for the control system in the control cabinet. 

The integrated interfaces and technology I/Os are available in all performance classes of the controller. This simplifies scaling based purely on performance and allows for efficient implementation of compact and modular automation and drive solutions. Engineering of the controller is performed via the TIA Portal with Simatic Step 7 and Sinamics Startdrive.

The integrated drive control of the Drive Controller allows up to 6 servo, 6 vector or 12 V/f drives to be operated directly at the controller. Should additional drives be required, the drive quantity structure can be expanded by way of Sinamics S120 Control Units (CU320-2) or Sinamics S210 single-axis AC/AC converter via Profinet, for example. Standardised data exchange via Profidrive also allows the integration of drives from other manufacturers.  

The Drive Controller is available in multiple versions for axis quantity structures of more than 100 axes. With the ‘cross-PLC synchronous operation’ function integrated in all S7-1500 technology CPUs, cam and gear synchronous operations are also possible across all CPUs, ensuring that the axis quantity structures are practically limitless. In addition to the performance distribution to multiple CPUs, the cross-PLC synchronous operation also allows the uncomplicated implementation of modular automation concepts with ‘autonomous function units’.  

In order to consider the safety aspects of producing machines, safe monitoring of all movements is also possible. 

Safely increase productivity 

Intelligent safety concepts are not only designed to protect personnel and machinery, they also form the basis for high machine throughput and minimal downtimes. 

Danger zones can be protected by safety light grids, for example, and drives operated safely by applying the Safe Direction (SDI) function, where a danger zone can be made accessible to the operator provided the machine moves in a safe direction away from the operator, ensuing that the user can safely convey material into or out of the working area, for example. 

The fail-safe controller features a safety function for the control system and integrated drive control, facilitating integrated solutions which also fulfill the most demanding requirements with regard to the safety of personnel and machinery. This safety functionality can be flexibly adapted to individual requirements using the freely programmable F-CPU. The wizard-guided safety acceptance test for the Startdrive drive engineering software leads the user step-by-step through the acceptance process and checks whether the safety functions have been parameterised correctly and are properly executed in the respective application. A standard-compliant acceptance certificate can then be created automatically for documentation.

For a space-saving layout, the power units of the multi-axis drive system can be connected directly without any additional Control Unit (CU) for the Drive Controller. Applications can be flexible scaled and modularised via Profinet and cross-PLC syn
For a space-saving layout, the power units of the multi-axis drive system can be connected directly without any additional Control Unit (CU) for the Drive Controller. Applications can be flexible scaled and modularised via Profinet and cross-PLC syn

Effective communication based on Profinet with Profisafe reduces the time and effort required for cabling as compared with conventional wiring with safety relays.

Future-oriented communication 
State-of-the-art automation solutions necessitate future-oriented communication solutions. These requirements are challenging: Large data volumes are to be exchanged with higher-level systems and reproducible processing of I/O signals is required on the field level with the shortest terminal-terminal times, including fail-safe communication.

Motion control applications represent a particular challenge here with regard to communication: In addition to short cycle times for maximum productivity and product quality, a fast deterministic data exchange with drive systems and I/O systems or between machine modules is absolutely essential. 

Profinet with Isochronous Real-Time (IRT) is used here for the Drive Controller. In all, there are three Profinet interfaces and one Profibus interface available, allowing the machine network to be separated from the plant network from an addressing point of view, whilst also allowing user-friendly connection of an MES system or cloud services, for example. As well as the option of distributed connection of the I/Os via the communication interfaces, special onboard I/Os are also available on the Drive Controller.  

Technology I/Os for motion control 
Motion control applications are not only limited to the actual traversing of axes. They also include technological functions which are closely linked with the motion control. To determine the product position on a conveyor belt, for example, measuring inputs record the axis position with maximum precision when the edge rises and/or falls at a digital input. Further, Cam outputs switch a digital output in accordance with the respective position. 

These technological I/Os have a high distribution rate for product machines, however, these are often only required in lesser quantities. In order that these applications can be implemented as efficiently as possible (without additional modules), the controller features a further 8 technology I/Os in addition to 8 measuring inputs on the drive side, the respective functions of which can be parameterised channel-selectively.

To ensure maximum precision in the µs range, the inputs feature a parametrisable input filter and the high-speed outputs feature special output drivers, which within 1 µs switch with extreme edge steepness, and therefore with reproducibility. The attainable accuracy is thus essentially only determined by the sensors or actuators used. 

Production machines require high-performance automation solutions with minimum spatial requirements.To satisfy these requirements, the Simatic Drive Controller combines a fail-safe technology CPU with a multi-axis drive control requiring very little space. The, integrated interfaces and technology I/Os are available uniformly in all performance classes so that scaling is particularly easy to perform and automation solutions can be implemented with extreme efficiency. The cross-PLC synchronous operation also supports the implementation of modular machine concepts, as well as performance distribution to multiple CPUs for particularly extensive axis quantity structures. 

Providing maximum functionality in the smallest of spaces, the Drive Controller is an attractive alternative for the efficient implementation of production machines with comprehensive motion control functionality.

The Drive Controller is embedded in Totally Integrated Automation and therefore benefits from the holistic digitalisation solutions from Siemens AG.

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