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Best Motion Control Options for Industrial Automation

What is Motion Control?

Motion Control is a sub-field of automation, in which the position or velocity of machines are controlled using some type of device such as a hydraulic pump, linear actuator or electric motor, generally a servo. Motion control is an important part of robotics and CNC machine tools; however, it is more complex than in the use of specialized machines, where the kinematics are usually simpler. Motion control is widely used in the packaging, printing, textile, semiconductor production and assembly industries.

Simply put, Motion Control is the automated movement of objects – and it can be complex which is why it is important to understand the various motion control options in order to select the right one!


Motion Control Components

Current motion control options are a mix of electronic and mechanical components.  The primary components that make up a motion control unit for industrial automation have essentially remained the same over the years although they have become smaller and smarter. These parts include a motion controller, actuators/motors, sensors, and drives/amplifiers.

  • Controller: contains the desired motion profiles and positions for the application and submits position commands to the drive. Motion control is often a closed loop control system, tracking the actual path and correcting for position or velocity as needed. When it comes to motion controllers for industrial automation, there are two main categories: a dedicated, standalone motion controller or a PC-based system that expands upon PLC and PAC capabilities. Due to advances in processor technology, motion controllers now often include PLC capabilities, eliminating the need for the PLC or PC-based machine controller and reducing overall control costs.
  • Drives/Amplifiers: convert a low power current/voltage applied to the servo motor windings to produce torque. The drive amplifies the low energy signal from the controller into a high energy signal the motor can understand. The drives are closely paired with the motor, and there are many drive types including variable-frequency, stepper-motor, and analog and digital servo drives.
  • Actuators/Motors: take electrical signals from the drive and converts them into motion. There are many different types of AC/DC servo motors.
  • Sensors: provide the motor location. There are many types of sensors including potentiometers, tachometers, and quadrature and absolute encoders.



Which Motion Control Option is Best for My Application?

Designers need to select the right components in order for the motion control system to work as desired. Automation technology has advanced significantly over the past few decades, resulting in numerous component options for designers to choose from! Designers must study the various components being considered to ensure they are compatible and provide the desired results. This is why it is so important to partner with a Main Automation Contractor (MAC), such as Concept Systems, that understands motion control design and operations, and can work with you to select the optimal controls for your unique application – saving you time and money!

Traditionally, the PLC has been the choice for industrial automation. PLCs can provide limited motion control over a small number of axes. In recent years, more sophisticated PLCs have been developed to provide control for a larger number of axes. For more complex systems involving a high number of axes or synchronized motion, a dedicated motion controller often provides the most effective solution. The benefit of a dedicated motion controller is that it will often have more functionality and processing power for motion performance such as more motion types and operational modes. In addition, improved motion performance and precision is often feasible when motion and machine controllers are separate.

If your application is in the middle ground where it is not clear if a PLC or dedicated motion controller is the best option, consider the questions below to guide your selection.

  • What is the type of motion is required?
  • How many axes are needed – one or multi?
  • What update frequency is desired?
  • How accurate does the positioning need to be?
  • What is the main task? If it is machine control with some motion, a PLC is often the best answer. If it is motion with some machine control then a dedicated motion controller may be the best solution.

Concept Systems’ Motion Control Capabilities

It is crucial to effectively manage all moving parts in an industrial control environment. Our automation engineers have extensive experience working with a broad range of servo drives, servo motors and actuators. As Main Automation Contractor (MAC), we work as part of the team, side-by-side with process engineers and owners, to assure that the design-for-automation meets the needs of all stakeholders. As a recognized Rockwell Automation Solutions Partner, our control engineers have extensive knowledge in everything from PLC5 controls to innovative ControlLogix controllers.

Whether your need is for a single-axis drive for a simple application or high-performance multi-axis servo drives for advanced motion control, we will design, integrate and support the solution that’s right for you.

We can support your team through any automation project from simple retrofits to integrating full automation across your plant floor. Contact Concept Systems today to discuss how we can help with your project!

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