Motion Control - Controls
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Designing and implementing a motion-control platform starts with selecting the right hardware. There was a time the choice was cut and dried: PLCs handled machine control and perhaps a few axes of motion, while anything more complex required an additional dedicated motion controller. Today, the lines are blurring. PLCs offer increasing motion functionality as well as integrated safety. Motion controllers can handle over 1000 points of I/O across networked systems and may be able to replace a PLC. Specifying the right controller can be a complex task.
With years of experience in motion control and machine design, the Motion Solutions engineering staff can work with you to select the optimal controls hardware for your application. Factors that come into play include the types of tasks being accomplished, the size and complexity of the machine, the budget, and the experience and skillsets of the engineers. Other issues like support and training are also important.
The PLC is the traditional choice for industrial machine control. PLCs excel at essential operations like timing, counting, and managing I/O. Smaller PLCs can support limited motion control: a small number of axes, simple paths, limited synchronization. Other PLCs have been specifically designed to target complex motion applications. They are capable of controlling a large number of axes with more demanding performance.
For systems involving very high axis counts, highly synchronized motion, zone operation, etc., a dedicated motion controller provides an effective motion solution. The conventional model combines a PLC for machine control with the motion controller to handle motion. Increasingly, however, motion controllers are available with substantial I/O and machine-control capabilities.
The choice between PLC and motion controller is straightforward at the outliers¾very simple systems can use PLCs and very complex ones need dedicated motion controllers. In the middle lie many solutions that can use either. Here, it’s important to consider the big picture. If the task is primarily machine control with some motion, a PLC is the best direction. If the task is primarily focused around motion with some machine control, then a motion controller programmed using a motion-centric language will be a more efficient solution to implement.
The background and experience of the engineering staff is important in the choice of motion-control devices. Programmers experienced in IEC 61131 languages like ladder logic, structured text, and function blocks will probably be more comfortable with PLCs. Those more familiar with C or Visual Basic will lead toward a motion controller.
At Motion Solutions, we carry both PLCs and motion controllers. Our team can review your application and leverage their long-standing experience with these components to help you select the best option.