Omron Electronics is launching the Sysmac Automation Platform, which has been developed and optimised specifically for machine control applications. This follows the platform's European debut at the SPS/IPC/Drives fair 2011, which was attended by Shinya Yamasaki, the Executive Officer and Senior General Manager of Omron Automation Systems Division Headquarters in Japan.
Sysmac (System for Machine Automation Control) aims to deliver complete machine control through one connection and one software platform, with Omron saying that Sysmac represents a major milestone in its ten-year plan to strengthen and globalise its position in the market for machine automation.
The guiding principles behind the Sysmac automation platform are:
- One control for the entire machine or production cell
- Harmony between machine and people
- Open communication and open programming standards
Fast, fast, fast
Omron said that when its engineers were tasked with creating the new Sysmac platform, they were told to make it fast to design, fast to test and fast to control. Although the company has not stated whether it achieved its target, the goal was to halve the time taken to program new machine automation systems.
The result of Omron's development project is a powerful and robust automation platform with several key elements: a new machine automation controller, Sysmac NJ, that integrates motion, sequencing, networking and vision inspection; a new software platform, Sysmac Studio, that includes configuration, programming, simulation and monitoring; and a fast machine network, EtherCAT, to transmit data relating to motion control, vision, sensors and actuators.
An immediate benefit of the new architecture is said to be the seamless integration of Omron's core competences within one control platform. Machine control and motion control are now one; field devices are controlled across one machine network and programmed on a single software platform. Shinya Yamasaki states: "Customers design their machines with one control platform and want to scale up their machines according to the application without affecting machine speed and performance."
With the close integration of vision and motion control, the system is said to be particularly suitable for vision-guided robots and vision-guided pick-and-place applications.
The heart of the new automation platform is the Sysmac NJ series machine automation controller, which is designed for high speed and flexibility. It incorporates an Intel processor proven for harsh industrial environments, with fan-free operation and a real-time operating system (RTOS). It is scalable with a choice of 16-, 32- and 64-axis CPUs. A response time of less than 1ms can be achieved for applications of up to 32 axes. Within the same processor, one core runs the motion functions while a second core runs the logic functions; the two sets of data and commands are therefore managed separately and independently, yet closely integrated and synchronised. Having worked in conjunction with Intel, Omron is confident that its new hardware will enjoy the benefits of the Atom processor technology while retaining the high reliability traditionally associated with PLCs used for industrial automation.
An interesting point about the controller hardware is that Omron has designed a dedicated power supply module. In some ways this operates as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), as a loss of external power causes the power supply module to initiate (and provide sufficient power for) a controlled shutdown of the controller.
Sysmac Studio, the software package, integrates configuration, programming, simulation and monitoring. A graphic-oriented configuration enables quick set-up of the controller, field devices and networks, while machine and motion programming based on IEC 61131-3 standard and PLCopen function blocks for motion control cuts programming time. Advanced simulation of sequence and motion control, data logging and data trace reduce machine tuning and set-up. The 3D simulation tool is expected to become increasingly helpful as machine builders migrate from designing in 2D to modelling in 3D.
NJ series products are designed for open communication via EtherCAT, which is simple to set-up and cost-effective to install, as it uses standard shielded Ethernet cables and connectors. EtherCAT is Omron's de-facto machine network for its wide range of field and motion devices. Omron also claims to be the first supplier to offer vision sensors with an EtherCAT interface.
The products launched so far can be viewed as the base-level, with more to follow in the coming months and years. For example, it is understood that safety functions will soon be added. Meanwhile, Omron already has a broad range of controllers, servos, inverters, I/O and vision products that are compatible with the Sysmac platform - and safety is currently provided via DeviceNet Safety products.
Furthermore, Omron is opening a series of Automation Centres in Japan, China and Europe to boost support for customers working in factory automation. The number of systems engineers providing engineering support will approximately treble by fiscal year 2013.
Follow the link for more information about the Sysmac Automation Platform.