Accuracy and reliability in linear motion systems

In this technical article Paul Seale, Regional Sales Manager for the Electromechanical Division of Parker Hannifin, discusses the question of accuracy and reliability in linear motion technology.

There are many options open to the designers and specifiers of automation systems based on linear actuator technology. OEM machine builders or end users preferring to design their own bespoke systems can choose from simple slide systems driven indirectly from stepper or servo motors, or they can opt for the higher performance offered by direct-drive linear motors. But before the final choice is made, there are some fundamental factors that have to be taken into consideration when selecting the appropriate system for each application.

With most positioning systems the prime concern is usually repeatability, or the ease with which a linear motion device can consistently return a work-piece or tool unit to the same position time after time. Repeatability measurements are expressed as plus-or-minus values and are generally statistical rather than absolute measurements; in statistical terms, repeatability is the width of the dispersion about the mean value for a large number of positioning trials.

Accuracy versus repeatability

In comparison, accuracy is defined as the maximum allowable error between the target position and the actual, or achieved, position of the linear motion system and is again expressed as a plus-or-minus figure.

However, repeatability and accuracy figures are often confused. There are many analogies to illustrate the difference between these figures, but the classic 'bulls eye' is perhaps the best image to visualise. Accuracy is hitting the target, or positioning the actuator exactly to where it is required, while repeatability is hitting the same position consistently, time after time (even if it is not in the centre of the 'bulls eye'). In terms of positioning motors, it is the ability of the motor to return to the same position from the same direction, with that position being defined by the accuracy of the system.

Stepper motor specifications provided by manufacturers may list other performance criteria along with accuracy and repeatability, such as relative accuracy and hysteresis, for example. Relative accuracy, also sometimes known as step-to-step accuracy, relates to micro-stepped motors that are more suited to low-speed operation.

On closed-loop stepper systems and those driven by servo motors, repeatability, accuracy and relative accuracy are as much functions of the feedback systems as they are of the inherent characteristics of the motor and drive. Some use resolver feedback while others have an encoder providing the feedback for the control loop. In both cases, it is the resolution of the sensing device – resolver or encoder – that determines the accuracy of the system.

Other characteristics

So, armed with a knowledge of the desired accuracy and repeatability of a new system, the designer can now set about specifying the system in detail. First, though, there are a few more factors to be considered and fully understood. For example, load characteristics, performance requirements and coupling techniques all contribute to the final decision-making process. The designer must take into account the torque required from the motor, ensuring that the torque capacity of the motor exceeds the load. This 'torque margin' is necessary to accommodate mechanical wear, lubricant hardening, and other unexpected causes of friction in the system that, over time, can increase the torque demand on the motor.

Even under normal operation, all mechanical systems are subject to frictional forces and, again, these need to be taken into account when sizing the motor. A small degree of friction is, however, generally desirable, since it can reduce the settling time of the system and help to improve performance.

The positioning resolution demanded of the application will also influence the type of mechanical transmission selected – gears, lead screws, belts and so on – and the motor resolution. For example, a 5mm lead ballscrew driven by a 25,000 step/rev motor drive is equivalent to 5000 steps/mm, with each step translating to a theoretical movement of 0.0002mm.

Inertia and velocity

Other parameters that need consideration include inertia and velocity. Inertia is basically a measure of an object's resistance to a change in velocity, and both the motor's own inertia and that of the load can affect the final choice of system. For a high-performance, relatively fast system, for instance, the load inertia reflected back to the motor should not generally exceed the motor's own rotational inertia by more than a factor of ten, as this can cause the system to become unstable. This figure can, however, be improved considerably by the use of devices such as Parker's Compax3 servo drive, which can accurately handle mismatches by factors in excess of 100:1.

The design and specification of a linear motion system is clearly not to be taken lightly, as acknowledged by many leading system and component manufacturers, such as Parker Hannifin, who now offer pre-assembled multi-axis systems built around their standard products. This approach lessens the design load on the OEM or end user, but retains the flexibility for them to arrive at the optimum solution for each application.

Case study: capsule filling machine

This application was for a machine to dispense radioactive fluid into capsules. After dispensing, the capsules are inspected and the data stored on a PC. The main objective was to increase throughput without any danger of spillage. The motion control requirements were for rapid, accurate moves from a multi-axis controller fitted with a high-speed interface. The drive was to be via an open-loop stepper motor with a high-resolution, microstepping motor/drive.

The system offered by Parker Hannifin consisted of a multi-axis indexer to control and synchronise both axes of motion on one card using Ethernet communications; integral I/O was also required to activate the filling process.

Each tray of capsules to be filled is carried on a linear motor driven along the horizontal axis to the filling station. The simple mechanical construction of the motor makes for easy installation and guarantees maintenance-free operation.

A vertical axis raises and lowers the filling head and is driven by a microstepping motor and a leadscrew assembly. A linear motor was deemed not suitable for this axis, as the fill head could drop onto the tray in the event of a loss of power to the motor. However, friction in the leadscrew and residual torque in the stepper motor prevent this from happening in the final design – which, by using a combination of linear actuator technologies, fulfilled the customer's detailed requirements.

Parker Hannifin

Tachbrook Park Drive
Tachbrook Park
Warwick
CV34 6TU
UNITED KINGDOM

+44 (0)1926 317878

parker.uk@parker.com

www.parker.com/uk

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Posted 13 years ago

Hoerbiger-Origa improves servicing of rodless cylinders

Posted 13 years ago

Hydraulic pump operates with load-sensing valve systems

Posted 13 years ago

Yokogawa Europe prefers Parker Instrumentation

Posted 13 years ago

ETV100 Electrothrust drive gives improved performance

Posted 13 years ago

Parker SSD Drives moves to improve customer service

Posted 13 years ago

Parker filter carts used onboard QE2

Posted 13 years ago

Twin-flow hydraulic pumps are powerful and cost-effective

Posted 13 years ago

Predicting the future of the pneumatics industry

Posted 13 years ago

Parker drives help cut energy consumption by half

Posted 13 years ago

New HTR rack-and-pinion hydraulic rotary actuators

Posted 13 years ago

Parker introduces SensoControl OilTankController (SCOTC)

Posted 13 years ago

Aries all-digital drives now accept resolver feedback

Posted 13 years ago

Rodless cylinder used to position and clamp

Posted 13 years ago

Parker SRL1 filter now uses re-usable LEIF elements

Posted 13 years ago

Valves and manifolds help make isolation units more compact

Posted 13 years ago

New additions to ISO 21287 compact cylinder range

Posted 13 years ago

HPLA heavy-duty actuators achieve speed and precision

Posted 13 years ago

Combining the benefits of hydraulics and pneumatics

Posted 13 years ago

Compact directional pneumatic valve costs 30% less

Posted 13 years ago

Parker hoses used on helicopter carrier refit

Posted 13 years ago

Parker Domnick Hunter at Total Process & Packaging

Posted 13 years ago

New catalogue covers heavy-duty hydraulic cylinders

Posted 13 years ago

Brian Rice appointed Distributor Channel Manager

Posted 13 years ago

Redesigned AZ cylinders offer improved performance

Posted 13 years ago

Parker SSD Drives appoints Parkem MotionControl

Posted 13 years ago

Air-driven torque tools rely on Moduflex air preparation

Posted 13 years ago

Hoerbiger-Origa launches heavy-duty OSP linear actuator

Posted 13 years ago

Parker 650 AC drives gain Profibus option

Posted 13 years ago

Parker delivers fluid power with exceptional customer service

Posted 13 years ago

New website for cost-saving Phastite fitting technology

Posted 13 years ago

Compact nitrogen generator fills race car tyres

Posted 13 years ago

Hydraulic reservoir cuts costs and boosts efficiency

Posted 13 years ago

Hydraulic equipment used in boat restoration

Posted 13 years ago

Rodless cylinder has ATEX dust approval

Posted 13 years ago

Hoerbiger-Origa launches 20mm BHD series actuator

Posted 13 years ago

VarioDrive to distribute Parker drives in Netherlands

Posted 13 years ago

Free guide to Phastite ferrule-less fluid connectors

Posted 13 years ago

FZ guided pneumatic cylinders are easier to integrate

Posted 13 years ago

Pros and cons of alternative linear actuator technologies

Posted 13 years ago

The past, present and future of linear motion technology

Posted 13 years ago

Conveyor builder specifies rodless pneumatic cylinders

Posted 13 years ago

Brochure highlights new products from Hoerbiger-Origa

Posted 13 years ago

Rodless cylinders make sculpture dance

Posted 14 years ago

Robotic spot welder uses rodless pneumatic cylinder

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