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Designing Automation Systems with Motion Control

Designing Automation Systems with Motion Control

Motion control is at the heart of every automated system, which is why it’s essential for engineers to understand the functionality of (and have at their disposal) various motors, drives and motion controllers when building their system. These three components are the core functionality of motion control.

If you are an OEM in the process of designing a new system, here is how you can use motion control to automate your process more efficiently and with the best ROI.

Creating the Best Design Begins with Identifying the Challenge

What are the most challenging and critical functions of your machine?  Is it Machine size? Accuracy? Speed? Force? Throughput?  Cost?  Supportability?  In order to identify how you should build your system, it’s important to ask yourself what the key challenges you are trying to solve and what you need to in order to solve it.

Functionality and Motion Control Design

Based on the system you are automating, what are the specific functions of your application? Your system’s primary capability will determine how the system selected and ultimately built. For instance, if you are automating packaging lines, programmable logic controllers or PC-based controllers will be necessary to control the overall architecture and each axis of the system. If you are automating a printing process, devices that control the tension and sensor controls used to unwind printing materials will be required.

The Three Main Components

Most systems will rely on three components:

  1. Mechanical components: (motors, etc.)
  2. Electrical components: (drives, IO, etc.)
  3. Controller platforms (PC, PLC, CNC, and Software)

Motors range from stepper motors, brushed motors, induction motors, brushless motors, integrated motor-drive-controller, linear, and more.  Each have unique characteristics – size, performance, cost.  These motors often use feedback to allow accurate and precise torque, speed, and positioning.

Drives can be integrated to motor or stand alone, and generally allow the speed/torque of motors to be altered, often at very high frequencies.  Drives can be networked using high speed control networks such as EtherCat, SERCOS, Ethernet/IP, MechatrolLink, and more.

Controller and software options abound, allowing engineers to choose hardware and software that suit the application needs.  Ladder Diagram (LD), Sequential Function Charts (SFC), Function Block Diagram (FBD), Structured Text (ST), Instruction List (IL) are typical programming platforms motion controllers offer.  Capabilities, ease of use, form factor, and cost can vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer.

For machine builders, choosing the right components will allow them to build a system that meets their desired functionality, space and process requirements, and budgetary requirements.


Need help building your system? AMMC can help you choose the right products to make your next automation project a success. Contact our automation specialists today.