04/08/2022

The biggest hardware and software challenges for machine development and performance-driven solutions

By micohuang

When designing next-generation machines, cutting-edge technology, software architecture, and electromechanical components in control systems help achieve automation systems that differentiate them from competitors. This article will discuss the biggest hardware and software challenges facing machine developers today and provide performance-driven solutions to these challenges.

When designing next-generation machines, cutting-edge technology, software architecture, and electromechanical components in control systems help achieve automation systems that differentiate them from competitors. This article will discuss the biggest hardware and software challenges facing machine developers today and provide performance-driven solutions to these challenges.

software challenge

1. Integrate multiple software architectures

The best software architecture and structure for programming a machine depends on the key performance indicators that need to be optimized. To optimize reaction time to failures, designers need a “reactive” event-driven architecture. If the designer’s automated inspection system requires analysis of captured images, an architecture optimized for signal processing is required. State machine architectures are well suited for batch or package machines. semiconductor wafer handlers require advanced model-based control algorithms that benefit from an architecture that supports a real-time integral solver. Machines that require high-speed testing and real-time analysis can benefit from a dataflow architecture. Simple logic and algorithmic operations are best performed using sequential architectures such as Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs).

Identifying and applying the right combination of software architectures to solve automated system problems will be a formidable design challenge in the future. Languages ​​based on IEC 61131-3, such as Ladder Logic and Function Block Diagrams, are suitable for most discrete manufacturing applications that primarily perform on/off operations. However, because modern machines require multiple transitions and include preventative maintenance routines, languages ​​like National Instruments (NI) LabVIEW that emerge as a single development platform can effectively integrate state machines for specifying modes of operation, Data flow for monitoring routines, real-time integral solver for precise control, events for fault response, and sequential logic for on/off operation.

The biggest hardware and software challenges for machine development and performance-driven solutions

The biggest hardware and software challenges for machine development and performance-driven solutions

Figure 1: Different programming models such as state machines, integral solvers, sequential logic, data flow, and events are best run on well-defined target devices such as PCs, PLCs, PACs, DSPs, FPGAs, and microprocessors.

2. Write once, run anywhere

Although the concept of “write once, run anywhere” is gaining popularity in the consumer world using .NET and Java technologies, in the field of automation control, the reality is still far from ideal. An IEC 61131-3 compliant program written in ladder logic for a PLC may not run on a similar PLC from another vendor. As a result, many companies are forced to standardize on a single vendor to ensure interoperability, which in many cases results in suboptimal performance and a relatively high overall system cost.

The challenge for the future is to write the control program once and then apply the same program to various PCs, PLCs or embedded target devices. Automation engineers need to make the right choice of PLC, programmable automation controller (PAC), microprocessor, digital signal processor (DSP) or FPGA device based on the cost-effectiveness requirements of the automation system. The various modules provided by the NI LabIEW graphical development platform can help designers port code to different platforms. Designers can use LabVIEW to develop programs graphically, then use LabVIEW Real-Time tools to configure the application on a real-time operating system, use LabVIEW FPGA to export code to FPGA, use LabVIEW DSP to configure code to DSP, and use LabVIEW Embedded delivers the code to a 32-bit microprocessor.

3. System Verification

Most development processes today include a code review phase that guarantees the reliability of the designed software. However, since software and hardware are so tightly integrated in today’s electromechanical systems, a complete system verification is necessary. Engineers are moving from performing a “configure” phase to going through three phases of “design, prototype, configure.” In addition to the algorithm and control logic of the control system hardware, the design phase also includes the simulation of the mechanical, thermal, and flow properties of the hardware. The prototyping phase involves building virtual or physical prototypes of mechanical and control designs to help engineers with proof-of-concept before final implementation. The configuration phase includes configuring control algorithms and logic into PLCs, PACs or embedded targets, and assembling mechanical components such as servobrakes, pneumatics, and hydraulics.

The biggest hardware and software challenges for machine development and performance-driven solutions

Figure 2: LabVIEW provides a single work environment for graphical system design from design to prototype to final system configuration.

hardware challenge

The automation systems of the future will perform complex tasks on a variety of different products, often simultaneously. The hardware challenge in designing such a system is to achieve the specified throughput, yield and availability metrics while implementing complex automation tasks.

1. Throughput

The speed of the machine directly affects the throughput. To achieve higher speeds, it is better to use less frictional mechanical components like linear motors rather than components like ball screw actuators. Designers can use embedded technologies to increase the speed of control systems, such as FPGAs with 1MHz loop rates, as opposed to traditional PLCs with only 1kHz non-loop rates. Servo systems will continue to control machines that no longer employ traditional gear/cam systems.

Programmable automation controllers like NI’s CompactRIO contain programmable FPGAs and floating-point processors running real-time operating systems, making them ideal for high-throughput applications such as sorting or assembly.

2. Yield rate

Reducing waste by improving repeatability is the key to achieving higher yields. Programming a machine to follow a desired motion control trajectory is an important factor in achieving repeatability. This is achieved by tuning the motor for a step response with a shorter delay time and lower overshoot. For better tuning, a model-based control method can be used to meet the correct PID tuning parameter requirements, or a model-based control algorithm can be used instead of the traditional PID algorithm. And technologies such as automated inspections and RFID play an important role in the screening process and can significantly speed up the process.

LabVIEW control design and simulation tools combined with the LabVIEW SoftMotion Development Module can help designers develop custom motion controllers using model control algorithms, such as linear quadratic regulators (LQR) or H-infinity, for better repeatability and Higher yield. NI’s Vision Development Module can help designers develop automated inspection systems with more than 200 image processing and machine graphics functions.

3. Available time

Modern packaging machines need to process more than 10 products on the same line. This is not only about the reliability of the components in the system, but also about the changeover time between different products, which will affect the usable time of the system. Changeover times can be improved by setting the control algorithm to accommodate a variety of situations in which a line handles different products. Model-based adaptive control is a new approach that has recently emerged, which enables the control system to adapt to system changes without the need for adjustment. If intelligent monitoring and predictive maintenance are adopted in the system, the system reliability can be better improved. Vibration monitoring, data logging, alarms, and inter-departmental communication all play an important role in improving the reliability of future systems.

Designers can apply Cybosoft’s Model-Free Adaptive (MFA) control algorithm for LabVIEW on any LabVIEW Real-Time or LabVIEW FPGA Module to adapt to system load changes without adjustment. NI’s Compact FieldPoint and PXI platforms help designers integrate high-speed analog I/O with intelligent monitoring and predictive maintenance solutions for vibration monitoring, data logging, alarming, and interdepartmental connectivity.

In the future, the field of machine control will face greater challenges, such as integrating multiple software architectures in a complex automation system, performing system validation, and achieving better throughput, yield and availability metrics. The key to the success of an automation system is the selection of hardware and software components for the system that are best suited to the task at hand and that can be extended in the future.

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